How To Clean A Litter Tray – Step By Step Guide

Daily maintenance

Litter trays should be scooped at least once a day (twice is better), with all solids removed. Clumping litter causes cat urine to clump (hence the name), obviously, making this easier to scoop out too. If too much litter has been removed, top up with a little fresh litter.

Always wear rubber gloves when cleaning litter boxes, and if you are pregnant, avoid litter tray duties to minimise the risk of exposure to Toxoplasma gondii.

Weekly cleaning

Litter boxes should be completely emptied and disinfected at least once a week (we only have one cat), the more cats sharing a litter tray, the more frequently it will need to be cleaned.

Monthly maintenance

I find that even with daily and weekly cleaning, litter trays can become a bit smelly over time. My suggestion is to empty the litter trays, fill your laundry tub with hot water and your preferred disinfectant and completely submerge the litter trays for 5-10 minutes to ensure they are clean all over.

While you are doing this, you can vacuum the floor where the trays are kept and mop the area. I find it helps to wipe down walls and skirting boards at the same time just in case the cats have missed their target at any time.

What you will need

  • Fresh cat litter
  • Hot soapy water
  • Cloth, brush or sponge to scrub the tray
  • Disinfectant
  • Hot water
  • Plastic bags (I use grocery bags, doubled up)

How to empty the litter tray

  1. Remove litter: Empty the entire contents of the litter box(es) into a plastic bag. Some cat litters can be flushed or used as compost. I am personally not a fan of either. Don’t ever put cat litter on garden beds with fruit or vegetables growing.
  2. Scrub tray: Add some hot water with a squirt of dishwashing liquid. Scrub all organic material (feces) from the litter tray. Any debris on the tray will inactivate many detergents, hence the need to scrub it first.
  3. Disinfect tray: Avoid the use of strong-smelling products as these can deter your cat from using the litter tray. Use the laundry sink for this. Many people use bleach to clean their tray. Use a solution of 1 part bleach to 32 parts water. Do not use hot or boiling water as this causes the bleach to lose its effectiveness. Leave the bleach to sit in the tray for 10 minutes, discard, rinse out thoroughly with clean water.
  4. Dry: Once the tray has been cleaned, rinse out thoroughly and dry with paper towels.
  5. Replace litter: Add new cat litter to a depth of approximately 2 inches.

Some people like to use disposable litter tray liners in the box; I don’t see the point of them. They have the potential to dislodge and just become an annoyance to your cat when he is digging (and all cats like to bury their waste) and are an unnecessary waste of money.

Always wash hands thoroughly afterwards.

Cleaning litter trays when pregnant

Pregnant women are advised to avoid cleaning litter trays due to the risk of toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii. Infection in people is generally self-limiting; if a pregnant woman becomes exposed for the first time during pregnancy, it can cause serious damage, if not miscarriage to the unborn fetus.

Cysts pass out of the body in the cat’s feces and become infective within 24 hours. It is, therefore, crucial to remove feces from the litter tray at the very least once a day, preferably twice a day. If you are a pregnant woman, it is safer to have somebody else clean litter trays, however, if you must do them yourself, take precautions and wear rubber gloves, I also recommend covering your mouth and nose with a mask or a scarf. Place solids in a plastic bag and dispose of them in your outside garbage bin. Wash your hands with the rubber gloves on, remove, and then rewash your hands. Better safe than sorry.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio