Some of us are obsessive about it, while others dread it, but keeping the home tidy is one of the chores most of us do (begrudgingly or not).  In fact, a lot of pet owners might feel that cleaning up is almost a daily necessity!  Those classic pine and lemon-scented products repel dust and shedding fur, keep pests at bay and kill the bacteria that make us sick.  With all of these clear benefits, what could be the harm in a scrub down?  To clean or not to clean, that is the question Wisconsin Pet Care tackles this week.


“Harmful if swallowed”, “flammable”, “highly-toxic”, “do not allow contact with skin” – these are just a sampling of the warnings you might find on the back of the products you routinely use to clean your house.  And while you may not be pouring your favorite pup a big bowl of Windex, the fumes from these types of products can cause a whole host of side effects.  VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are released into the air when these products are used.  VOCs can cause nausea, headaches, throat and eye irritation, and with long-term exposure, kidney damage and cancer.  EPA reports have shown that VOCs are 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors (another good reason to get Fido out for an extra-long walk!).  However, shelter is a basic need, so what can you do to make the indoor air quality less toxic?


*First things first, your dog is more sensitive to fumes.  His sniffer is a powerful tool, and it can be easily irritated by chemicals.  So if you need to use a chemical cleaner, it is important to vacate him from the area.  When using toxic chemicals, you will want to ensure that the room is well-ventilated.  Keep windows and doors open even after the fumes have subsided.


*When life gives you lemons, make an all-purpose cleanser!  Add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice to 2 cups of water and a ½ teaspoon of castile soap.  This non-toxic alternative to the commercial brands costs less  and is just as effective to clean your home.


*So maybe making your own cleaning products sounds a little primitive?  Try one of the new eco-friendly “green” companies that manufacture safer cleaning products.  Seventh Generation boasts an all-purpose cleaner with a non-toxic and VOC-free formula.  They report that if every household in the United States would replace their 32 oz. bottle of solvent-containing all-purpose cleaner with a 32 oz. bottle of non-solvent-containing all-purpose cleaner, we could prevent 9.3 billion pounds of VOCs from polluting our air.  Jack’s Natural Cleaning Products, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and The Honest Company are also notable brands that make better-for-you (and your pet) products.  When shopping for cleaners, read the list of ingredients.  Steer clear of those that contain ammonia, chlorine, formaldehyde, sodium laurel sulfate, bleach or lye.  Essential oils and naturally-occurring surfactants are what keep these “green” products bio-degradable, non-polluting and non-toxic (so they don’t tamper with the water supply when you rinse them down the drain).


*Use an air purifier in your home.  Not all air purifiers are capable of removing VOCs from the air, so be sure to find one that can remove chemical gases.  Most of these purifiers are an investment, but they can greatly improve the air quality inside your home.  As an added bonus, they’ve also been known to aid in alleviating allergy symptoms.


With all of the advancements in non-toxic cleaning products, there is bound to be one that will rival your old favorite.  Finding an alternative to traditional cleaning products is just one more way to provide your dog and cat a safe environment.  Fresh air to breathe isn’t a right, but your companion animal will surely thank you for it!