Living With Pets

How You Need To Clean Differently

by Todd Nelson // July - August - September 2022

Pets certainly contribute much love and joy to a household … and they also contribute their fair share of dirt, grime, dander, odors, and other messes. Much like babies and toddlers, pets are particularly vulnerable to fumes, fragrances, and residues from cleaning solutions. And, while pets are adept at recognizing and avoiding dangers they might encounter in the wild, they have few defenses to prevent them from sniffing or licking complex chemicals and other man-made substances found in homes.

So, if you live with fur babies, clean just as you would around babies and toddlers, plus the following:

Groom pets frequently (and preferably out of doors). Beyond tracking in grime via their paws and claws and shedding fur, pets routinely release dander – tiny skin and other protein-containing microparticles – into the air by scratching, shaking, rolling, panting, licking, and even urinating. When inhaled by humans, our immune systems frequently mistake these pet proteins for pathogens, generating a host of unpleasant allergy symptoms. What’s more, pet dander has a habit of sticking to surfaces and can travel around on clothing, bags, and other portable items. Brushing pets consistently and, if possible, out of doors is a first line of defense against both shedding messes and dander. Overbathing, by contrast, can dry out a pet’s skin, making dander problems worse rather than better.

– Increase cleaning frequency. In a home with just humans, you can typically get away with vacuuming and dusting, say, once a week. With pets, depending on number and type, you may need to increase that frequency, especially during shedding seasons (typically late fall and early spring). If there are allergy sufferers in a home, consider using an allergen denaturing agent, typically a spray or powder, that neutralizes the proteins in pet dander. Note, however, that denaturing agents can be acidic, so follow all cautions carefully and test for color fastness when using on carpets, curtains, bedding, and other textiles. Even with no pet-allergy sufferers in a home, consider the long-term implications for home value and sale-ability when deciding how often to clean.

Invest in high-quality cleaning tools. To maximize capture and removal of pet dander, invest in a pro-quality High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtered vacuum cleaner; dust with high-quality microfiber cloths; and, to ensure thorough removal of cleaning-solution residues, which can be a particular hazard for pets, use high-absorbency mops, cloths, and sponges. Where cleaning solutions are concerned, choose products that are mild, pH-balanced, and engineered to rinse away cleanly, leaving minimal residues and follow – to the letter – all manufacturer’s instructions for using them.

Be super wary of DIY solutions. The Internet offers plenty of suggestions for do-it-yourself cleaning solutions that are supposedly pet friendly. But, compared to well-designed commercial cleaning solutions, which are developed and tested thoroughly in labs under controlled scientific conditions, the DIY world is a bit of a Wild West. DIY solutions are often ineffective for cleaning, potentially damaging to home surfaces, and/or possibly lethal to pets, especially if they use essential oils for fragrance, which pets cannot always metabolize, leading to toxic buildup and even organ failure.

Remember to clean pets’ personal belongings! Finally, be sure to consistently wash (and occasionally replace) pet toys, feeding bowls, bedding, and so forth, which are pet dander magnets and, in the case of bedding, feeding grounds for dust mites and breeding grounds for other pathogens.

Todd Nelson

Owner of MaidPro of the Triangle