Tips for safer cleaning

December 02, 2015

By Wendy Wilson

We love our dogs, but they sure can make a mess! They track mud and dirt into the house, they topple their food and water bowls, they leave behind that distinct doggy odor, and they have accidents — all of which require the right clean-up products.

Commercial over-the-counter cleaners, when used as directed on the label’s instructions, are safe to use around your four-legged family member, says Tina Wismer, DVM, medical director at the ASPCA’s animal poison control center in New York, N.Y.

“Dilution is very important,” she continues. “This is not a situation where a little is good and a lot is better. And we want to keep our animals out of that area until the products are dry. For instance, when you wash your floors, keep your pet out of the kitchen until the floors are dry. Then it’s OK for them to come back into the area.”

When used correctly, the residue left behind is minimal, Dr. Wismer adds. “But if owners are worried about residues, they can certainly clean them off with just plain water afterwards.”

Another option: Try some safer alternatives.

Mother Nature has provided all-natural solutions that do the job in a way that’s safer for your family and pets. Below, we’ve included several recipes for cleaning products that use simple ingredients from your pantry, like baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice.

Baking soda: An odor absorber and more

Known for its odor-absorbing and mild abrasive qualities, plain-old baking soda is a must-have all-natural cleaning product for your home. Dry, it safely absorbs all kinds of pet odors. You can sprinkle some on you carpet, let it sit for a half hour and vacuum it up. When mixed with equal amounts of warm water and salt, it becomes a thick paste that will gently scrub dog dishes, crusty countertops and stained sinks. And the best part: It costs just pennies.

Baking soda scrub
To keep your dog’s stainless steel, ceramic or plastic food and water bowls clean, use this simple mixture that will scrub away stuck-on food and grime. It can be used to clean up other surfaces, as well, such as cutting boards, dirty spots on laminate floors and crusty countertops.


  • Baking soda
  • Warm water
  • Salt

Combine equal parts of the ingredients to create a thick paste. Apply some to a sponge or washrag and scrub the inside and outside of the dish or bowl using a circular motion. Rinse well with warm water.

Carpet freshener and doggy deodorizer
Baking soda is an easy and all-natural deodorizer that can be used in the home and on the pet. To freshen up carpets or rugs, lightly sprinkle them with baking soda, let it settle in for 15 to 30 minutes, and vacuum up. To freshen up Fido, take a handful or two (depending on your dog’s size) of baking soda and rub it into the dog’s coat. Follow with a thorough brushing.

All-purpose cleaner

For a quick all-purpose cleaner, simply combine 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1 gallon of water, pour into a clean spray bottle, use as needed, and wipe clean when done. This inexpensive and easy-to-make solution cuts through grease and grime – dog generated or otherwise – on most surfaces. And it also can be used to clean your dog’s plastic or rubber toys, grooming tools and other non-porous surfaces that may need a little freshening up. The mix can be stored between uses.

Lemon-fresh all-purpose cleaner

If the smell of vinegar is too potent for your taste, try this easy-to-make all-purpose cleaner that uses lemon juice instead. The baking soda cuts through grime like a knife; the lemon juice contains natural enzymes that break down organic matter. You can use this on most household surfaces; unlike some commercial cleaners, you can safely use it around animals.


  • A clean, empty spray bottle or bucket
  • 3 cups of very hot water
  • 2 tbsp of baking soda
  • 2 tbsp pure lemon juice (fresh squeezed or bottled)

First, pour the water into the bottle or bucket. Next, add the baking soda, making sure it completely dissolves and uniformly distributes throughout the water. Finally, add the lemon juice, again making sure you mix it well. Spray on soiled surfaces and wipe with a clean, damp cloth. When you’re done cleaning, pour any remaining mixture down the drain.

Vinegar carpet stain remover

Pet accidents on carpet can be a nuisance, but you can lift many light, heavy and even ground-in stains with white vinegar. Before pulling out the chemical-laden carpet cleaners, try one of these all-natural recipes that use simple, pet-safe ingredients.

Light carpet stains

  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

Combine ingredients and mix until salt dissolves. Soak a washrag with the mixture and use it to rub out the stain. Let the solution dry, then vacuum.

Heavier carpet stains

  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp borax

Combine ingredients and mix until salt and borax dissolve. Soak a washrag with the mixture and use it to rub out the stain. Let the solution dry, then vacuum.

Tough, ground-in stains

  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

Combine the ingredients and form a thick paste. Rub it into the stain using a dry cloth. Let it set for two days, then vacuum.

Please note that lemon juice or vinegar should not be used on marble, travertine or limestone tabletops, counters or floors, as the acid may damage the surface. In addition, it’s a good idea to check with your flooring or countertop manufacturer and/or test the products on the surface before using to ensure resiliency and colorfastness.

When using household cleaners, read the instructions carefully before use, and be sure to store them safely away from curious pups. If you suspect your pet has ingested a possibly toxic substance, call your veterinarian or the ASCPA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

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