Choosing Cleaning Products When You Have Pets
It has been said that cleaning a house with pets is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos — both are fruitless endeavors. That said, it’s still important to do (the first one, that is) at least every now and again, especially because you have pets.
Pets live close to the floor and carpeting; they lick windows, flooring, frankly most any surface (repeatedly!), so making sure our cleaning products are free from harmful toxins is important.Also because pets are smaller and often breathe deeper and more rapidly than people, they intake more airborne toxins than we do, and unfortunately they can’t open a door or a window themselves to “air out” a nasty and irritating cleaning chemical smell.
The Top Cleaning Product Ingredients That Could Be Harmful to Your Pets
Ammonia is often found in window cleaner, oven cleaner, counter top sprays and scrubs, degreasers, carpet cleaner, as well as in drain cleaner. Ammonia is a powerful respiratory irritant and your pet can suffer respiratory tract problems if they breathe in too much of the stuff. (You know that pungent odor coming from your cat's litter box when you don't scoop often enough? That's often ammonia and it's a common reason why cats steer clear of their unkempt litter boxes!)
Chlorine is a primary ingredient in many cleaning and sanitizing products, including laundry detergents, dish detergents, and disinfectants. This is probably the most common cleaning product ingredients found around the home, and is a very potent irritant of the respiratory tract in cats and dogs (as well as in people). When inhaled or ingested, chlorine can cause lightheadedness, dizziness, vomiting, and mucous membrane damage. If you have a pet that likes to drink from the toilet bowl be very careful with what you use to keep the toilet bowl clean, as many toilet cleaners contain chlorine bleach.
You'll also want to check your cleaning products for the presence of Phthalates (often simply labeled as "fragrance"), Glycol Ethers, and Formaldehyde. Even products labeled as "natural" cleaners might contain ingredients that are toxic to pets but technically natural by definition.
If you use such cleaning products around your home, do so only in accordance with the manufacturers instructions and be especially cautious to use them in well-ventilated areas and do not use them in the presence of your pets.
WARNING: Whatever you do, never, never, never combine an ammonia-containing product with a chlorine-containing one! It will release highly dangerous gases called chloramines, which are extremely potent respiratory irritants and can cause significant problems for both pets and people.
Choose Household Cleaning Products That Are Safer For Your Pets
Fortunately these days there are lots of household cleaners that have fewer chemicals, clean just as effectively, and are safer for your pets. Here are a few brands to consider:
- Better Life (If your dog loves licking glass doors or windows, this Better Life Glass Cleaner is a good choice)
- Seventh Generation (Note: many cats don't like the smell of citrus. So if you are using any product that has a citrus smell, like this Seventh Generation cleaner, be careful not to use it around your cat's litter boxes and feeding areas, and always use them in places with good ventilation when there are cats in the home.)
- Tru All Natural Multi-Purpose Cleaner
- For cleaning up pee and poo accidents, check out our Cleaning Up Potty Accidents article for enzymatic cleaners that are best to use around your pets.
You can even make DIY pet-safe household cleaners with ingredients like distilled white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide.
If you believe your pet has ingested or inhaled harmful toxins, contact your veterinarian right away. Keep these Pet Poison Control resources handy as well — hopefully you will never need them, but in the event you do, you’ll be glad you’ve got them!
Happy cleaning! Or should I say “good luck” cleaning? Either way, now I’m going to go eat some Oreos :-)