15 Pet-Safe Cleaning Tips

Even the smallest of pets make their fair share (or more!) of the mess in your house. But it’s important to be careful cleaning up after them to make sure you aren’t damaging your home or harming your pets in the process. From hair everywhere and crumbly biscuits “buried” under seat cushions, to muddy pawprints and other “messes,” there are ways to keep your house tidy without putting your pet’s health in danger. These pet-friendly cleaning tips will help you control the chaos in the best way possible for you and your furry friends. For safety’s sake, pay particular attention to Nos. 4 and 14!

1. Clean from the top down 

Cleaning a ceiling fan
Cleaning a ceiling fan | powershot/iStock/Getty Images

Pet hair is light and can float to the top of some very unexpected places. To make quick work of cleaning away hair, use dampened disposable cleaning cloths or sturdy paper towels to firmly wipe down “hairy” surfaces. Most of the hair will stick to the damp cloth which can then be simply thrown away and replaced with a new one. Any hair that escapes will tend to move down since it’s now damp so working from the top down will help make sure you don’t mess up an area you just cleaned.

Next: Get all steamed up.

2. Use steam to clean

Steam cleaning
Steam cleaning | OlgaChertova/iStock/Getty Images

Don’t forget about your curtains and drapes. They’re hair and pet odor magnets. Either wash them or use a steam cleaner if the fabric will tolerate either of those methods. If they have to be dry cleaned, try to hang them outside in the shade for at least a few hours to let the toxic fumes dissipate before hanging them back up inside.

A steam cleaner is also perfect for cleaning carpets as well as most upholstered furniture (including pet beds). Despite being deadly to dust mites and fleas, they are perfectly safe to use around pets — just make sure your pets aren’t near the steam stream while you’re cleaning. Another option for carpet is a wet-dry vacuum with cool water. It’s great for removing pet stains although it isn’t as effective against pests. 

Next: Prevent new messes.

3. Place a mat under your pet’s bowls

dog dishes
Dog bowls | consulgian/iStock/Getty Images

Let’s face it, our pets aren’t always the neatest eaters. Dogs, in particular, tend to make a mess where they eat and drink. This is especially true of dogs with large jowls. Those squishy faces can be so precious, but they can also cause problems at mealtime. Or when your pet turns away from the water bowl with water still dribbling out of those jowls!

Putting an easy-to-clean mat under your pet’s food and water dishes will catch a lot of those crumbs and dribbles and keep your floors a little neater.

Next: Getting the right “stuff’

4. Stock up on pet-safe cleaners

Shelves of cleaning products
Cleaning products | Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Our pets spend a lot of time lying around on the floor. That puts them in close proximity to whatever cleaners you use on those floors. They also leave nose prints on windows and sometimes lick the oddest things around the house. All of these habits put them in danger from the toxins found in whatever cleaning products you’ve been using.

In order to keep your pets (and family) safe from toxins, consider switching to pet-safe cleaning products. They’re safer for your pets, family, and the environment. If you aren’t looking to swap out all your favorite cleaning products, consider changing just to pet-safe products for windows, floors, dishes (and the dishwasher), and laundry. Especially for when you wash your pet’s dishes and bedding.

Next: It’s time to introduce your pet to Marie Kondo.

5. Inspect your pet’s toys and dishes

Ripped dog toy
Broken dog toy | Christine Ann Bournias/iStock/Getty Images

Before starting the clean-up, go through your pet’s belongings and get rid of any that aren’t still used or are no longer in good shape. This includes bacteria-laden chipped or scratched bowls as well as toys or beds leaking stuffing. If they can’t be repaired, replace them! If the item is still in good condition, but just out-grown or unloved, consider cleaning it and donating it to a local animal shelter.

Double-check collars, harnesses and leashes; your pet’s life may very well depend on them being in good condition. Also take a good look at your pet’s crate, kennel, or carrier. Use your hands as well as your eyes to find sharp edges, chips, broken latches or zippers, and tears.

Next: More about those crates, kennels, and carriers.

6. Don’t underestimate your vacuum

Cat sitting on robot vacuum
Cat with robot vacuum | GummyBone/iStock/Getty Images

If the last time you cleaned your dog’s crate was when he or she got sick in it, it’s been too long! Fleas and other parasites thrive in dirty pet palaces. Besides evicting unwanted roomies, a good cleaning will make everything smell so much fresher. 

Thoroughly vacuum all hard surfaces to remove dirt, hair, flea eggs, and other nastiness. Then give it a good scrub with pet-safe dish detergent and rinse thoroughly. Alternatively, you can take it to a self-service car wash and use the industrial vacuum and high-pressure water hose; just skip the industrial-strength detergents. In either case, let it dry in the sun if possible.  

Next: Doing your pet’s laundry. 

7. Use baking soda to help neutralize odors

Jar with baking soda
Baking soda | Geo-grafika/iStock/Getty Images

Check the cleaning instructions for all of your pet’s soft furnishings and wash them in the hottest water recommended. Whether by hand or in a washing machine, use a small amount of unscented pet-safe laundry detergent and a cup of baking soda to help neutralize odors. Rinse thoroughly and dry by the recommended method. To clean a vinyl soft carrier, wipe it down using a clean sponge, warm water, and a bit of the same detergent. Add a tablespoon or so of baking soda to the rinse water, rinse thoroughly, and let dry in the sun.

Bed covers should be washed at least as often as you wash your sheets. After all, Rover doesn’t bathe as often as you do and is much more likely to roll in something nice and stinky! If the washing directions don’t allow for such frequent cleaning, at least give them a good vacuuming when you do your floors.

Next: Is your pet a toy collector?

8. Disinfect toys

Happy puppy laying down with toys
Puppy with toys outside | Mexitographer/iStock/Getty Images

Washable toys and tennis balls can be run through the washing machine along with the bed covers. Toys that can’t go into the washer can be soaked in a tub of hot water with a little of pet-safe detergent, then scrubbed with a good, stiff brush. Keep a dedicated dish tub and scrub brushes, along with a supply of detergent, with your other pet supplies so they’ll always be handy for a quick clean-up.

Small plastic baskets are a great, easy-to-clean way to corral toys. Training your dog to put his or her toys away in the basket is great fun for both of you. They’ll especially enjoy their new trick if it involves treats!

Next: How stylish is your pet?

9. Do not dry clean your pet’s clothes

Happy dog running and wearing sweater
Dog wearing a sweater | alexei_tm/iStock/Getty Images

If your pet has a wardrobe, whether it’s a simple coat for chilly walks or an outfit for every occasion, it will need to be cleaned and perhaps stored away until next winter. Because of the toxic chemicals involved, it’s best to avoid dry cleaning your best bud’s duds.

Either hand-wash or launder them in unscented pet-friendly laundry detergent. Store the clean, dry clothes without mothballs. After all, you’ve stayed unscented and VOC-free so far; your furry friend is not apt to appreciate the toxic, lingering fumes of mothballs!

Next: Is it time to eat yet?

10. Use VOC-free dishwasher detergent

Puppy looking into a dishwasher
Puppy standing on a dishwasher | K_Thalhofer/iStock/Getty Images

Clean your pet’s food and water dishes regularly. It’s a good idea to have two sets so you can use one while the other is in the dishwasher. Speaking of the dishwasher, always use the sanitize and heated dry settings for pet dishes. You should also use VOC-free dishwasher detergent.

Give the food storage bin a good scrub with pet-safe dishwashing liquid before refilling it. The oils in pet foods can go rancid at room temperature over time. You want to make sure you’re not contaminating your pet’s fresh food with old, rancid oil.

Next: It’s definitely time for a walk!

11. Put nylon leashes and collars in with your pet’s laundry

Dog collar with red leash
Dog collar and leash | alexeys/iStock/Getty Images

Remove any tags and wash nylon leashes, harnesses, and collars with dog beds or plush toys. Putting them in an old lingerie bag or zippered pillow cover will keep the buckles from snagging other items. Set them in the sun and let them dry thoroughly before putting them back on. It’s best to have duplicate collars or harnesses in case you need to walk your pet before they’re dry. Don’t forget to switch the tags before that walk!

Leather collars and leashes should be cleaned with saddle soap; follow the directions on the container. A good rubdown with a leather conditioner will protect the leather and keep it supple. After applying it, buff the leather dry with a clean cloth.

Next: Taking a closer look at your pet.

12. Get ahead of extra shedding

Dog at the groomer
Dog getting groomed | LuckyBusiness/iStock/Getty Images

Doing some extra grooming as soon as the days start to lengthen can help reduce excess shedding later. Warm weather causes many pets to “blow their coats”. This involves getting rid of all that nice, warm winter undercoat in preparation for summer. It’s a very messy process! 

Spring is a great time for a bath and maybe a trim. Everything around your pet is clean and fresh smelling, shouldn’t they be, too? Ask your groomer about a deep conditioning treatment. Just like human scalps, your pet’s skin can suffer from the effects of winter dryness.

Next: Has your pet visited the vet lately?

13. Protect your pet from pests

Dog getting exam at the vet
Dog at the vet | IvonneW/iStock/Getty Images

If your pet hasn’t seen a vet recently, it may be time to arrange a check-up, booster shots, and a discussion about parasite prevention. The more time your pet spends romping outdoors, the more they’re exposed to fleas, ticks, internal parasites, heartworm-carrying mosquitoes, and other nasties. Even if your pampered pooch’s feet never touch the ground, he or she can still be exposed. Yearly vaccinations and a regular schedule of parasite prevention can add years to your pet’s life.

Next: An important way to keep your pet safe

14. Check your pet’s emergency information

Dog wearing a collar with tags
Dog wearing a collar with tags | RaeAnnaFrame/iStock/Getty Images

Ask your vet about a microchip if your pet isn’t already microchipped (of if you don’t know if they are). If your best friend already has a chip, make sure your contact information is up-to-date. A microchip often comes with a tag — make that tag is attached your pet’s collar. Don’t forget to add another tag engraved with your name and an emergency phone number or two, if you haven’t done that already. Double checking this once a year can make all the difference if your pet escapes or gets lost.

Next: Making next year’s spring cleaning easier.   

15. Keeping your home clean

Bucket of cleaners next to a mop
Cleaning supplies | seb_ra/iStock/Getty Images

Your home’s soft furnishings smell clean, parasites have been banished, your pet’s dishes are sparkling, and even their toys are clean and fresh. Now it’s time to keep them that way! Gather all of the cleaning supplies you used for cleaning your pet’s gear and dedicate a handy place for it. Doing that will make it easier to stay on top of the mess so cleaning will be easier and faster next time. Now, if we could just teach our pets to clean up after themselves.