How to Make Your Home Look (and Smell!) Pet-Free
Even the most die-hard pet lover doesn't love the telltale signs of a pet-filled home. The hair, the stains, the smells…cleaning up after your fur baby, feather baby, or reptile can feel like more work than cleaning up after human children. We went to a panel of experts for their best tips on how to make your home look and feel fresh, clean and pet-free, no matter how many beloved creatures your household contains.
Dogs & Cats
The biggest hurdle when it comes to our furry friends is, well, all that fur. Dog hair tends to be on the coarser side and weaves its way into fabrics, whereas feline fur is generally fine and floaty, landing on practically every surface. First suck up any clumps of fur from floors with a hand vacuum. It's less cumbersome than a full-size machine and will help you reach into corners with ease. For spot-cleaning smaller areas (your pet's favorite sofa cushion, say), use a squeegee or a damp rubber glove: Run it over the surface to collect the fur, then discard the pile. A squeegee also works well to collect fur from rugs and carpets.
These pets also create their own special stains. On carpets, use the same technique to combat both dirt left by muddy paws and stains left by hair balls: Spritz the area with a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water and blot dry. (Scroll down for the best ways to clean up urine and poop.)
You might need something more powerful on drool, because it's a protein-based stain that may contain tiny bits of food. Combine a half cup of hydrogen peroxide with one teaspoon of ammonia; apply to the stain with a rag, being careful not to soak the carpet. (Test in an inconspicuous area first.) Let sit for 30 minutes, then blot. Apply cool water to the area, then dry it by standing on a thick pad of paper towels.
Daily maintenance of your rabbit's or guinea pig's cage will make each deep clean easier. Separate and remove droppings with a plastic scoop or a paper towel daily. At least once a week, move the animal to another spot (a travel cage or even the bathtub if it's escape-proof) so you can give the cage a more thorough wipe-down.
Here's how: Scoop up and discard soiled bedding, then spray the sides and bottom of the cage with a cleaner, like Nature's Miracle Small Animal Cage Cleaner ($13; amazon.com). Thoroughly rinse with a hose outside and let dry in direct sunlight—it's a great natural deodorizer. Vacuum the area around the cage to suck up fur and debris. When it's dry, refill the cage with fresh bedding.
A bird's cage should be wiped down and swept out daily and deep-cleaned once a week to once a month, depending on the size of the bird. While you may be tempted to use a heavy-duty cleaner, avoid anything chemical-based or with a strong odor, which can be dangerous to a bird's sensitive respiratory system. Use a scrub brush to apply a mild solution of warm water and a few drops of dish soap. Rinse everything thoroughly to remove any residue, dry completely, then line the cage with newspaper.
Change the paper lining every day, since bird droppings can dry into a hard-to-remove solid pretty quickly. Birds tend to be messy eaters, so install a plastic seed guard (like the Locking Shield Scatter Guard, $14; drsfostersmith.com) around the food bowl to prevent seed spray.
If you still feel like you're constantly battling seed, feathers, and other avian debris, consider upgrading to a wet-and-dry vac—it has much more powerful suction than most everyday vacuums.
Turtles & Reptiles
Turtle tanks get grimy as waste and uneaten food pellets break down in the water. Install a filtration system with enough oomph to handle a tank double the size of yours when completely full of water. At least once a week, replace about half the water. Every month or so, drain the tank entirely to give it a thorough clean using a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water, or water mixed with a few squirts of dish soap.
Reptiles are low on the messiness scale—they rarely shed and are usually kept in a confined area. To clean their tank or cage, first remove any loose items (such as branches or rocks) and wash them in hot, soapy water. Disinfect the rest of the tank with a product made specifically for reptiles, such as Zoo Med Wipe Out 1 ($7; petco.com). Whatever cleaner you use should be low-odor—like birds, reptiles are very sensitive to fumes and can become sick if they inhale even a small amount of toxins.
To make the glass on your tank sparkle, wipe it down with a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water.
How to Remove Pet Urine and Poop
Let's face facts: All pet owners have to deal with their animal's waste. These stains can ruin your floors and lead to long-lasting odors, so it's important to treat accidents right away.
For urine on a rug or carpet, blot—don't rub—to absorb as much liquid as possible, then cover with a hefty sprinkling of baking soda. Let sit for at least an hour before vacuuming. For lingering stains, mix together a half cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and one teaspoon of ammonia; apply to the carpet with a rag, let sit for 30 minutes, then blot dry. Finally, saturate the area with club soda (the carbonation will help loosen and lift any remaining discoloration) and blot dry.
For poop, pick up as much as you can with paper towels, then spray on a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts cool water. Blot and let dry. If you still see a stain, use a carpet spot-treatment, like Spot Shot Instant Carpet Stain Remover ($4; target.com). If the accident occurred on a hard surface, wash the area with soap and water, then wipe down with hydrogen peroxide, a natural disinfectant.
Linda Cobb, Creator of The Queen Of Clean Book Series, Amanda Landis-Hanna, DVM, On-Staff Veterinarian for PetSmart Charities, Amy Nichols, Vice President of The Companion Animals Division at the Humane Society of The United States.