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How to Clean Your House Without Accidentally Poisoning Your Dog or Cat

When you live with critters who like to lick every surface, you have to be a little more careful

Cleaning is extra important when you have a pet tracking mud and sidewalk sludge into the house. But you need to be especially careful about which cleaning products you use, because your animal friend probably spends a good amount of time rolling on the floors and licking the windows, therefore inhaling and ingesting the harmful chemicals you use to clean (household items are one of the more common pet toxins, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). 

Here are some tips and recommendations for pet-safe cleaning products…

Which Cleaning Products to Avoid

For the most part, the same cleaning product chemicals that are potentially harmful to humansbleach, ammonia, chlorine, formaldehyde, phenol, isopropyl alcohol — are unsafe for pets as well. The reason you need to be extra careful when using these products around pets is, again, because they tend to put their mouths and noses a lot closer to freshly cleaned surfaces than we do (in theory, at least). As veterinarian Patrick Carney explains to PetMD, “Because our pets are lower to the ground — carpets and floors — they can be more sensitive.”

That said, if you take certain precautions and use even somewhat harsh cleaning products appropriately, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says, “Most cleaning agents can be used safely in homes, as long as label recommendations are followed.”

How to Clean Safely

Along those lines, below are some best practices, depending on which cleaning products you use:

  • Bleach. Follow the label instructions to create a properly diluted bleach solution, and rinse the cleaned area thoroughly. Open windows and use fans to air out the room as well.
  • Carpet Cleaners. Let the area dry before allowing your pet into the room. If they accidentally come in contact with it, wash their paws with mild soap and water to prevent minor skin irritation.
  • Febreze. According to the National Animal Interest Alliance, Febreze is generally safe to use around pets. However, they should be kept away until the sprayed area dries.
  • Toilet Cleaners. Please, just close the toilet seat after you clean.

There are also a number of green cleaning products out there — some made specifically for cleaning around pets — which are safer for everyone and every animal involved, allowing you to worry less about how you use them. One thing to watch out for with green cleaners, though, are essential oils, which are dangerous for dogs and especially dangerous for cats. If you do go the green route, milder is better, which may even mean making your own vinegar-based cleaner.

What to Use if You Want to Be Extra Careful

If taking all these precautions seems too complicated, you may just want to use specific pet-safe cleaning products. There are a few options:

  • If You Need to Clean Your Pet… One of the simplest ways to maintain a clean and safe household is to clean your pet on their way in from walks. That may mean getting them a mat to wipe their paws, or grooming wipes if you want to do it yourself. If they tend to get extra dirty, it might also be worth investing in a portable paw cleaner.
  • If You Need to Protect Your Furniture… To avoid having to constantly clean your bedding, couch and chairs with potentially harmful chemicals, you can always cover them with a pet-friendly throw blanket. That way, you can simply toss it in the wash with a mild detergent whenever it gets dirty.
  • If You Need to Clean Your Home… For carpets and upholstery, Skout’s Honor has an entire line of pet-safe cleaning products designed for eliminating odors and stains from pets.

For everything else, a natural all-purpose cleaner, a simple vinegar-based cleaner and some common sense should be enough to keep your home clean and your pet safe.

Just keep an eye on where they’re licking.