Cleaning has gone to the dogs! Keeping a pet-friendly home clean and tidy isn’t easy. As a cat loving neat freak, amalgamating households with a dog owner meant plenty of changes and compromises. Now with two dogs and a cat, there is even more chaos and mess along with the love. Here are our tips for trying to maintain a semblance of order in a (very) pet-friendly home.
An Ounce of Prevention...
Creating a Pet-Friendly Home for Easier Upkeep
If you have the opportunity, pet-friendly design, furniture, and decor can go a long way towards reducing your burden. Our upcoming guest post is all about home design for pet-friendly living, so stay tuned for more!
Outdoor Exercise to Reduce Indoor Chaos
Plenty of outdoor exercise is essential to a healthy happy dog, but will also help reduce wild behaviour around the house and all the mess that goes with it. Whether its outdoor playtime at home, neighbourhood walkies, or bigger adventures, energy spend outdoors doesn’t need to be burned off indoors. Plus, its great for physical and mental well-being – both for you and your pets.
Do a poo patrol pick-up in your yard frequently (preferably daily). It’s important for good hygiene for you and your pets, as well as consideration for your neighbours. We have an upcoming collaboration post all about pet-friendly gardening and outdoor living, so stay tuned for more!
Trap Outdoor Mess at The Door
Keeping the mess out helps immensely with keeping a pet-friendly home clean. Having a good quality general purpose front doormat helps reduce inbound mess. We don’t need to deal with snow and ice, but if you do, a rinse or paw wipe on arriving home from the streets can be helpful not just for cleanliness, but for your dog’s health. For wet and stormy weather, I put dog towels at the door for a (preferably outdoor) full body towelling before heading indoors. Sometimes, we are all so wet from wild weather that I need one too!
Because we often have free indoor-outdoor flow for the dogs to the backyard, I’ve found that using an extra plushy absorbent door mat along our rear patio door makes a huge difference. My special trick for the patio area? Bathmats. They work great for absorbing moisture and catching dirt, feel good, wash and dry easily, and can be very attractive if you choose carefully. There are similar dog specific mats on the market (although not many options in my local area), but don’t limit yourself to the pet section. All of mine at the moment are bathmats for size and style reasons. Shhhh…
Healthy Happy Cleaner Pets
Feeding a well-balanced quality diet is essential for general health, including helping to support healthy skin and coat. Generally, our boys (thankfully!) don’t smell doggy, with the exception of the classic wet coat smell on rainy days. A healthy diet can also help to reduce other unpleasant dog produced smells around the house. You know what I’m saying. Haha!
Dalmatians have short coats, but they shed like crazy. Fur fur everywhere! Even if, like ours, your pet doesn’t need frequent grooming, brushing is a great opportunity to bond and share a little TLC. It can help reduce free-fur shedding, too. If you can do it outdoors, you keep a little more mess out of the house. Win win!
While routine brushing is great, over-washing can create or contribute to skin and/or coat issues. Learn about appropriate coat and skin care for your breed, and be watchful for issues. It may sound counter-intuitive for a trying to maintain a clean dog and a clean house, but we try to limit our all-out dog washing to an as-needed basis. Dalmatians have natural coat oils that are stripped away when washed and our boys have sensitive skin. If your dog is smelly and you can’t seem to resolve it, have a chat with your vet about whether there might be underlying health or diet factors.
Fur and Fashion
Lint rollers are essential for professional and dress clothes de-furring. Keep rollers handy in your closets and, for occasions when it truly matters, keep an extra lint roller in your car (or other last-minute location) or office so you can do a final de-fur after you bid the pets farewell.
I confess that I have adapted my clothing fabric and colour preferences to be significant more fur-resistant since becoming a dog owner! Some materials are just fur magnets, aren’t they? With black and white pets, no colours are safe for the fur. Yikes!
Keeping Things Clean in a Pet-Friendly Home
Try to keep ahead of the mess. Around the house, frequent general clean-ups and vacuuming help to keep everyday mess from working into surfaces or accumulating. Tackling any special messes as soon as accidents occur reduces the risk or staining and/or discoloration.
Mopping hard surfaces with a dry/static pad is great for loose fur and dirt, and a periodic wet mopping compliments household vacuuming. Disposables are common but there are plenty of washable reusable products available if, like us, you are trying to be both cleaner and greener. Some rare occasions still call for disposable emergency clean-up supplies, though. I like to keep a roll of paper towels, enzyme cleaner, and plastic bags (salvaged from packaging) on hand at all times. I also have some baby wet wipes for emergency doggy wipes, when needed.
Dust for fur regularly and periodically tackle the annoying tasks of shifting furniture around to collect the giant furballs hiding under/behind. If you have awkward corners, blinds, or other tricky cleaning areas, treat yourself to a few handy task-suited cleaning tools to make life easier. You’ll be less likely to procrastinate (like me) if the jobs feel easy. On the subject of which…
Treat Yourself to Good Tools and Equipment
Invest in a good vacuum and quality attachments, especially for hard floors and carpets. I’ve used many different vacuums over the years, and can say without hesitation that I love my Dyson. I loved it so much that we practically wore it out, and so we bought another Dyson. I still like it, but I’ve got to say that I miss the old one – it had a better capacity and was easier to empty.
In addition to the trusty Dysons, I recently added a little Bissell SpotClean carpet cleaner to my arsenal. It is small, portable, easy to store, and works great for taking care of little messes. For our purposes, renting a large cleaner for occasional full-house carpet cleaning (or paying a service) works better than owning a high-quality full sized machine, but the ready access to small spot cleaning is awesome. Whatever your go-to appliances may be, clean them routinely to prevent nasty smelly mank from building up.
For upholstered furniture, vacuum upholstery tools help, but if you have difficult fur, like our Dalmatians, then you need to work very hard to try and remove fur from soft surfaces. Lint rollers work well to remove fur from clothing but no so well to separate it from woven upholstery, in my experience. I’ve used the damp rubber glove rub and rubber squeegee tricks, which are great for our cat’s fur but require plenty of elbow grease for our dog fur. I never seem to be able to get it all! This is still a problem area for me, so tips and tricks are most welcome if you have them! Covering our pet’s favourite nesting and resting places with comfy blankets makes it much easier to keep things clean. Not only are the snuggly, they can be easily removed and laundered.
Cleaning and Organising Pet Supplies
Organising Pet Products
Try to create a convenient space for consolidating your pet food, treats, supplements, medications, and other care supplies. Apply the everything-in-its-place philosophy. This may require different storage spaces in different usage areas. We currently have a feeding zone in the kitchen area, a storage zone in the linen cupboard (extra towels, clothing, etc), and a go-zone by the doorway for leads, collars, etc. The doorway area includes hooks for hanging/drying wet gear after rainy walks. All of those dog accessories need routine cleaning as well. Soak, scrub, rinse, and dry regularly.
Cleaning Pet Food and Water Bowls
Clean bowls are essential for good doggy health and household hygiene. The right cleaning method will depend on the type(s) of food, frequency of feeding, material of the bowl. I wash our dogs’ porcelain and stainless dishes in the dishwasher.
Be careful with your choice of cleaning products as they may linger on the dishes leaving trace nasty chemicals, scents your dog dislikes, or icky tastes. Use something non-toxic and make sure that all traces are thoroughly rinsed away before drying for use. Remember that any food/treat storage containers need regular cleaning as well.
Use a designated feeding area and, if your dog is a messy eater, using a mat can help contain mess and protect floors. You can buy inexpensive easy-clean laminated place mats for bowls or sturdier edged eating mats for extra containment, but I have a different secret weapon. Our dogs can be messy eaters and they are always messy drinkers. Full head dunkers! When we moved from a tiled home (great) to heritage hardwood (uhhhohhh), we wanted ready access to fresh water all the time, but also needed to protect the floors. The solution? Bathmats to the rescue again!
Cleaning Pet Beds and Blankets
Launder dog beds and blankets regularly. Just like people, pets can have topical sensitivities so you may need to be careful with detergent or add-ins. A very hot wash (fabrics permitting) is often suggested for pet bed hygiene; however, we’re a cold water wash household so I prefer to use a sanitiser add-in along with my detergent.
If possible, always wash your pet’s bedding, blankets, and towels separately for good hygiene and to reduce fur-transfer in the wash. You can shake them outside before putting them into the wash and rack or line dry outdoors, when possible, to keep as much fur as you can out of the house. Since fur can linger in the machine, don’t follow a pet wash with anything fur sensitive (or, if you must, do a quick rinse in between loads). Clean your washing machine regularly and, if you use one, your dryer. Fur and blanket fluff will clog your filters quickly!
If you have an training, incontinent, or just generally messy pup, consider adding a waterproof cover or mattress protector pad to your pet beds to help with cleaning. Our senior boy Oli has occasional LBL. Covers and protectors are a great help, as are easy to wash blankets.
For mattresses, cushions, or inserts that cannot be easily washed, you can still air them out periodically. If possible, you may be able to do a special clean (e.g. upholstery cleaner, commercial laundry, bathtub, garden hose, whatever!) if/when necessary.
Cleaning and Tidying Pet Toys
For corralling dog toys, we use an open toy box method. The dogs know where their toys are kept if they’re searching for fun and we have a designated place for tidy up. This has been a huge help! I recently added one outdoors as well. We also have a toy hospital basket out of reach where damaged toys can be stored while awaiting repairs.
Clean toys regularly. Depending on the toy, this may involve simple laundry. Many soft plush toys or fabric tug toys are machine washable. You can use a mesh sweater or lingerie sack if needed for smaller items. Some toys can manage a cycle through dishwasher if they’re solid toys of dishwasher safe materials. Hand-washing is best for others. Complex shapes that are best scrubbed. Squeakers need careful handling to avoid filling with water.
Be careful with your choice of cleaning products as they may linger on/in the toys leaving nasty chemicals, scents your dog dislikes, or icky tastes. Skip the chemicals or use something non-toxic and make sure it is thoroughly rinsed away before drying.
Learn to Live with a Little Mess (and Lots of Love)
My final tip? Well, it’s not to be too obsessed with keeping a pet-friendly home clean. Learn to accept a little imperfection. There will be fur. And you’ll learn to love it. Someday, you may even cry over how much you miss it or when you find it still lingering somewhere unexpected.