Housekeeping with pets: simple, easy tips to keep your sanity
flickr photo courtesy of Derrrick Coetzee
It's clean, but it's a never-ending battle. Living in a heavily wooded area, our furry friends track in the sandy dirt on their paws. There are endless smudgy noseprints on both sides of our entry doors from both dogs pressing their snouts against the glass.
The occasional cat vomit or fur ball pile is always nice to walk up on, and other gastronomical indiscretions strike fear in the heart of the unsuspecting human who sees it first (usually me).
Oh, and the pet hair! Ask any pet owner and I am willing to bet that they'll say that their biggest pet peeve is dog and cat hair that clings to furniture, clothes and, well, everything. The hair collects if you don't vacuum every day in our house, and creates what I call "doggleweeds," wisping along the hardwood floor.
And as the old adage says: "No outfit is complete without pet hair." Speaking of clothes, I don't dare wear white at home or while working. "Neutral colors" is my mantra. Dog slobber, dirty paws and the like are no match for a pair of yoga pants and a gray top. They almost scream, "I dare you!"
In the winter months, it escalates because we're all stuck in the house more. Fellow pet owners can undoubtedly relate.
In my years pet sitting and doing my own housekeeping, I've pretty much seen it all. There are a lot of new products and tools on the market and some, tried and true. I always recommend having old, clean, light-colored or white towels and lots of paper towels on hand, as well as a good all purpose naturally based cleaner.
Floors and furniture
A really capable vacuum is a must. I prefer bagless, because they're less taxing on the environment and generally more powerful - especially if they are the right design. Choose one with onboard attachments and a separate powerhead for furniture. My top choice is the Dyson Animal: It doesn't clog and picks up hair beautifully but the cost can make it prohibitive. A close second - and about a quarter of the price, is the Shark Navigator. To keep your floors and furniture looking spiffy, vacuum daily - or at least every other day. It'll keep you sane, I promise. In a pinch, you can grab pet hair off the furniture with a terry cloth towel, a pair of rubber gloves, or the good old lint roller.
Old towels line spots on the furniture where our cat likes to perch himself. It makes it easier to clean, and cuts down on the amount of dander as the towels can be washed. The dogs are not allowed on the furniture, so I feel like I've got half of the battle won, there.
Every home with pet needs to own a dry Swiffer sweeper. I'm not sure how I ever survived without one. I use the dry cloths for dusting, then use the same cloth for picking up final traces of pet hair and dirt after vacuuming or sweeping. Toss it in the trash and forget about it. I recommend keeping a Swiffer dry cloth attached to the sweeper, to run across the floor. It will help your sanity.
Another tip: Brush your dogs regularly to cut down on the amount of fur left behind.
Choosing products wisely
As far as cleaning solutions go, I go green. In my years in the cleaning business, I was concerned about my exposure daily to traditional products, so I used earth-friendly options. Furthermore, they are safer for pets - they won't hurt their nose or skin! That being said, care needs to be taken to keep them out of reach of kids and pets. A word of caution: tea tree oil can be toxic to cats, according to the ASPCA, so if it is an ingredient in one of your cleaning products, use care.
Pet accidents on carpet
Oh boy. They are best dealt with when they are fresh.
For vomit or fecal matter, pick up as much of any matter as you can with paper towels. Blot the spot with clean white cotton towels. Apply a detergent solution (1/4 teaspoon clear, naturally based dishwashing detergent mixed with 1 cup lukewarm water) and blot well. Then rinse, blot and allow to dry. (Don't saturate carpet, and always test and inconspicuous spot for colorfastness.) For urine, blot the spot with towels, and apply an enzymatic product like Push to the area. Blot again, and repeat as needed. In my experience, vinegar does not work very well. (An enzymatic cleaner might be in order for vomit, too.)
Pet stains can be a particular problem. I love my old standby, hydrogen peroxide. It's great for most light-colored carpets and clothing. Apply a little to the spot, and blot dry. It might take a few tries, but it works on most problems - even biological stains.
Every dog loves a comfy bed to snuggle in and ours are no exception! Since our two large breed dogs are not allowed on the furniture, they each have their own beds on the main floor of the house, and one in the family area of the basement. The beds are cushiony, big and substantial. Along with comfort, I insist on washable covers, as laundering frequently reduces odors and keeps allergens to a minimum.
For even easier cleaning and comfort, you might consider the nail and claw proof, orthopedic and best of all - washable pet airbeds from Gertie Gear. Available in three sizes, the air beds have fashionable covers that are removable and washable. Another great feature that you'll love: the inflatable/deflatable core can be wiped clean. These are great for older dogs who could use extra support for those sore joints. Additionally, if your pooch is having accidents, everything can be cleaned easily. No more tossing beds out! Do you have a heavy shedder? Get a nylon cover that repels hair, and is great for outdoor use.
I could not imagine living without a pet or two in the house. With a bit of diligence on my part, I can enjoy them - and a spiffy home.
When Lorrie Shaw is not cleaning off noseprints from her patio window, she can be found around the Ann Arbor area walking dogs and pet sitting. She is also a pet blogger and regular pets contributor to annarbor.com. She can be reached by e-mail.