How to Keep Your Spring Cleaning Pet Safe
These seasonal housekeeping strategies will help keep you—and your favorite animals—healthy.
If the warmer, longer days give you the urge to do some spring cleaning, you're in good company. Three out of four American households deep-clean their homes every spring, according to the American Cleaning Institute. But while you're scrubbing the house top to bottom, you want to be sure it's good for Fluffy and Fido, too. Try these tips for pet-safe spring cleaning.
Check Product Labels
"Look for formulas that are simple," says Mat Franken, founder and CEO of Aunt Fannie's, a line of plant-based household cleaning and pest control products. "The shorter and more understandable the ingredient panel, the better."
"There are plenty of pet-safe cleaning products, from carpet shampoo to stain removers to laundry detergent," adds Lily Cameron, cleaning supervisor at Fantastic Services in the U.K. and pet parent to a 13-year-old cocker spaniel. Some of the best options are in your kitchen. "There are lots of natural cleaning products, such as distilled white vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice, that are as effective as commercial ones but won't harm pets," says Cameron.
And for the more than half of her customers who own pets, Cameron avoids cleaning products that contain isopropyl alcohol, bleach, phenols, formaldehyde and phthalates, which can irritate sensitive noses and paws. It's also smart to avoid products with ammonia or chlorine. (If you do use products containing these ingredients to clean floors, litter boxes or toys, be sure to rinse and air dry them thoroughly before allowing pets near them.)
The good news is that, in general, the industry is moving away from overly aggressive antibacterial and disinfectant ingredients for home use, says Franken, so it's easier than ever to find cleaning products that are tough on dirt and grime but gentle for pets and their human companions. Like people, pets can be affected cleaning products, says Franken. An animal that licks its paws after walking across to freshly cleaned floor or rubs its face after coming into contact with a newly laundered blanket may be sensitive to the product used to clean it.
And sometimes simply using water does the job. A steam cleaner, like the Bissell PowerFresh Steam Mop, is a simple, effective way to clean (and, yes, disinfect) hard floors, including hardwood, tile, marble and linoleum.
Air Things Out
Take cleaning cues from your grandparents and throw open the doors and windows when the weather warms up. "Fifty years ago, we had homes that breathed," Franken notes. But with the move toward more energy-efficient homes, he says, "we rarely open the windows and let the house breathe." (Though if anyone in the family suffers from seasonal allergies, check pollen counts and open windows later in the day, when pollen counts are low.)
But fresh air doesn't necessarily mean scented air. "There's growing concern around essential oils and pets with some adverse reactions," says Franken. Cats are particularly to essential oils, warns the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Inhaling some oils can cause pneumonia and ingesting them can cause anything from gastrointestinal problems to liver damage. If you use a scented-oil diffuser or products containing essential oils, check with your vet to verify they're safe to use around pets.
Clean the Carpets
"Carpets attract dirt, dust, pet hair and stains, and over time, they can become really grimy," says Cameron. "Taking care of carpets and rugs is the must-do activity when it comes to spring cleaning." She recommends twice-yearly professional cleaning (confirm that they use pet-safe cleaning agents) or renting a premium vacuum cleaner to do it yourself.
Wash Pet Bedding
Cameron recommends washing pet bedding weekly, but if you've put it off a bit over the winter, spring is prime time to get back in the groove.
"Vacuum bedding and blankets thoroughly to remove any little bits of food and as much pet hair as possible," says Cameron. For machine-washable items, use the highest temperature you can (check the label) and a unscented laundry detergent with a half cup of white distilled vinegar in the final rinse cycle to neutralize any odors.