By Dr. Becker
Today I want to talk about ways you can make your indoor environment safer and less allergenic for your pet.
Allergies in pets have reached epidemic proportions in recent years. Countless dogs and cats are suffering, and many pet owners are trying anything they can think of to help their itchy, scratchy, miserable four-legged family members.
Here at Mercola Healthy Pets, I often discuss species-specific nutrition and other remedies for pets with allergies. But helping a sensitive dog or cat means looking at everything your pet is exposed to on a daily basis and eliminating as many potential triggers as possible.
If your pet has allergies, it can be very important to limit her exposure to all unnecessary environmental chemicals, especially indoors.
Many commercial cleaning products pollute the air inside your home by off-gassing toxic fumes that can be very hazardous, not to mention irritating, to your pets. Many cleaners also contain antibacterial substances that are not only unnecessary, but can actually help bacteria become stronger and more resistant to killing agents.
Safe Household Cleaners
Replacing chemical household cleaners with a few simple, inexpensive, and non-toxic agents will lighten your pet’s toxic load and cut down on a number of potential triggers that can set off an allergic response.
- Bare floors. If you have wood floors, ceramic tile, linoleum or vinyl flooring, you can use a vinegar and water solution instead of a chemical floor cleaner. Since pets are so low to the ground, this is an especially important tip.
I recommend adding one cup of vinegar to one gallon of warm water to mop the floor. There’s really no need to saturate the floor while mopping. Go easy and let the vinegar and water mixture do all the work. And there’s really no need to rinse. If you do find that the floor has a dull appearance after it dries, you can mop again with straight club soda to add a nice shine to your flooring.
To remove stains on your vinyl floor or actually to any vinyl surface, dip a clean cloth in full-strength lemon juice and rub it into the stain.
- Windows and mirrors. You really don’t need ammonia-based products to clean windows and mirrors around your home. You can actually use a mixture of lemon juice and water. Use four tablespoons of lemon juice and half a gallon of water.
You can also use a clean lint-free cloth rather than paper products to wipe those surfaces clean. Sometimes old, cotton t-shirts or cloth diapers also work really well for windows and glass surfaces.
- The kitchen and bathroom. For cleaning and disinfecting kitchen and bathroom surfaces, dust with baking soda, then wipe with a moist cloth or sponge. For tough grime, add some salt and elbow grease to that recipe.
If you need to tackle grease, mildew, or other stains, spray the area with either lemon juice or water. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then use a really stiff cleaning brush to scrub the mess away.
If you need to disinfect a surface, a nice homemade disinfecting agent is a mixture of two cups water, three tablespoons of liquid soap, and about 25 drops of tea tree oil, which is naturally antibacterial and antifungal.
- Oven cleaning. If your oven isn’t self-cleaning, skip those totally toxic, commercial cleaning chemicals that release loads of harmful fumes into the environment. Instead, coat the inside of your oven with a paste made of baking soda and water. Let it stand overnight, and then scrub off all the grease and grime the next day. You can finish up with a moist cloth.
- Unclogging a drain. If you have a clogged sink or tub, it’s a good idea to avoid caustic chemicals and drain cleaners as much as possible. I recommend you consider pouring half a cup of baking soda in the drain. Follow that up with two cups of boiling water. If you have a really tough clog, you can follow the baking soda with a half cup of vinegar. Then be sure to close or cover the drain tightly while the soda-vinegar mixture is fizzing away working on the clog. You can flush the whole mess down the open drain with a gallon of boiling water.
- Polishing wood furniture. Most commercially available furniture polishes contain petroleum products which are toxic. Furniture polish sprays pollute the environment in your home with potential hazardous chemicals that you and your pets can both breathe in.
Instead, I recommend a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. Use two parts olive oil to one part lemon juice. Apply it to your furniture with a soft cloth, and you can polish your furniture with a secondary clean cloth that actually leaves a really fresh scent.
I’ve also quite successfully used coconut oil on my wood furniture. However, I will tell you that my Boston terrier follows me around licking it off, so if you have a pet with a taste for coconut oil, that may not be the best idea.
- Controlling paint fumes. Painting anything indoors certainly creates fumes and odors that can make any member of the household ill. If you have a touch-up project or you’re painting in your home, I recommend you set small bowls of vinegar around the room to absorb the smell. Refresh the vinegar daily and leave it out for a few days after you’ve finished painting, especially if you don’t have an ionic air purifier that will help clean the air.
- Metal polish. If you have brass, copper, stainless steel, or chrome items around your home that you’re interested in polishing, you can totally skip those harsh chemical products that typically contain ammonia and acid. Instead, I recommend you make a homemade solution using equal parts vinegar, salt, and flour.
Using a clean cloth, rub this paste into the item. Cover the surface entirely. Give the piece about an hour to dry, and then wipe it off with a clean, soft cloth.
For tarnished sterling silver, there’s a very cool trick you can use. You need to line a sink or bucket with aluminum foil. You add your silver, and then you add boiling water with a cup of baking soda and a sprinkle of salt. If you let that whole mixture sit for a few minutes, you’ll find that the tarnish will transfer from your silver to the foil. You simply rinse your clean silver and wipe it dry.
If you’d rather polish your sterling silver by hand, you can dab a bit of toothpaste onto each piece and rub it with a clean soft cloth, or you can substitute three parts baking soda with one part water for the toothpaste. Rinse your items with warm water and pat dry.
Take It One Step at a Time
This is by no means a complete list of all the ways you can reduce or even eliminate the chemical cleaners in your home for the health of all your family members, including your pets. Keep in mind that you don’t have to make massive changes all at once. In fact, it can be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re dealing with an allergic pet.
What I recommend you do is to think about where your allergic dog or cat spends most of her time when she’s inside the house. Then consider making changes to ensure your pet isn’t exposed to environmental pollutants in the areas where she is spending most of her time.
If your dog naps on the floor like most dogs do, make the switch to safe, non-toxic floor cleaners first.
If your kitty loves to snooze on a favorite blanket or pillow, consider switching to a green laundry detergent or research how to make your own. And don’t use chemical dryer sheets with any fabric that your pets will come in contact with. I recommend if you want to freshen up your laundry, add a few drops of the essential oil of lemon to a sock and add that into your dryer, instead of the chemical laundry sheets that a lot of people use.
Try taking a step every week or maybe a new step every two weeks towards de-polluting your pet’s indoor environment.
You may find you ultimately hit on something that makes a significant improvement in your pet’s allergic response, or you may simply get the peace of mind that comes with knowing nothing in your home is contributing to your pet’s suffering.
And as a bonus, you’re on your way to living a much greener, cleaner life with fewer chemicals in your environment.