GETTING cat odour out of concrete puts a new spin on the idea of "taking the piss" (if I could be so crass).
It sounds funny until you realise the other half is not joking.
Anyone who's ever run a stable of anything knows the earthy sense of what makes the world go round when it comes to animals and their ablutions.
As we tip our hats to Stars Wars day (May the 4th be with us), let's just say, the 4th can be strong.
Particularly in the garage, if that's where the cats sleep at night, and particularly if that's where the other half wants to hang laundry during an east coast low.
For some reason, our cats address their litter trays like a carpet bombing run - heavy, inaccurate, with a lot of collateral damage, mainly to the concrete. Like the toothpaste commercial says, cat odour gets in. My challenge, if I chose to accept (as if choice was an option), was to get those demons out, to a level not seen since The Exorcist.
Failure, was not an option, so wetting and forgetting - my standard cleaning procedure - would not do. This would require thought. Hello YouTube.
Early research, after it was suggested I do some, revealed cats do their business where and why based on such things as urge, instinct, and bloody-minded revenge for the way you patted them the night before.
I'd learned to sharpen my chainsaw with YouTube, clean my chainsaw with YouTube and lube my chainsaw with YouTube. But my chainsaw wasn't going to help with cat pee, unless I took down the garage, which was one of the more emphatic suggestions.
In the short term it was clear I was up against something bigger, badder and stinkier than bleach, vinegar, bi-carb soda or peroxide.
All these home remedies work to a degree, depending on your susceptibility to delusion, but like the old saying goes: "The cat (smell) came back the very next day/hour." That's because cat odour "wicks", a word encapsulating three concepts that start with the letter 'h': "haunt", "horror" and "hum".
YouTube videos were getting me nowhere, so I moved onto applied science.
Nothing was getting done, which was OK by me, but man was getting ideas, one of which was that suddenly he's a chemist.
"Active ingredients" became the new drill-down point. Acid v alkaline, protein v lipids, scrubbing v enzyme action.
That sounded like a detergent ad. Could the answer lie in the laundry? A quick search above the washing machine failed to reveal anything that softened woollen fabrics and tamed cat pee at the same time. Surely they'd advertise that on the label.
Thinking laterally, I headed to the human kitty litter tray and found our toilet cleaner's active ingredient was "lactic acid". That triggered something in the mind about breastfeeding, but a quick Google set me straight. Lactic acid is not lactated but does degrade concrete.
This added a new dimension to the chemical mystery: to solve a problem you have to scratch the surface, not destroy it.
But the mind kept ticking over.
The interweb said cat smell is proteins breaking down, making ammonia, and it's the ammonia that smells.
Walter White theorised that if he could get something that absorbs ammonia he could get rid of the smell.
And so there I was explaining this to the guy at Bunnings as he showed me where the zeolites were: super porous volcanic minerals with ammonia-absorbing capabilities that could potentially suck up puss's fumes.
I believe Mr Bunnings thought I was into bonsai, or pool cleaners. But after denials on those two fronts I suspect he thought I was running a meth lab.
He probably gets a lot of that.
But I was thinking if these zeolites worked, I'd be onto something more lucrative than Breaking Bad.
Alas my theory broke bad when it was revealed the zeolites came combined with chlorine. If chlorine came in contact with urine it could create a lethal gas which might get rid of the odour by getting rid of the cats. Attractive as that idea was from a mission point of view, I pressed on.
I now have a rudimentary understanding of the science of cat odour removal, but will stand corrected if someone has the definitive method. In many ways, it reminds me of how to cure bad memories, which is what I hope cat odour will soon be.
Cat wee is a lot of uric acid, that turns alkaline after a couple of days. You shouldn't use bleach to clean it as bleach is alkaline and will set it.
You should use acid, but not the stuff advocated by Timothy Leary. Cat odour will get you hallucinating anyhow. Sodium triphosphate and hot water is apparently 'the bomb' (hopefully not fertiliser bomb). After that, apply a solvent-based acrylic sealer, and just like in Transformers, evil will be trapped in stasis below the levels of experience, hopefully to never rise again.
It won't mean urine remnants aren't there, it will just mean you won't smell them.
And so, you marvel at the things you know and the things you don't know you need to know. And if that sounds like I'm taking the piss, just wait till you have to get cat odour out of your concrete floor.