So, you have a pet! That sweet furball undoubtedly brings love, joy, and laughter to your life—oh, and mess. Quite a lot of mess. The smallest cat or dog can wreak havoc, particularly when they’re adjusting to a new home. And even when they are perfectly trained, pets are not generally known for their tidy manners.
My dog Joey, a 14-pound mutt my husband and I met at an adoption fair, leaves a trail of kibble, dog hair, and stuffing from chewed-up plush toys wherever he goes. His short white fur is everywhere. He even once looked me in the eye and started peeing on my carpet...when he had been fully housebroken for months. I absolutely adore him, so I don’t remotely mind cleaning up after him, even though it took me a little while to figure out the best way to tackle each type of mess. In the process of becoming a pet parent, I’ve picked up plenty of tips and tricks for keeping my house clean while sharing it with a four-legged buddy. Here’s my best advice:
1. Use designated towels & blankets for your pet
Set aside some older towels and blankets for your pet’s exclusive use (or order special new ones with a dog bone pattern, if you’re like me) to cut down on fur and prevent smells from transferring onto you. Launder these items separately from the rest of your stuff if at all possible so any stubborn fur doesn’t get stuck on your clothes or sheets.
2. Put a placemat under food & water bowls
If your pet is a messy eater (mine is!), you’ll end up with water stains on your floor and constantly find kibble everywhere (I recently discovered some under my sofa cushions). Keep a placemat underneath pet dishes to make cleanup easier and protect your flooring. Also, wash their dishes regularly to cut down on stale food smells—this should be daily if they eat wet food, and around once a week for dry kibble.
3. Accept that muddy paws are inevitable
When your pet comes inside after a walk or trip to the park, it’s likely that little paw prints will find their way all over the house. You can wipe them down using animal-friendly disposable wipes or a damp rag. If you find dirty prints on your carpet after the fact, wait for the mud to dry then use your vacuum to suck everything up. If the stain is a little tougher, use a white cloth to blot a soapy detergent mixture (one tablespoon detergent per two cups water) repeatedly. The white cloth will let you see the stain coming up; keep blotting until the cloth comes up clean.
4. Stay on top of shedding
Getting fur off your carpet, hardwood, or tile is easy as can be: Just vacuum everything up using a floor-brush attachment (go over the surface a few times in different directions to make sure you catch everything).
If there’s fur on upholstered furniture, simply put on a pair of rubber gloves and rub your hands across the upholstery (seriously, pet hair will stick to the gloves); you can also use your vacuum's upholstery attachment to suck up any persistent stragglers. Once you're done cleaning the furniture, submerge the gloves in water and the hair will float to the surface. If you have a pet with super-long fur, brushing them regularly (if they’ll let you) can help keep shedding under control.
5. For dogs, regular baths & grooming appointments help a lot
Speaking of brushing, my own dog absolutely will not allow me to brush him, and tries to run away every time I try. He will, however, accept being bathed every two or three weeks with a gentle puppy shampoo. (I checked with our vet about that frequency; other pets might need a different spa schedule.) Keeping your pet reasonably clean will keep that “doggy” odor from penetrating into everything you own. How often your dog needs a bath will depend on their breed, size, and fur type, but generally the American Kennel Club recommends a full bath and grooming once a month, and brushing once a week.
6. Know how to tackle unpleasant messes
Ah, your beloved pet threw up or had an accident. Yes, it’s gross, but there is a solution. If it happens on a carpet, remove any solids with paper towels and blot up remaining moisture. Apply an enzyme-based cleaner to the area. Then, mix a small amount of laundry detergent with cold water (one tablespoon detergent per two cups water) and soak the area with the solution for at least 10 minutes. Next, dip a soft bristle brush into the detergent mix and scrub the stain until it's gone. Rinse the area with cool water and apply baking soda to help lift out the smell. Let the baking soda dry completely, and vacuum it up once done. On a hardwood floor, just remove the mess using paper towels, then gently scrub the area with an enzyme-based cleaner that’s safe for sealed wood floors (it’ll tell you on the label).
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