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Posted on Mon, Aug 16, 2010 : 11:50 a.m.

Housekeeping with pets: simple, easy tips to keep your sanity

By Lorrie Shaw


flickr photo courtesy of Derrrick Coetzee

As a life-long pet owner, I'm used to a little dirt in the house. In fact, it's impossible to have a spotless home when you have two dogs and a cat, like we do.

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 She can be reached by e-mail.


Lorrie Shaw

Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 10:20 p.m.

Love the Furminator! Our St. B/mix is a notorious shedder and that tool works great. Also, yes, steam mops are great - and leave the floor clean and dry; quick work! And, I agree. Rugs, towels strategically placed help tremendously, as do doggy bowl trays. I love the great exchange of info, here. Pet owners need all of the help that they can get to keep things looking spiffy!


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 8:36 a.m.

Thanks for the tip on the dog beds. I'll look into it. I keep a supply of foam and remnant materials in the basement and make my own dog beds as needed. The air bed sounds great for my aging dog!! Thanks!


Mon, Aug 16, 2010 : 9:49 p.m.

One of the best ways we found to combat the hair of the dogs and cat is a regular trip for all to the groomer. We have predominantly wood floors and utilize a Miele vacum, with a bag. It has great suction power and it's German engineering allows me to even talk on the phone while I am using it. As for mopping, we use an industrial type mop, the big wring out string hair kind. It works great.


Mon, Aug 16, 2010 : 5:55 p.m.

good article, but one correction: bagless vacuums are not more powerful. Unless you really spend a bundle, those cheap bagless ones are no match for pet hair. I also use a Shark and have been pretty pleased. But ask any vacuum guru (Like Dick Sampier on Stadium), and they will always tell you bags are the way to go.


Mon, Aug 16, 2010 : 4:27 p.m.

To clean a couch well of cat hair: vacum well with the fabric brush-scraping the brush against the fabric pulls up a lot of hair; then use a damp cloth to wipe down the furniture or cat condo (the dampness picks up more hair); then vac again. We use alcohol/fragrant free baby wipes to clean off the cats. Large plastic trays under their bowls helps contain spills.


Mon, Aug 16, 2010 : 3:37 p.m.

I bought the Shark Navigator for this very purpose--it is awesome! Also came with the floor steamer for no extra charge. The pet brush on the vacuum is the best! Very light and navigable--you won't be disappointed.


Mon, Aug 16, 2010 : 1:55 p.m.

for the dog brush I got the Furmigator, it was $50 but works better than any other brush. doggleweeds, I sweep regularly, but still was not able to get my hardwood floors clean with a regular mop, I just got a shark steam mop and LOVE it. bagless vacuum only worked well for me for a short while, it got clogged often and I spent more time declogging it than vacuuming, the motor burned out and I went with a SEBO a German Vacuum, yes it has bags was pricy but better than the pet dyson I tested out. I also asked other dog owners to rate their vacuum and that helped narrow the process of getting a new one down. I keep the outside coming in mess down by exiting through the door to the garage and garage to outside and back so that the dog gets stopped in the garage to get toweled off including paws wiped prior to coming back inside as opposed to letting the dog go through a doorwall into the family room. I keep a stack of well worn towels some of which are 20 plus years old in the garage for this purpose. I also massage the dog regularly including his face, ears, gums and paws, so that when it is time to clean these he has become desensitised to having them messed with. Its also a good way to find booboos such as scratches or moles (or lumps).