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essential tips
house-cleaning-with-dogs-and-cats

The essentials

  • Pets are messy — However, it’s still possible to maintain a clean home with a full family of messy humans and pets.
  • Make cleaning convenient — Set up a cleaning caddy, put a cleaning station by the front door, and switch to a cordless vacuum — these are just a few of our tips.
  • Use pet-safe cleaners — Keep harmful cleaning products locked away, and use pet-safe options as much as possible.

Let’s face facts: Pets often roll around in the dirt outside and track the mess inside your home. Their fur sheds all over the sofa and beds. And sometimes, they might have a potty accident or get sick on the rug. Complicating matters is the fact that many conventional cleaning products contain ingredients that are unsafe to use around dogs and cats. Even products labeled as “green” or “natural” can cause skin, respiratory, or gastrointestinal irritation or internal bleeding. Fortunately, you can keep a clean home and keep your pets safe with these 11 cleaning tricks.

1. Set up a pet cleaning station

Stop the mess where it starts and create a cleaning station in your entryway, mudroom, or by a side or back door. You wouldn’t walk across your home in muddy boots, so make sure you have everything near the door to wipe dirty paws after a walk. You can have a simple, apartment-friendly setup with hooks for leashes and a washable rug for wiping paws. Have more space? Go all out and build a washing tub. Here’s a quick checklist of items for any home cleaning station:

  • Hooks — Attach hooks near the doorway(s) to neatly store leashes, waste bags, and other walking accessories.
  • Rug — Put a doormat at any entrances for you and Fido to wipe your feet before entering the house. Pro tip: Place a towel or washable rug on top of any bulky, hard-to-wash entryway rug that you can scoop up and throw into the laundry.
  • Basket of towels — Keep a decorative basket filled with towels near the door to wipe any dripping mess off your pup. If there’s no room for a basket of towels, keep some packs of paw wipes near the door to give paws a quick clean.
  • Washing tub — If you have a larger budget and are up for a bit of renovating, you can add a washing tub right in your mudroom. This bathing station should include everything you need to wash your dog’s fur after an especially muddy adventure, including plumbing for a sprayer and a drain.

2. Stay on top of flea control

To keep your home clear of any unwelcome pests, you want to make sure you prevent fleas on your furry friends. And if you start finding any critters, you’ll want to get rid of the fleas as quickly as possible.

Start with regular brushing sessions and baths for your pets. Bathe dogs about once every three months. Cats generally don’t need you to bathe them unless their fur is really dirty, but you can help groom them with brushing. Frequent brushing, about once every few days, will also give you a chance to look for fleas and stop them before they become a serious problem.

If you find fleas, talk to your vet about treatment options. You may need flea collars, flea sprays or other flea medications, flea shampoo alternatives, or other remedies to quickly eradicate any critters.

3. Use durable materials when possible

From sharp claws to shedding fur, pets can be destructive to furniture. But you don’t have to ban your pets from the sofa. Cuddle up with confidence by investing in durable products that can withstand the claws when Fluffy jumps up to the cushions or frequent washings when the pillows and throws get covered in fur. Consider furniture and blankets that are also stain-resistant in case of mud or potty accidents. For rugs, opt for indoor-outdoor options that are easy to spot-clean if there is a cat pee or dog poop incident.

4. Stock a pet-safe cleaning caddy

The key to keeping your home clean with pets is to tackle messes as soon as possible. A great way to do this is to have all of your pet-related cleaning supplies in one caddy that you can grab and go right to the source of the mess. Stock your caddy with some or all of the following items:

  • Rubber gloves — Pet messes can be pretty gross, so have a pair of rubber cleaning gloves handy.
  • Paper towels or cleaning cloths — Have paper towels, microfiber cloths, or clean rags ready to  pick up poop or wipe up spills.
  • Trash bags — Instead of running back and forth from the mess to the trash can,  toss all the dirty paper towels and waste in a trash bag you have handy in the caddy.
  • Soft-bristled brush — To help lift any stains before they settle into carpet or upholstery, use a soft-bristled brush and your preferred pet-safe cleaner to scrub the surface. Just don’t use a soft-bristled brush to clean up poop, or it can make the stain worse.
  • Pet-safe cleaners — Choose an enzymatic cleaner — one with enzymes designed to break down stains and odors — to clean up urine. Make your own cleaner with 1 tablespoon of dish soap, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, and 2 cups of warm water.
  • Baking soda — Baking soda is a pet-safe workhorse when it comes to lifting stains and neutralizing odors.

5. Launder pet toys and accessories 

You wash your own coats and blankets every so often, so you should also be washing the items your pet regularly uses. Pets drool on toys, and their beds, leads, and collars can also get pretty grimy over time.

  • Toys — Think of the hours your pet spends chewing and drooling on their toys. These need to be washed often, about every two weeks.
  • Pet beds — Dirt, hair, and bacteria can build up in pet beds, so you’ll want to  keep them clean and prevent unpleasant odors. To clean pet beds, start by vacuuming up excess fur. Wash the bed every two weeks either by hand or in the washing machine. Follow the instruction label carefully for washing and drying instructions, as not all beds are washer- or dryer-safe.
  • Leads and collars — Give leads and collars a good soaking about once a month or any time they are visibly dirty. If you have durable accessories, you can toss them right in the wash with your usual laundry. Otherwise, you can soak collars and leashes in hot, soapy water for about 10 minutes.

6. Let in fresh air

Nothing makes a home smell fresh quite like cracking open some windows on a breezy day. Opening windows when the temperatures are warm is a great remedy to clear out stale air as well as pet dander. While opening the windows in the winter isn’t as pleasant, you can still refresh your home by opening some windows for about 10 minutes at a time.

7. Housekeeping hack: try trays

There are multiple ways to incorporate trays for a clean home. Start by placing a tray beneath dog bowls to catch any slobber, water spills, and stray pet food that misses your pet’s mouth. Instead of sweeping and mopping the floor every time your pet gets a bite of food or sip of water,  clean up the tray once, at the end of the day.

You can also use trays to clean  dirty paws. Place a tray of clean water by the door before you head out for a hike or long walk. When you come back, you can dip Fido’s paws in the water to quickly clean the paws. Just make sure you also keep a towel nearby for drying and don’t let trays of water sit outside. Make sure to drain the water daily, as standing water can breed bacteria or attract pests, like mosquitoes.

8. Swap latex gloves for a lint roller

Pet hair is a reality for most pet owners, and while a lint roller can help clear off the couch before your guests arrive, it can be annoying and wasteful to rip off sheet after sheet trying to pick up fur regularly. Here’s a trick: Use latex gloves, like the ones you wear to wash dishes. Simply put on the gloves, and rub your hand along the furniture to quickly collect fur. Duct tape and dryer sheets also work wonders at gathering pet fur. For rugs, furniture, or other upholstery, use a squeegee to collect fur.

9. Give at-home pedicures

Keep your dog’s nails trimmed to minimize the amount of dirt they track in and keep your furnishings and floors safer from punctures and scratches. Plan to trim your pup’s nails about every three to four weeks. The nail clipping process can be intimidating for pups and pet parents alike, but maintain a calm demeanor and voice to make Fido feel at ease.

Only clip when your doggie is visibly relaxed and is not pulling away. Make sure nail clippers are sharp, as dull clippers can be more difficult to work with and may lead to painful clipping. If your dog cannot relax for their pedicure, consider talking to your vet about how to help calm them down.

10. Invest in a quality vacuum

When it comes to keeping a house clean with pets, a vacuum is one of the most powerful tools to stock in your arsenal. A high-quality vacuum can suck up pet hair, dirt that gets dragged in after an afternoon rolling in the grass, and even kibble or treat crumbs.

The best vacuum is one that you enjoy using. If you have hardwood floors, find a vacuum that glides over these hard surfaces with ease. Consider a two-in-one vacuum with a detachable, hand-held portion that can clean fur off the couch just as easily as it cleans the floors. If you hate winding and unwinding the cord and moving the plug from outlet to outlet, consider a rechargeable or cordless vacuum.

11. Let’s not forget about cat litter

Aside from pet fur, cat litter is another pesky reality of pet ownership. Cats can track their litter from the bathroom to the kitchen. To minimize the mess, start by putting the litter box in a private area. You could even place the litter box in a closet or bathroom and add a pet door to the door. Even a covered litter box offers more protection against litter tracking.

Place the litter box on a litter mat to collect any spare litter. Switch to a dust-free or lower-tracking litter option. Keep litter boxes clean daily, and use a vacuum or broom to sweep up any litter that is tracked around the litter box.

Safe household cleaners for pets

Some cleaning ingredients are toxic to pets, such as bleach, alcohols, phenols, ammonia, and even essential oils. If you do use them, keep these and other cleaning products stowed away where pets cannot access them. While cleaning, make sure pets are put somewhere safe until you are done and the products have fully dried. Here are a few cleaning ingredients considered pet safe, but even these should be kept in a safe place:

  • Accelerated hydrogen peroxide (AHP) — Accelerated hydrogen peroxide is a more stable ingredient than hydrogen peroxide and is generally regarded as safe for pets. It can disinfect surfaces more efficiently and safely than hydrogen peroxide. But note that you aren’t likely to find this cleaner very easily — it’s typically used in industry settings, such as animal hospitals.
  • Vinegar — Vinegar is a great household cleaner that can kill some bacteria, viruses, and even fungi.
  • Dish soap — While it isn’t safe for washing pets with, dish soap can be used for pet-safe household cleaning.
  • Baking soda — Baking soda is ideal for neutralizing odors, and you can mix it with water to make a cleaning paste or with vinegar for a powerful all-purpose cleaner.
  • Lemon juice — Like vinegar, lemon juice is a powerful cleaner that can even help lift stains. Plus, it has a pleasant, clean smell.

Keep these household products out of reach

Many cleaners, even if they are marketed as “natural,” can be dangerous to pets. Pet parents should avoid these ingredients, or at least keep them well out of reach from pets.

  • Bleaches — Both regular and non-chlorine bleaches are toxic to pets, even if they are just one ingredient in a cleaning product.
  • Phenols — Watch out for ingredients containing “phenol” or sometimes “sol.” These chemical compounds are found in many cleaning products, like floor cleaners and cleaning wipes.
  • Alcohols — Rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol is toxic to pets and may cause vomiting, disorientation, seizures, and other serious health issues if ingested.
  • Ammonia — Humans need to use extreme caution when using ammonia, so it’s no surprise this cleaning ingredient should not be used around pets. Ammonia can cause skin, stomach, or eye damage to pets and may even lead to death with extended exposure.
  • Essential oils — They might smell nice to you, but pure essential oils can be toxic to dogs and cats, even just from inhaling them.

Frequently asked questions

How do I keep my house from smelling like my dog?

You love your furry friend, but the smell of dogs throughout the house is just not pleasant. Instead of using air freshener sprays or essential oils, start by cracking open some windows to bring in some fresh air. If it’s been a while since Fido had a thorough wash, bathe them, and make sure to wash their bed, toys, leash, and collar to further remove smells. Vacuum floors, furniture, and other fabrics throughout the house often to keep your home from holding pet odors.

How do I clean my house with a lot of dog hair?

You’ll need to be diligent about daily cleaning to minimize the amount of dog hair in your home. Pick up pet hair from surfaces with rubber gloves, lint rollers, or squeegees. Make sure to vacuum surfaces and sweep the floors often. Also, get into a habit of brushing your pup’s fur every few days (outdoors, if possible) to help collect loose fur before it is shed all over the house.

How often should I bathe my dog?

Bathe your dog about once every few months or when they are visibly dirty, like after a muddy walk.