In this post I'm looking at all things cleaning, inside the home and garden, as well as hoovers and carpet cleaners (and sharing a few tips to help keeping the house clean when living with our gorgeous dogs).
Using cleaning products that are not pet-friendly can be harmful to our dogs and with busy lives, what our products contain is not always at the forefront of our minds. Some products can lead to serious health issues, such as allergies, burns, and even death.
Some of the dangers of using non-pet friendly cleaning products include:
Ingestion of the chemical leading to poisoning
Allergic reactions to the chemical resulting in rashes, hives, and swelling
Irritation and burns on paws and skin from direct contact with the chemical
Given the toxicity to dogs, the ingredients that you may want to generally avoid in cleaning products include:
A lot of injuries can be prevented by taking a few minutes to secure dogs out of harm's way whilst cleaning and allowing those areas to dry before reintroducing dogs.
Many leading cleaning manufacturers now supply a ‘pet safe’ formula. In a home setting, I recommend using non-toxic cleaning products that use natural ingredients instead of harsh chemicals. These can be safer and gentle on your pets while still cleaning efficiently. Some of the most common ingredients that you can easily come across are:
Bicarbonate of soda
You’ll find lots of cleaning recipes online and how they are best used so have a Google.
There are also some very good natural products available too if you don’t have time to DIY. Brands to look out for are ECOVER and Puracy (via Amazon) but these can be very pricey.
It is also worth considering a steam cleaner. Steam cleaners are great for cleaning floors (particularly grout) and use no harmful chemicals. If you need to sanitise your floor quickly then this is a good option and very safe for your dog. You can also use them to freshen up carpets.
Given the nature of our business and part of our licence conditions, we must use stronger disinfectants - it is essential to take great care in disease prevention, particularly as we have different dogs coming and going each day. DEFRA have a list of recommended disinfectants that treat a broad range of viruses, bacteria, and fungi, all of which can be used around animals as long as the instructions and dilution rates are followed carefully.
We use Anigene which comes in a range of different scents and which we highly recommend. A little really does go a long way. We also use Anigene diluted in a spray bottle to disinfect dog bowls, toys, and bedding – of course, allowed to dry before reintroducing dogs. If you do have a multi-dog household, then a broad-spectrum disinfectant really can be a good idea, particularly if you have a poorly dog with a potentially contagious virus.
Another product on DEFRA’s list and which is easily accessible is Safe 4 which you can buy from Amazon among others.
As well as cleaning products there are a few other household items to be mindful that can cause problems with our dogs. We’re always wary about carpet fresheners, you know the stuff you sprinkle on and vacuum off. Although a leading brand advertises as being pet-safe, I’ve seen numerous reports of dogs with skin allergies which does make me wonder. The smell can be so intense, imagine what that does to a dog’s nose when their sense of smell can be anything from 10,000 to 100,000 more sensitive to ours (based on the breed). We prefer to regularly wash the carpets rather than use another odour to mask smells and generally do the carpets once a week/fortnight depending on what dogs we have in and the weather conditions. We also use a small amount of disinfectant appropriately diluted to rinse the carpets and again allow them to thoroughly dry before reintroducing the dogs.
Carpet accidents - beat the pong...
Biological washing liquid diluted in warm water works well on carpets too for those little accidents. Just test for colour fastness first. You may need to go over the area a few times over a few days, as urine can be a very stubborn smell to shift. You do need a little patience as those enzymes need time to work, so give it a few days to take effect.
If that doesn’t do the trick we go over again with an enzyme-based pet odour destroyer. This helps to block out the urine smell and within a day or two the smell is usually gone.
Top tip: Ever had a whiff of urine and not sure where it is coming from? Invest a in black light torch. You can pick up a great little UV black light torch at really reasonable prices. These are amazing for showing up urine on surfaces. We have some dogs that like to 'mark' when they first come in (it's only natural), and it can be really difficult to spot those 'sprinkles' as it's not always obvious and you don't always catch them at it. These torches have been invaluable for us to ensure any urine is thoroughly cleaned and it helps to prevent dogs from covering the scent again.
Another go-to to clean up urine accidents (and which is more environmentally friendly) is bicarbonate of soda. First, soak up any excess liquid, sprinkle on the bicarbonate of soda and leave to fully absorb. Hoover the powder up and then wash with biological washing liquid and soak up the residue. If the smell still persists then repeat. I like to sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda down last thing at night and then hoover up first thing in the morning (obviously with any dogs sleeping in another room) – this gives it a good chance to work when there are no dogs about and is much easier when everyone is asleep.
Over the years we have gone through many hoovers and carpet cleaners. We’ve tried all sorts of hoovers/cleaners from Henry, Dyson, Vax, Miele and Shark. We hoover at least once a day, sometimes more as we have a lot of hairy dogs and have to keep on top of it. Our latest favourite in terms of really capturing all the dog hair is the Shark Lift-Away. It has much more suction than a Henry and feels a lot more sturdier than a Dyson. We also love the fact you can lift the cylinder out of the hoover to carry up and down stairs and makes getting to awkward places really easy. We’ve really hammered our Shark and it’s standing up really well to extensive use – I highly recommend it.
For carpet cleaners we have always used Vax, the original and then later the Vax Platinum. Again given the number of dogs we have in, we wash our carpets on average every 1 to 2 weeks, so our cleaner again really gets a lot of use. We were underwhelmed with the Vax Platinum. It was very heavy and even after hoovering, the dog hairs would get caught in all the small brushes and took an age to clean - it was difficult to get at the brushes. This model also died on us after a couple of years, the motor overheated and burned out which we suspect was due to hair build-up which we just couldn't get out.
For our next model we decided to go for a Bissell ProHeat 2x Revolution Pet and so glad we did. The biggest advantage of this carpet cleaner is how easily you can remove hair from the brushes. The housing literally pops off so you can get right in to remove all hair and also keep hair away from clogging up the belt. The two tanks for fresh and dirty water are also really easy to take out of the machine which makes carrying it much easier than the Vax. We’ve been really impressed with the cleaning power and the carpets do take very little time to dry. The only downside is that it’s loud, very, very loud. For our use, it really is great and definitely prefer it to the Vax Platinum - we still haven't managed to kill it yet which in our house is pretty impressive!
Dishwasher Tab/Washing Tabs/Toilets
Just as you would with children around, keep these tabs locked away from dogs. Some dogs find anything that they can reach just too irresistible not to taste, chew and swallow. Top Tip; We have child locks on all our cupboards which hold cleaning/washing detergents just for added peace of mind - there are always those super clever dogs who seem to be able to get into everything! Toilets – keep that lid down. Some dogs can be partial to a quick slurp of toilet bowl water (or bog dogs as we lovingly call them)…but when you consider some of the products that you use to clean your toilet, particularly the stick-on tablets, it really is vital to keep that lid or door closed if you have ‘one of those dogs’.
Keeping your garden clean
A top tip for outdoor cleaning and urine smells - which we always get asked about. Our everyday go-to is good old biological washing liquid (not powder). The enzyme in the liquid does a great job of getting rid of nasty niffs in the garden and leaves a nice fresh smell without being too overpowering. It does a great job on the astroturf and gravel areas too. Just be mindful to do this when dogs are not in the garden. Just grab a bucket of hot water, pop in some washing liquid and pour around, using a hard broom to scrub down. We generally do a clean down with gates across to prevent access until dry and a few times a week a deep clean with Anigene for virus and bacteria control.
Another tip, I’m feeling generous…take a simple garden sprayer and fill it with a diluted disinfectant solution (eg, Anigene or Safe4). Fresh Pet, which is pet-safe, has lots of different scents available and is pretty good (and very cost-effective). It is not on DEFRA’s list, but in a home setting I’d definitely look at this and the fragrances are great. Have your sprayer readily available in the garden and use it daily over all those favourite pee areas (anything upright is fair game to becoming a pee post for a dog, so look at sides of gates, fences, plant pots, containers etc). Just a few minutes a day quickly spraying these areas makes cleaning much easier and really helps keep smells down. We also spray directly over pee and poop spots when we see the dogs go.
If anyone has any great cleaning hacks then we’d love to hear them – do pop them in the comments.