Here at All Set, we love our furry friends just like they are members of the family (let’s be honest most of the time it’s more). As every pet owner knows, even the best trained four-legged family members end up making occasional messes around the house. Maintaining a home that is both clean and pet friendly requires some additional work, but if you have the right cleaning supplies, tools and preventative measures in place, the end result is a healthier home for both you and your favorite companion.
A quick google search will result in thousands of articles about the best pet-friendly cleaning tips (including some good ones!), so it’s tough to know who to trust. We pulled together this comprehensive guide to maintaining a clean and pet-friendly home in the hopes of centralizing the best information in one place. Keep reading for tips on which cleaning supplies are safe to stock in the house, the best pet-specific cleaning tools, guides to cleaning up common messes, ideas for the yard and preventative measures to cut down on the messes before they happen.
Setting Yourself Up for Success:
The key to a home that’s both spotless and pet-friendly inside and out is setting yourself up for success from the start. Depending on your pet’s breed and personality, the steps to up-front pet proofing may change but the general ideas remain the same.
1. Think like your pet: If you have an energetic pup or a curious cat, put yourself in their shoes and think about the areas of your home that are most likely to be trouble spots. Putting breakable pieces up high works great with smaller dogs but will not do much if you have a cat. Your pet will be a member of the family for years to come so there’s no reason not to heavily consider their needs when designing your living spaces.
2. Pet-proof from the start: If you want to have a pet and a happy home, you will need to make some design sacrifices, including:
- Eliminating as much carpeting as possible (no area rugs) and choosing low maintenance carpet textures
- Using washable fabrics on beds
- Choosing storage options that can be securely closed or locked
- Making stain resistance your top priority for every fabric and upholstery in your home
- Using low maintenance paint on the walls and choosing semi-gloss over flatter colors
- Matching new furniture and design purchases to your pet’s fur color
3. Declutter and Stay Organized: The extra cleaning required with a pet in the house is a lot easier when you are not navigating the vacuum or lint roller around a lot of clutter. Staying organized is key as pets are prone to investigate and potentially damage anything that is left within reach.
4. Guard existing non-stain resistant fabrics with throw blankets: If you have given up on keeping your pooch off the couch and the fabric is prone to stains, cover her favorite spot with a throw blanket. Blankets can be used to protect all kinds of furniture and spaces in your home and are easy to wash when accidents and spills occur. As an added benefit your furniture will be protected from man-made mishaps as well.
5. Create a dedicated area for your pet: If your pet goes outside, devote the area near the door to their toys, food and an indoor bathroom option (if you have one). Keep wipes nearby so you can clean their paws when they go in and out. Having a dedicated pet area where your pet feels comfortable will concentrate much of the mess and lessen the clean-up.
6. Groom Regularly: If your dog never smells like the backyard then there is no way for them to transfer the smell to your favorite couch. Keeping your pets clean goes a long way towards limiting their impact on the house. Groom them regularly and make sure that beyond a quick bath you are also brushing them to cut down on shedding. Lastly, regular nail clippings are the best way to prevent scratched up furniture and pulls in the rug.
With these preventative tactics in place you will be able to minimize your pet-related cleaning responsibilities, but every home needs to be cleaned regularly so let’s take a look at the cleaning products you should not be using with a pet in your home.
Hazardous Cleaning Supplies to Remove from your Home:
If you only read one section of this guide, make it this one. In the race to add descriptions like “eco-friendly”, “disinfectant”, and “99.9% effective” to their labels, cleaning supply companies have resorted to using an increasingly broad array of chemicals in their products. While the dangers are mild to those of us that walk on two legs, our pets are smaller than us, spend a lot more time on our floors and have a tendency to use taste to evaluate their surroundings.
Our pets are very sensitive to the products we use and allowing the wrong chemicals into your home can be a serious threat to their health. The first step is to remove any supplies that contain chemicals that could be harmful. Use this list as a starting point but make sure to read the labels of anything you buy and ask for help at the hardware store whenever you have questions.
- Bleach: Bleach can be hazardous even to humans, but remains a popular ingredient in cleaning supplies thanks to its unquestioned properties as a disinfectant. If you have to keep bleach in the house, keep it on a high shelf in a closet or container that can be securely closed. If you use bleach, make sure it’s heavily diluted and keep the application area off limits to your pet for a few days while the room airs out.
- Ammonia: What bleach is to disinfectants, ammonia is to all-purpose cleaners. Ask a few people what they use ammonia for and you will likely hear about an application for every room in your house. Like bleach, ammonia is a powerful chemical that can take a toll on your pets. Our advice, find a less severe alternative.
- Formaldehyde (Formalin): Formaldehyde has been linked to a number of health issues in humans and surprisingly still finds its way into certain cleaning products. This is one where you have to check the ingredients (and unfortunately the cleaning supply companies often bury it on the label under a different name) but it is worth avoiding for both your health and your pet’s.
- Perchloroethylene: Another ingredient to look for on the label, Perchloroethylene is not as common but has also been linked to health problems including cancer and Parkinson’s Disease. Since its applications and benefits are limited, under no circumstances should an agent containing Perchloroethylene be used in your home.
- Acidic or Alkaline Cleaners: Many toilet cleaners, rust removers and drain cleaners are corrosive in nature and can be very dangerous to pets when spilled or ingested. They often lack natural alternatives so take extra precautions when applying them and keep the room off limits for a couple of days.
- Phenols, Phthalates, Glycol Ethers, Perchloroethylene: These chemicals can be found in cleaning products under various names that can be very difficult to identify. All four have their proponents on the internet, but also receive their fair share of criticism. At the end of the day, when there are more natural options available, why chance your family’s health.
If you believe that your pet is having an adverse reaction to any of these cleaners call your veterinarian or a local poison control center for more information on the appropriate steps to take.
Some Signs to Look for include:
- Raw skin, rashes or hair loss
- Pawing at the mouth or other trouble spots
- Lack of appetite
- Pawing at the eyes or excessive tearing
- Lethargy or malaise
We have trouble pronouncing many of these cleaning chemicals, let alone remembering them, so in general we recommend sticking to cleaning supplies with as few chemical ingredients as possible. There is a natural or homemade cleaner just as capable of tackling all of your cleaning needs so there’s no need to risk adverse health effects for you or your pet. If you’re looking for alternatives to all of the supplies you just had to throw away, check the next section for our go-to pet-friendly cleaning supplies.
The Best Pet-Friendly Supplies for Every Mess:
The trick to replacing toxic chemical cleaning supplies is knowing what natural alternatives exist for every cleaning job. For store bought products, look for products that are entirely plant based. Not sure which one to pick? Grab a mild dish detergent, baking soda and some white vinegar and use various at-home recipes to tackle almost every possible cleaning need. Here’s are a few of our favorites:
- All Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1 part white vinegar with 16 parts water and pour the resulting solution into a spray bottle. Add salt to create abrasion for tougher messes or lemon if you want a fresher scent.
- Hardwood floors Cleaner: More white vinegar, this time only diluted with warm water and mopped over your hardwood will get the job done. For a more convenient solution, the ASPCA has approved the Swiffer Wet Jet as dog-friendly (Swiffer dusters also work well for quickly picking up hair).
- Counter Tops Cleaner: If the all-purpose cleaner cannot tackle more deeply set stains, take a sponge and dip it in a mix of water and baking soda to tackle caked on grime.
- Window Cleaner: Mix one part white vinegar with three parts water. To ensure a streak free shine, pick up a micro-fiber cloth or use a blackboard eraser for the final wipe down.
- Tile and Grout Cleaner: The same diluted white vinegar solution that cleans hardwood can be applied to tile surfaces. A mixture of water and baking soda works wonders on any build-up in the grout.
- Carpet Cleaner: Vacuum away hair and debris before addressing any trouble spots. Dissolve a tablespoon of salt into ¼ of a cup of white vinegar and use a rag to blot deep set stains. To eliminate common pet odors, sprinkle baking soda over the carpet and let it sit for 15 minutes before vacuuming it up.
- Laundry Detergent: Switch to dye-free and scent-free detergent just to be safe. Detergent bottles can be heavy but please keep them off the floor so they stay out of reach.
As you can see, almost any mess can be addressed with a simple homemade mixture of a small number of products. As a general rule, whenever you are cleaning an area of your home, keep your pet in another room so they avoid inhaling or ingesting whatever supplies you are using. If you need to tackle a mess that is not on our list, try googling dog friendly options before reaching for a chemical filled alternative.
The Tools Every Pet Owner Needs to Keep Their Homes Spotless:
Now that we have discussed what chemicals to avoid and the natural substitutes to use in their place, you are probably thinking that keeping the house clean just became that much more difficult. The good news is that there are a number of tools on the market that were designed with you and your pets in mind. Check out this sampling of our go-to products:
- De-Shedder / Brush / Shedding Glove: Depending on what kind of coat your cat, dog, rabbit or other furry friend is sporting, there is likely a specialized de-shedding tool or brush on the market just for them. We recommend making it a habit to brush them regularly. Not only will it prevent the hair from building up all over the house but they’ll love the special attention.
- Vacuum: If your four-legged friend is furry then a high quality vacuum is one of the best investments you can make. Extra sticky rollers are great for removing fur from some surfaces, but a vacuum designed specifically for pets is your best bet. The Dyson Animal Vacuum Cleaner is considered the gold standard, but there are plenty of less expensive options available.
- The Furemover Broom: This jumbo-sized squeegee works wonders for removing fur and as its Amazon page will tell you, it has a number of other uses you can take advantage of once you own it.
- An indoor bathroom: If your pet spends a lot of the day home alone, make sure they have a place inside the house to relieve themselves. Solutions range from laying down pads to litter boxes to indoor turf systems. The important part is that your pet has a place where they can take care of their business without getting in trouble.
- Enzymatic Odor Fighter: For when mistakes happen and baking soda is not enough, try an enzymatic odor fighter. One of the most popular products on the market is Nature’s Miracle which offers specialized formulas for different pets and situations.
These tools are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of options available to pet owners. Spend some time on google, amazon or relevant blogs to find even more awesome tools specifically designed for cleaning up after your pet.
So far, we have discussed the tools and cleaning solutions that are best for your pets and family inside the house, as well as those that should be avoided at all costs. These recommendations should help you tackle your standard cleaning as well as pet specific messes like accidents and shedding. For many pet owners, the inside of the house is only half the battle. As we will see in the next section, there are just as many risks lurking in your yard and garden as there were in your supply closet.
How to Ensure that Your Yard is Pet-Friendly:
If you plan on spending time outside with your pet, it is important to escape proof your yard. For many pets, the simplest solution is to use a leash or a build an enclosure they can enjoy (ideal for rabbits and smaller pets). Regardless of how well trained you believe your furry friend to be, it is impossible to know what may trigger them to make a break for it. Leashes and custom built enclosures are your best bet but if your yard is enclosed by a fence and you would prefer to let your pet roam free, use the following safety checks to ensure there is no possibility of an escape.
- Fence stability and loose slats: Dogs especially love poking their noses into any hole in the fence to see what’s on the other side. If there happens to be a squirrel, rabbit or person out there, they will likely want to go check it out. Make sure your fence is stable enough to hold back their weight and there are no slats that they can punch out by jumping into them.
- Prevent underground escapes: Most pets are excellent diggers. If you are going to leave your pet unattended (even momentarily) in your yard, walk the edge of the fence regularly to check for spots where they could easily dig their way to freedom. The safest bet is to build a base for your fence that extends under-ground (concrete works best) and eliminate the possibility of tunneling all together.
- Fluffy has hops: Remember that cats especially can jump several times their own height and are excellent climbers. It will be tough to contain a cat regardless of the fence in your yard. Many other animals, like dogs, can clear a waist high fence when they put their minds to it (or they see the mailman).
Once you are confident that there is no way for your pet to get out of the yard, the next step is to check for anything inside the yard that could be harmful. Pets are naturally curious and often high-energy so be sure to think this one through. Some of the top things to consider include:
- Yard Layout: If you have the luxury of changing your yard’s design or adding to your current design, keep your pet in mind. If they are high-energy, create spaces with running room and avoid fixtures that make for precarious climbing. If the yard is where they go to the bathroom, give them some designated hardscapes or non-grassy areas so they do not ruin the lawn. If they prefer lounging in the yard, make sure they have enough shady spaces to stay cool.
- Ground Covering: Grass is the best option for pet-friendly yards, but keep their paws in mind when choosing other coverings. Avoid mulches that splinter easily or rock coverings with sharp points.
- Plant selection: You may think your pet is a carnivore (or gets more than enough to eat in the form of dinner and treats), but they will likely sample whatever plants are in the yard. Check the ASPCA’s list of Toxic and Non-Toxic plants to be safe. Other things to watch out for include plants with thorns and fragile plants. Make sure to leave some room for your pet to dig and navigate as they will inevitable want to explore all of their territory.
- Fertilizer: Fertilizers often look scary, but most brand name fertilizers are comprised largely of natural elements. The trick with fertilizer is to read the label and follow the instructions carefully. If it says to keep your pet off the lawn for 72 hours following treatment, then make sure to keep your pets inside. Be careful with organic fertilizers since they often consist of animal meal which may make them more appetizing to our pets (and is still harmful in large quantities). After every application walk the yard and break up any clumps. If your pet gets sick after being out in the yard, immediately contact veterinary assistance and take a picture of the fertilizer ingredients so you know what they may have eaten.
- Weed Killers: Unsurprisingly, common weed killers contain a number of toxic chemicals that are not great for our pets. The easiest way to avoid putting your pet at risk is to pull weeds manually without using any sort of herbicide. If you are dealing with a huge patch of weeds or a deeply rooted pest, try using homemade solutions instead of chemical ones. Boiling water is extremely effective at wiping out swathes of weeds. Be careful when applying because this method does not discriminate and will kill any plant the boiling water covers. For deeply rooted weeds in crowded gardens mix a homemade solution of salt, vinegar and water in a spray bottle and target the specific plant you are trying to remove.
- Pesticide: Depending on the pests attacking your home or garden, there are a number of homemade solutions using ingredients like soap, oil, chili pepper, mint and garlic. If you’re not sure which to use or want a multi-purpose spray, try purchasing from chewy.com as they emphasize pet friendly options. Apply as instructed and keep your pets out of the treated area for a couple of days to be safe.
When in Doubt, Call in the Professionals:
Having a pet can be a big investment, but we all agree that it is more than worthwhile. To make the most of your time with your pet, outsource some of these processes to the professionals. Not only will you have more time to spend with your four legged friends but you can talk to professional house cleaners and landscapers about the safest products and services for your entire family. One of the benefits of All Set is that the platform allows you to chat with multiple Pros so you can find the best fit everyone in your family, including your pet. Let the Pros you are considering know that you have a pet and prepare to be delighted by their willingness to go the extra mile.
We hope you find this guide helpful but if we missed anything or you have some feedback to share please reach out to me at John@helloallset.com.