By Dr. Becker
Households with pets can be a challenge to keep clean and fresh, but the right materials and tools can make the job a lot easier.
Carpeting stains easily, is often difficult to clean, and functions as a wall-to-wall trap for pet hair, dander and grime.
When choosing flooring, go with a surface that is resilient, stain-proof, and easy to clean and disinfect if necessary. Tile, vinyl, laminate, sealed concrete and sealed stone are better options than carpeting. Some pet owners swear by porcelain or ceramic tile with epoxy grout. The quality/grade of the flooring material, as well as the color, should be considered during the selection process.
Another consideration when choosing flooring is a pet that can't maneuver well on slippery surfaces – for example, a dog with hip dysplasia or some other disorder that affects movement. Older pets or animals with muscle weakness must have a path of non-skid runners around the house to be able to move safely from room to room.
If you have carpet, you can reduce staining and wear and tear by putting down small rugs and runners in high traffic areas. The rugs should be easy to quickly vacuum with a powerful vacuum cleaner (for example, small shag rugs are not a good choice, in my experience) and if they're machine washable, even better.
Put down floor mats outside your doors and just inside to catch as much outdoor dirt and muck as possible before it spreads through the house on paws.
A good-sized litter mat, as well as large absorbent, rubber-backed mats under pet food and water dishes, will also help contain mess.
Many people feel leather furniture is the worst kind to have in a home with pets, because sharp claws can cause scratches and punctures. However, if your pets aren't allowed on the furniture or simply aren't interested in it, leather is great because any pet hair that lands on it is easily wiped away. You never have to worry about fur and dander-covered fabric upholstery with leather furnishings.
Semi-aniline leather is a type of leather that has been protected and sealed to make it difficult to puncture and soil.
If leather doesn't work for you ethically or economically, another option is microfiber-covered sofas and chairs. Microfiber is a tight-woven synthetic material that is soil resistant, easy to clean, difficult for pets to tear, and relatively inexpensive.
Another type of furniture material that is nearly indestructible (if a bit pricey) is Crypton. Crypton is a synthetic fabric that resists dirt, stains, odors and bacteria. You may have to look around a bit for Crypton furnishings or fabric.
You can also slipcover your upholstered furniture to protect it and make it easier to clean. Canvas fabrics are a good choice for this purpose.
Another option is to use washable furniture throws draped over your pet's favorite couch or chair.
Small wood tables (coffee and end tables) might not be a good idea if you have a cat who scratches where he shouldn't, or a frequently drooling dog. Metal, stone, tile and glass are better choices for coffee and accent tables if you're concerned about pet slobber or claw damage.
Window Coverings and Wall Finishes
Curtains and drapes attract pet hair, dander and odors. They are also a climbing temptation for kitties. Laundering or dry cleaning window coverings can be a real chore. Better options for both wear and tear and cleaning include wood or faux wood blinds, non-fabric vertical blinds, roller blinds, or the rather deluxe integrated/between-the-panes blinds.
Wall finishes – especially low on the wall – should be easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth or sponge. Eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss are the easiest paint finishes to clean.
A Word about Environmental Toxins
Please keep in mind most flooring, furniture and window covering materials are treated chemically, and those chemicals enter your home right along with your new floor, throw rugs, mats, etc. It can be a challenge to combine a desire for a 'green' environment with the need for household furnishings that are pet-proof and easy to keep clean.
I recommend for the health of both the two- and four-legged members of the family that you research methods for reducing the level of toxins released into your home when installing new flooring or furnishings.
If you aren't able to avoid toxins with some of your purchases, consider purifying your pet's air to reduce chemical fumes emitted by new furniture and carpets.
Remember, your pets live at ground level and are also likely to spend many more hours lying on upholstered furniture than the human members of the household.
You can further reduce the environmental pollutants in your home by using non-toxic cleaning solutions.
Tips and Tricks for Staying Ahead of the Mess
The fact is, no matter how pet friendly and easy to clean your home is, it will still require planning and consistent daily and weekly effort – especially if you share your life with several furry critters.
- Make sure your dog is thoroughly house trained, and your cat has plenty of appropriate scratching surfaces.
- Keeping your pets well-groomed is a must. Brush or comb them daily or several times a week, and bathe them regularly. The less dirt and loose hair on your cat or dog, the less mess on your floors and furniture. Regular nail trims are also a must to prevent damage to flooring and furnishings.
- Train your dog to immediately sit on a floor mat each time he comes in from outdoors. This will allow you or another family member to wipe him down, especially his paws. There are dog paw cleaning gloves you can buy specifically for this purpose, or make your own, or set up a foot soak instead.
- Cover all the furniture your pets snooze on with sheets when you’re not expecting company. Just move the sheet out of the way when you want to sit or lie down in that spot, and put it back in place when you get up.
If your pets get up on your bed, cover your comforter or bedspread with a sheet as well. Throwing sheets in the washer and dryer is a lot easier than cleaning your furniture or king size bed furnishings.
- Vacuum. A lot. Daily, if possible. Even if you have hard floors and little or no carpeting, the best way to pick up pet hair, dander and dirt is with a vacuum. If you’re in the market for a new vacuum cleaner, do some research to find the brands most popular with pet owners.
If you have a large home, buy more than one vacuum. When the equipment you need is handy and doesn't require lugging up and down stairs, it provides incentive to vacuum more often.
- Close off rooms you don’t use regularly, like guest bedrooms. As much as you love your furry companions, why make extra work for yourself by allowing them to lounge around in rooms you don’t even use?
- Make sure to thoroughly clean up pet accidents as soon as you find them. Always use a product designed specifically for pet messes – it should contain enzymes that break down organic waste and remove odors. Avoid ammonia-based products when cleaning pet messes or sanitizing litter boxes.
Having a clean home that happens to house several pets isn't mission impossible. Preventing as much mess and destruction as you can and staying on top of routine clean-ups will insure your home is always a warm, welcoming place for you, your family (including pets) and guests.