Make sure your spring cleaning spree is good for everyone in the house.
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cat laying on kitchen floor
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As the weather warms up, you might already be planning for your annual spring cleaning session—but for pet owners, there are a few special points to take into consideration. How do you know which products are OK to use? Or determine which overlooked pet items should get some extra scrubbing love? And what about getting out those hard-to-clean pet stains and messes? We talked with the experts to find out. Read on for the best spring cleaning tips for pet owners from Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, BVM, BVS, MRCVS, and Stew Lawrence, CEO of CleanWell, a plant-based cleaning company.

Check Cleaning Product Labels

"I think the best piece of advice I can give is to do your research and read the labels," says Lawrence.

"From a high-level standpoint, consumers should start by looking for products that have less or no hazard words—caution, warning, danger—and less personal protection equipment guidance," says Lawrence. "Also, be sure the products you choose specify that they can be used around your pets, either on the product label or website."

Lawrence says many cleaning products on the market today are made using chemicals like bleach, quaternary ammonium, and alcohol, which can irritate sensitive noses and paws and potentially be toxic to pets. It's important to be aware which products contain dangerous ingredients and to use those products sparingly—and never leave them out where your dog or cat could find them.

Ingredients to Avoid in Cleaning Products

Household cleaning products can be dangerous to pets, and you should try to use products labeled pet-safe whenever you clean. Lawrence says to watch out for these ingredients when you start your spring cleaning:

  • Bleach
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Phenols
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phthalates
  • Ammonia
  • Chlorine

Keep in mind that even ingredients that seem natural and safe can sometimes be dangerous to pets as well.

"Watch out for products containing essential oils," Woodnutt says. "Some of these oils are toxic to dogs when they come into contact with them, but cats are much more sensitive and can have problems just from breathing it in."

Keep Pets Out of the Room

Woodnutt says it's best to keep pets out of a room that has just been cleaned to help reduce the chance of them breathing in fumes.

If you can't have your pooch play in the yard or hang out in another part of the house while you clean, do your best to keep them off of freshly cleaned surfaces and open windows for ventilation—you'll appreciate the fresh air, too!

We recognize it may not be possible to find every cleaning product you need in a formula that's 100-percent safe. If you do use cleaners that do not contain pet-safe ingredients to clean floors, litter boxes, or other spaces your pet comes into contact with, be sure to rinse and dry the area thoroughly before allowing your pet access to the space again.

Clean the Carpets

Winning the war against pet hair can seem like an impossible task, but it's extremely important to regularly clean the carpets of hair, dirt, and dust for the health and safety of both you and your pet. Keep lint rollers and vacuums on hand to get hair out of the way before you do deeper cleaning, and use a professional carpet cleaner to give those areas a deep clean at least once a year.

Also, don't be afraid to get a little help from technology if you don't want to spend all your time vacuuming. "Between vets I know, our secret weapon is the robotic vacuum cleaner!" Woodnutt adds.

Don't Forget Beds and Toys

Woodnutt also advise that pet parents run their dog or cat's bed through the washing machine on the hottest cycle possible—check the label to see what the particular fabric can handle. Pet bedding should also be thoroughly rinsed to remove any irritating powder or detergent used in the wash cycle.

For beds that can't be washed in the laundry, Woodnutt says a good vacuum and a wipe over with a damp cloth will help. Another trick she uses? The lint roller, which can help remove any excess hair.

You can also use the machine to wash most dog garments and fabric toys. For rubber toys and food and water bowls, a dishwasher cycle should do the trick. Just make sure to check with the manufacturer to ensure your pet's toys and dishes are dishwasher safe for the rubber and plastic. Once cleaned, Woodnutt adds that rubber toys should be thoroughly checked for signs of wear and tear that mean they should be thrown out. Look for signs of 'perishing' like cracks that may appear when you flex or squeeze the toy.

For pet messes, she advises using an enzymatic cleaner that's designed to get rid of pet stains with a formula that is pet-safe.

Use Double-Duty Products

The more multi-use, pet-friendly products you can find, the better. Having an efficient cleaning routine makes it easier to keep things spic and span and reduces the amount of products you need to introduce to your home.

"Consider a product that multi-tasks to reduce the number of labels you need to read and to save space under your counters." says Lawrence. "CleanWell disinfecting wipes and sprays clean, disinfect, and deodorize in one step without harsh chemicals."