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I was in my early thirties when I had my moment of cleaning clarity. Soaking the countertop with some bleach-filled liquid and reading the back of the bottle to see what I needed to do to make sure I was safe, and it occurred to me, “What about my cats who walk all over these surfaces and then lick their toe beans?”
That’s when I started paying attention to the cleaning products I was using around my pets.
Our dogs and cats have a different relationship with household products than we do. I imagine most of us aren’t walking across the coffee table or licking a treat up off the tile. They’re rolling around on the floor more than we are. And I’d venture a guess that very few of us are grooming ourselves with our tongues. But our pets are. That means whatever their bodies come into contact with can be ingested.
They also tend to breathe more deeply and rapidly than those of us on two legs. They’re taking in airborne particles that may seem harmless but can actually be incredibly toxic to dogs and cats.
We’re going to give you the information you need for your own “moment of cleaning clarity,” breaking down the hazards found in many off-the-shelf and DIY cleaning products and giving you some safe alternatives. The first part may sound a little scary. But hang in there — we have solutions and even DIY alternatives! You may even find that swapping out some of your old cleaners for safer versions will help your health as well.
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Cleaning Ingredients Toxic to Pets
Pet-Safe Cleaning Products
DIY Pet-Safe Cleaners
Signs Your Pet Has Ingested Harmful Ingredients
Cleaning Product Ingredients That Could Be Harmful to Your Pets
Ammonia (or ammonium hydroxide) is a nasty one. It can burn mucus membranes and cause breathing problems if inhaled. When licked, ammonia can burn the inside of the mouth, throat, and stomach. Not only is it used on its own, but it’s also an ingredient in many products such as oven, window, carpet, and drain cleaner, countertop sprays, and degreasers. But things get really scary if you mix ammonia with bleach. This dangerous combo creates a poisonous gas that can be deadly.
Side note: ammonia also creates that strong smell you get from cat urine. That’s why many cats avoid using a litter box that hasn’t been cleaned recently. They’re avoiding ammonia.
Windex® Glass Cleaner with Ammonia-D, many Lysol® disinfecting products, Downy® Infusions, and Mop & Glo® are just a few of many household cleaning products that contained ammonia at the time this article was written. And, of course, ammonia is often used on its own or in DIY cleaners.
Another big offender is chlorine. You’ll find it everywhere — kitchen and bathroom sprays, laundry and dish detergent, and toilet bowl cleaner. It’s also commonly used around the house with a water dilution for disinfecting.
Think about any time you’ve used a chlorine bleach product. You’ve got the doors and windows open for ventilation. And half the time, you probably have your shirt collar pulled up over your nose. It can seriously irritate the respiratory tract. With cats and dogs breathing deeper and faster than humans and having much more sensitive noses, you can imagine how rough it must be on them. And remember, they’re walking across these surfaces and licking their paws. They may be drinking from the toilet bowl or from a trickle of water in the sink that you’ve just cleaned with a chlorine product. And there’s another deadly combo to watch for. Chlorine bleach mixed with vinegar creates chlorine gas, so toxic a variant was used to knock out Allied troops in the trenches during WWI.
Glycol Ethers are a chemical ingredient found in many household cleaners — even some labeled as “natural.” They’ve been found to cause digestive, liver, and nerve damage, not to mention being linked to lung and kidney damage and anemia, not just in animals but in people too. You’ll often find them labeled as “nonionic surfactants” or “glycols” on ingredient lists.
Formaldehyde — yes, the one used to embalm bodies — can be found in lots of household cleaners, hand soaps, and even pet shampoo. It’s actually a naturally occurring gas in our bodies. The problem comes from inhaling high concentrations in the air. Where do those airborne particles come from? They’re released in small quantities from products that use formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. If we’re breathing them in, so are our pets. That’s a lot to digest, figuratively and literally.
A quick search of the Consumer Product Information Database provides a lengthy list of products with formaldehyde, including, sadly, some pet grooming products and many household cleaners. Products from Palmolive®, Gerber®, and Softsoap® are on the list. And that doesn’t include other formaldehyde-releasing chemicals like DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, and quaternium-15. We can’t completely avoid formaldehyde gas. But it’s in our best interests to limit it where we can … for our pets and ourselves.
Here, we’re dealing with an antimicrobial agent that can be found in antibacterial cleansers, mold removers, household disinfectants, and patio cleaners. It can cause tissue damage, gastrointestinal irritation, and more if your pet licks or touches a surface where you’ve used products containing Benzalkonium Chloride. Lysol®, Scrubbing Bubbles®, Softsoap®, and Purell® are among those listed in the Consumer Product Information Database.
Fragrance (Phthalates and essential oils)
This is an excellent time to point out that even natural, organic ingredients can be toxic to our pets. Some of my favorite essential oils are now off-limits in my home because they’re dangerous for my cats, even though they’re perfectly natural and healthy for me. Whether you’re using essential oils in your own DIY cleaning concoctions or they’re an ingredient in a product you’re buying, it’s a good idea to do a little scent research so you can make safe choices.
When it comes to Phthalates, you may not see them listed explicitly in cleaning product ingredients. But if you see “fragrances” or “perfumes,” there’s a decent chance Phthalates are one of the solvents used to dissolve those fragrances. This sneaky chemical can cause allergic symptoms and asthma. And there’s generally a lot of concern around how Phthalates disrupt things in our bodies. Again, if it’s dangerous to us, it’s often even more dangerous to our pets.
You may not be able to avoid all of these ingredients. But you can still help your dogs and cats by following the manufacturer’s instructions precisely and using proper ventilation. Remove your pets from the area until all surfaces are completely dry. Make sure food and water bowls, toys, and bedding are out of the area as well. And look for references to “pet safe” as you peruse the cleaning products aisle at the store.
Choose Household Cleaning Products That Are Safer For Your Pets
Now that you’re stressed out, take a deep breath and let’s talk about safe alternatives. There are more and more pet-friendly cleaning products coming out every year. These are a few of our top choices from the shelf:
Better Life Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
BioKleen Natural All-Purpose Super Concentrated Cleaner
BioKleen designs their products with pets in mind, understanding their sensitivity to toxins, synthetic dyes, and artificial fragrances. They steer clear of phosphates, chlorine, ammonia, petroleum solvents, alcohol, butyl, glycol ether, brighteners, artificial color, and artificial fragrance.
Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner
Force of Nature Cleaning Starter Kit
Force of Nature is an EPA-registered disinfectant and sanitizer that kills 99.9% of germs using only 3 ingredients: water, salt, and vinegar. Adding an electrical current forms two new ingredients that naturally clean and disinfect: hypochlorous acid and sodium hydroxide. I've been using this product for a few years and wouldn't go without it. Bonus - it's great for getting rid of odors on soft furnishings instead of using a fabric spray.
Trü Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
Trü All-Natural Multi-Purpose Cleaner is made from 100% food-grade ingredients. They avoid phosphates, sulfates, dioxane, bleach, ammonia, alcohol, perfumes, and dyes.
And for the inevitable pee and poo accidents, we’ve got an entire article for you here: "Cleaning Up Potty Accidents."
Make Your Own Pet-Safe Household Cleaners
If you prefer DIY options, look at ingredients like:
- Distilled white vinegar – effective for killing bacteria and microbes. Anti-fungal properties also make it a good option for mold treatment.
- Baking soda – has long been used to absorb odors. It’s also mildly abrasive, so it’s great for scrubbing tubs, sinks, etc. Working alongside vinegar, baking soda can take on stubborn clogged drains and tackle grease.
- Hydrogen peroxide – true, it’s a bleaching agent. But it’s not damaging like chlorine. The breakdown process of hydrogen peroxide turns it into water and oxygen. It can be used in antiseptic and anti-fungal applications like killing mold and odors.
- Lemon juice – if you’re looking for something a little less potent than vinegar, it’s a great antibacterial and anti-fungal. You can take a lemon wedge, after you've used the juice, and rub it on wood cutting boards and surfaces.
These ingredients can be combined in several ways to clean different areas of your home effectively. Need some inspiration? Check out these 5 DIY household cleaners that are pet-safe, from all-purpose cleaner to a scrub, and even carpet stain remover:
Pet-Safe DIY All-Purpose Cleaner:
- Equal parts water and distilled white vinegar.
Works on tile, linoleum, vinyl, cabinets, appliances, sinks, and more.
Pet-Safe DIY Bathroom Cleaner:
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide
- 1 tsp liquid soap
Combine in a spray bottle and fill to top with water. Spray surfaces and wipe clean.
Pet-Safe DIY Carpet Stain Remover:
- Equal parts water and distilled white vinegar
- Add 1 Tbsp hydrogen peroxide
Spray stain and blot.
Pet-Safe DIY Cleaning Scrub:
- Equal parts water, baking soda, and salt
Mix into a thick paste. Scrub and rinse well.
Pet-Safe DIY Drain Cleaner:
- ½ cup baking soda
- 1 cup white vinegar
Pour the baking soda into the drain. Add white vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes then pour boiling hot water down drain. Repeat as necessary.
Safety Note: When making your own household cleaners, don't allow your pet to ingest the ingredients directly, as this may cause digestive upset or vomiting.
One Final Tip and a Few Helpful Resources
Now a small disclaimer. Even when natural scents are used, it’s still important to identify them and make sure they won’t irritate your pet’s sensitive nose. Go unscented when possible. And remember, cats don’t love citrus. Avoid using citrus products, especially around litter boxes and other areas you want your cat to frequent.
If there’s any chance your pet ingested, inhaled, or came into contact with a harmful toxin, call a veterinarian right away. Better safe than sorry! Be on the lookout for these symptoms and signs – they will vary based on the type of product ingested and the quantity:
- Poor to no appetite
- Irritation of the skin and eyes
- Distended or swollen belly
- Corrosive-specific symptoms:
- Red, raw skin that may have blisters
- Inflammation of the mouth and eyes – burns and lesions in the mouth are possible
- Vomiting or retching
- Severe drooling and pawing at the face
- Difficulty breathing
And there are 24-hour resources available, too. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and Pet Poison Hotline are always on call.Click here for more information about these hotlines and their contact info.
The Consumer Product Information Database is a helpful resource providing lists of products containing specific ingredients. Their database is currently supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Public Health Service, and Department of Health & Human Services.
- Puracy Multi-Surface Cleaner. ...
- Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent. ...
- Common Good Pet-Safe Laundry Detergent. ...
- Nature's Miracle Deep Cleaning Carpet Shampoo. ...
- Clean + Green Fabric Refresher. ...
- Mrs. ...
- SpotAway Pet-Safe Glass Cleaner. ...
- Angry Orange Natural Cleaning Products for Pets.
- Eco-Me Natural Multi-Surface Floor Cleaner*
- Aunt Fannies Vinegar Floor Cleaner*
- Better Life Floor Cleaner*
- Puracy Natural All Purpose Cleaner*
- Aunt Fannies Vinegar Wash Floor Cleaner Eucalyptus*
- Better Life Naturally Dirt-Destroying Floor Cleaner, Citrus Mint*
- Bean & Lily Pet-Safe Floor Cleaner. ...
- Eco-Me Multi-Surface Floor Cleaner. ...
- Puracy Carpet and Upholstery Shampoo. ...
- Clean & Green Pet-Safe Carpet Cleaner. ...
- Dr. ...
- Biokleen Bac-Out Stain and Odor Remover. ...
- Angry Orange Natural Non-Toxic Cleaning Product for Pets. ...
- Skout's Honor Professional Strength Pet Stain and Odor Remover.
Keep pets out of the room when you are cleaning. Do not leave disinfectants or cold and flu medications unattended. After you have used them, store them in a place that pets cannot reach. If you wet floors or counters with disinfectants and cleaners, keep pets away until they dry.What can I clean my floors with if I have a dog? ›
- Eco-me Concentrated Multi-Surface Floor Cleaner.
- Better Life Naturally Dirt-Destroying Floor Cleaner.
- Aunt Fannie's Floor Cleaner Vinegar Wash.
- Aunt Fannie's Hardwood Floor Cleaner.
- Begley's Best Earth Responsible Natural Plant-Based Hardwood Floor Cleaner.
Using a damp mop is a great idea because it picks up dog hair like nobody's business. Just be careful not to use too much water because it may damage the hardwood in the long run, Buying a microfiber duster. This tool picks up dog hair as effectively as the mop does and is even easier to use.Is vinegar safe for pets? ›
“It's really good for them,” she says. You can also add vinegar to your dog or cat's drinking water, about one teaspoon per quart of water. Of course not all pets will accept the taste so Morgan suggests having two water bowls out, one with vinegar and one without, to ensure that your pet gets enough water.What do vets use to clean surfaces? ›
Steroclenz rapid surface sanitiser – Sporicidal disinfectant that kills up to 99.999% of germs in seconds and is effective against germs and viruses. Creating a cleaning protocol can be difficult but using the right methods and equipment can make it a lot easier and can keep the public and staff safe.How do I disinfect my pet bed? ›
Dogs Beds With Non-Removable Covers
Fill up a large basin or bath with enough water to completely submerge your dog's bed. Soak the bed in warm water with a non-toxic detergent for 10-15 minutes. Scrub with baking soda to remove any lingering odors, using a toothbrush to get into the corners. Rinse thoroughly.
Dogs can have distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (ACV) as long as you use it in moderation. Serve your dog one tablespoon of diluted vinegar in their water bowl or let it soak into their kibble. Keep in mind there is always the possibility your specific dog might have an allergy or intolerance to vinegar.
Pine Sol is a common all-purpose cleaner made by Clorox, meant for cleaning and disinfecting non-porous surfaces like counters, sinks, and floors. Pine-Sol is not safe for pets.How do I keep my house clean and smelling with my dog? ›
- Keep the surfaces of your house clean.
- Choose food that supports their digestive health.
- Find a heavy-duty pet odor eliminator.
- Give them regular baths.
- Invest in an air purifier.
- Bathe your dog regularly. ...
- Brush often if your dog sheds. ...
- Change food and water often. ...
- Decorate with washable rugs. ...
- Get a robot vacuum cleaner. ...
- Hire a house-cleaning service for deep cleans. ...
- Keep your dog's bed and living space clean.
Generally, you should mop 2-3 times a week to ensure maximum cleanliness of your floors, or whenever your furry friend brings in a little more dirt or mud. A little trick that you can do is to add a bit of a cleaning agent with fragrance, just to give your home a nice smell after you're done mopping.How do I keep my house dust free with pets? ›
- Provide your pets a good diet. ...
- Play with your pets outdoors. ...
- Get a good pet brush or comb. ...
- Wash your pet. ...
- Get an air purifier. ...
- Use a moist rag to dust. ...
- Shake couch cushions and pet beds outdoors. ...
- Change bed sheets weekly.
Pet odors seep into fabrics, so you'll need to launder, steam clean, or dry clean all your fabric window coverings. Steam clean upholstered furniture. You can either buy a steam cleaner designed to remove pet hair for around $200 and do the job yourself, or pay a pro.Is Dawn dish soap safe for dogs? ›
"Dawn dish soap can be a safe choice to bathe your dog in rare circumstances, but it is not recommended as a regular shampoo." Your dog's skin can be sensitive to allergies, have different coat conditions, and even different pH levels than human skin, so this strong soap can be very irritating to their skin.Is the smell of vinegar harmful to dogs? ›
While the scent of vinegar is not a problem for them physically, they just don't like it. Because of that, vinegar can serve as a natural deterrent if there's an area you'd like your dogs (or cats) to avoid.Do vets recommend Dawn dish soap? ›
Veterinarians also generally don't recommend using Dawn for fleas because of skin-related issues. “For example, if the pet already has irritation from having a number of fleas on the skin, and you're putting Dawn on skin that's already irritated, there is potential for it to worsen,” says Dr. Reeder.What disinfectant do dog kennels use? ›
You can use SupaClean as a steriliser for washing down and cleaning all surfaces, including utensils, feeding/drinking bowls etc, however, it's also a highly effective kennel disinfectant.
Dropps is one of the best options out there when it comes to pet-safe detergent. Their laundry and dishwasher detergents are made with plant-based ingredients and contain no color dye additives.How do you disinfect a sofa from a pet? ›
Simply pour some in a spray bottle or insert a clean spray bottle top onto the hydrogen peroxide bottle. Hydrogen peroxide is not only environmentally friendly because it breaks down into water and oxygen once it's done disinfecting. It is also pet and kid-safe.How do you disinfect a pet blanket? ›
Place all bedding and blankets in the washing machine
Use a pet-safe laundry detergent to wash the load and add in some pet hair dissolver to get rid of any leftover hairs. Avoid using fabric softener or any other products in the rinse cycle as this could irritate your pet.
Vinegar will treat minor skin irritations, help to prevent ear infections and even make your dog smell better.Is baking soda toxic to dogs? ›
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), a common household product with numerous uses, can be harmful to pets if ingested in large quantities. Signs and symptoms of toxicity: Vomiting is most often the first clinical sign of toxicity.Can you use Clorox wipes on dogs? ›
It's probably not a good idea to use a disinfecting wipe, like a Clorox Wipe or a Lysol Wipe, on your dog's paws. The same chemicals that do the disinfecting are harmful if ingested… like if the dog licks the paws after using that kind of wipe.Is Lysol toxic for dogs? ›
If you're on social media- you may have seen some posts about Lysol being dangerous to pets. In reality, all cleaners are toxic to pets, some are worse than others. One of the active ingredients in Lysol is Phenol. Phenol is especially dangerous for cats- but can also be problematic for dogs.Is Simple Green safe for pets? ›
Simple Green is Non-Toxic and Biodegradable
Simple Green products are also safe for both the environment and pets because they are non-toxic and biodegradable. Clean Conscience, Dog Friendly Magazine, and Green Cleaning Magazine endorsed Simple Green as an environmentally friendly product.
Sweep and mop with vinegar solution
For wood or other hard-surface floors, Bonk recommends a good sweep, followed by mopping with a vinegar solution. White vinegar acts as a deodorizer, neutralizing new and lingering smells. Here's a step-by-step guide for this simple dog smell elimination technique.
- 1 – Buy 100% Beeswax Candles. ...
- 2 – Freshen a Room by Diffusing Essential Oils. ...
- 3 – Freshen the Bedding with a DIY Febreeze Spray. ...
- 4 – Disinfect Counters with Vinegar and Water. ...
- 5 – Kill Odor Creating Germs with Hydrogen Peroxide. ...
- 6 – Clean Odors with an Air Purifier. ...
- 7 – Develop a Cleaning Schedule.
Next, gather your deodorizing supplies to work on removing pet odor from carpets, furniture, and beds. It's simple; all you need is a big box or two of baking soda and a bottle of apple cider vinegar.Why does my house always smell like dog? ›
Hello, If your house smells like dog, it's probably a combination of the presence of your actual dog and the things the dog leaves behind in the house. In many older, non-altered, or less house-trained dogs (and, incidentally, frequently in cats) house soiling could be a problem that the owner doesn't realize exists.Is Lysol spray safe to use around pets? ›
One of the active ingredients in Lysol is Phenol. Phenol is especially dangerous for cats- but can also be problematic for dogs. Cats can absorb phenol through the air, through their mouth by licking or through their skin. Cats cannot process phenol, and can lead to many problems, including liver failure.Is it safe to clean with vinegar around dogs? ›
Yes. Vinegar used for cleaning is typically diluted and can be used in households with dogs. It is considered a natural cleaning product, and it may help to neutralize odors and remove pet stains. When using vinegar as a cleaning agent, ensure your dog is kept away from the products to avoid accidental ingestion.Is mopping with Pine Sol safe for dogs? ›
Pine Sol is a common all-purpose cleaner made by Clorox, meant for cleaning and disinfecting non-porous surfaces like counters, sinks, and floors. Pine-Sol is not safe for pets.What takes dog smell out of a room? ›
Liberally sprinkling baking soda, a natural odor eliminator, on your furniture or carpet and allowing it to sit overnight is a great first step to neutralize dog smells. Plus, it's completely safe for your fur baby. Another option is to look to your bar cart. Reichert advises spraying areas where dogs lie with vodka.Is Febreze toxic to dogs? ›
Contrary to rumors alleging that Febreze causes serious illness or death in pets, our veterinary toxicology experts at APCC regard Febreze fabric freshener products to be safe for use in households with pets. As with any product, it is important that you always follow label instructions for use.Are Clorox wipes safe for pets? ›
It's probably not a good idea to use a disinfecting wipe, like a Clorox Wipe or a Lysol Wipe, on your dog's paws. The same chemicals that do the disinfecting are harmful if ingested… like if the dog licks the paws after using that kind of wipe.Is Febreze safe for pets? ›
"Like all our products, Febreze and its ingredients were tested extensively to ensure that the product is safe for humans, pets, and the environment," the P&G fact sheet said.Is vinegar smell OK for dogs? ›
Conclusion. Dogs have a superior sense of smell and this gives them highly sensitive noses and one of the smells they abhor is that of vinegar. Because of this it can be highly useful deterrent that will keep your dogs away from furniture and other things which you want to keep safe.