When my partner was campaigning to fill our home with pets, one of my objections was that our clean and well-maintained home may never be the same again.
As a once reluctant pet owner (now fully converted), I'm pleased to report that it's possible to have furry friends AND a clean home. 👍
Whilst our home won't ever be the same again, it's for the right reasons and not because we're drowning in dog hair.
Owning our retired racing greyhound, Paso, has been beneficial to our mental health and general wellbeing, has undoubtedly helped us manage the lockdown blues and has changed our lives immeasurably - only for the better. But it did take us a little while to figure out how to keep our home super clean with a dog kicking around the place.
Read on to find out what we learned along the way… 👩🎓
1. A clean pet makes for a clean home
You'll find it much easier to share your home with a clean, well-groomed and pleasant smelling animal.
There will be less fur on your carpet, less mud on the walls and no unpleasant, lingering odours.
This may seem obvious but it's the most important lesson we learned, and some of the changes we made to Paso's grooming regime had the biggest impact on the cleanliness of our home.
Greyhounds are short haired creatures - in fact some are practically bald on the belly and bum - but despite this, they do drop a moderate amount of hair.
To mitigate this we have him groomed professionally every few weeks. Shampoo, condition, a good brush, ears cleaned and nails clipped. He loves going to see the groomer, so no issues there.
In between these pro-grooms we make sure we brush him regularly to remove any hair that would otherwise have dropped onto our floor surfaces. We typically brush him outside so any stray hairs falling from the brush will just blow away, instead of adding to the housework!
We also hose down his paws after each walk, or at least wipe them with compostable water wipes. Even if you've not walked a muddy route, vehicle oil, road salt and various other nasties are liable to get walked into your home by your dog. 🐾
If your dog likes swimming in lakes and rivers then a proper shampoo and hose down is necessary so they don't fill your house with that unpleasant swampy smell, and this will also help ensure your dog's health, bearing in mind the contaminants present in our waterways thanks to agricultural runoff etc.
Cats tend to come and go as they please so this may be a little more difficult, but they also tend to keep themselves cleaner. Just make sure you brush their fur regularly and watch out for paw prints on glass if an open window is their usual means of entry to your home. Cats are also less likely to enjoy a dip in the river - ours only ended up there by mistake, and once in the fish tank but that's another story.
2. Buy a machine washable bed or a bed with a washable cover
Dog and cat beds can be a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites such as fleas, mites and worms. In fact, dog beds consistently rank in the top 10 germiest things in the home, and even with our improved grooming regime we still find that Paso's bed collects some nasties, including dirt, grass, hair, dander and leftover bits of treat. He once brought a slug inside with him, and slugs aren't ideal in the garden let alone the living room.
Despite this, few people wash their pets' beds as frequently as they should, especially those who own beds that aren't suited to being regularly cleaned.
There are beds on the market that are treated with antimicrobial coatings, others that have hypoallergenic filling material and some even claim to be flea-resistant, which are all welcome innovations - but the most important thing to consider is how easy the bed is to keep clean. There's nothing so easy as sticking something in the washing machine, and that's why we recommend buying a bed that's machine washable or has a washable outer cover.
Launder the bed or outer cover once a week using the recommended setting and if possible dry it on a high heat to ensure you kill anything that may still be lurking. You could time this to coincide with your pet being groomed, as they'll get to return home to fresh bedding and your home will smell the better for it. 🌼
A clean bed is crucial to the health of your dog, the wellbeing of your family and is necessary if you want your home to smell fresh.
3. Disinfect everything your pet touches
That sounds pretty dramatic, but the reality is that our pets are often attracted to some very unpleasant things, from food waste and animal carcasses to faeces 💩 and urine. However clean you think your dog or cat is, there's a pretty good chance they're harbouring bacteria that could be harmful to you and your family, so it's important to take precautions to ensure the safety of your household.
Salmonella, staphylococcus, campylobacter and noroviruses are just a handful of the many types of bacteria that your dog or cat could unwittingly transmit, not only through direct contact but through the contamination of surfaces in your home.
However, practicing good hygiene can mitigate much of the risk. We've already talked about keeping our pets clean, but it's also important to disinfect everything they touch that you or members of your household may also touch. For example, hard flooring should be disinfected regularly and pets should be discouraged from walking on countertops or any other surface used in the preparation of food. To be on the safe side, wipe down surfaces with an antibacterial spray prior to preparing or serving food.
Pet toys should also be regularly cleaned and disinfected, particularly if you have young children who may pick them up and play with them.
Remember to rinse away antibacterial products with warm water or use less harsh products on surfaces that are used by your pets, as some cleaning chemicals contain toxic ingredients that can burn paws, irritate eyes and even damage internal organs when ingested.
4. Buy a vacuum designed to tackle pet hair
Here's a mistake that we made (so you don't have to)…
We bought a very good quality vacuum cleaner that nevertheless, frequently got clogged up with pet hair and had filters that were difficult to clean. The rotating brushes were also a nightmare to maintain and Emma's long hair would often wind tightly around the roller.
We'd strongly recommend you own a vacuum cleaner designed specifically for dealing with pet hair, and if you or anyone in your family has long hair, look out for the anti hair wrap feature. These models tend to be much easier to clean and their components are designed to tackle pet hair without clogging.
They also tend to be quite a bit more expensive, but if you can afford it then the pay-off is definitely going to be worth it in the long run.
5. Use a microfibre mop on hard floors to keep on top of pet hair
Traditional wet mops aren't ideal for cleaning pet hair because that hair has a tendency to stick around - either in the bucket or on the mop, or on the floor if all you've managed to do is move it around a bit.
A multipurpose wet and dry microfibre mop is ideal for this task because you can dust mop thousands of square feet of floor surface with ease, collecting and disposing of pet hair as you go, before wet mopping to remove stains from spillages or built-up dirt that's been tracked into your home. In most cases these mops have reusable pads that can be laundered, although you'll want to remove as much pet fur as possible before placing them in the washing machine.
We use a dual-sided mop with a standard microfibre wiping surface on one side and a chenille or 'noodle' material on the other. This design is extremely versatile, with each wiping surface suited to a variety of different tasks and floor surfaces. Scrubbing strips help you tackle the most stubborn water spots and dirty marks.
Some mop designs - such as the Flash Powermop or Swiffer WetJet - allow you to spray solution as you go thanks to their inbuilt spray nozzles, but this is a luxury that you'll get along fine without.
6. Clean as you go with a handheld vacuum
If you have to drag the upright vacuum out of the closet every time you spot a clump of cat hair, you might be tempted to leave it where it is. However, life's much easier when you can simply reach for the cordless handheld vacuum, as this allows you to keep on top of smaller amounts of dirt and debris before it builds up or gets tracked into other rooms. Handhelds are also great for tackling stairs where larger vacuums can be cumbersome, or little nooks and crannies such as kitchen plinths and under couch cushions.
There are several models intended to deal with pet hair and while they may cost a little extra, they're worth investing in for the powered brush head and upgraded internal sealing. Some of the best handheld vacuums on the market are simply not suited to dealing with pet hair and should be avoided by pet owners. For example, our 18v dustbuster Pivot worked flawlessly until it had dog hair to contend with, which eventually worked its way past the seals and into the motor etc.
Look for higher powered models (18v+) to ensure your vacuum has plenty of suction but be mindful that more power may mean less time before the battery needs a charge - 15-20 minutes is typical.
Bear in mind that while handheld vacuums excel at spot cleaning, most models don't have the suction power or durability to tackle the dirtiest jobs, and with their small brush heads and nozzles they aren't designed to clean larger areas. Bite off more than your handheld vacuum can chew and you'll probably run out of battery before you get the job done.
If you find that it's in the kitchen that your handheld does most of its work, then you might want to consider a kitchen plinth vacuum. Use your microfibre mop to push dirt and pet hair near the device, kick the switch and watch the accumulated debris disappear.
On a budget? A dustpan and brush will do the job, although not as quickly or as conveniently.
7. Place an easy to clean mat under your pet's food bowls
Paso has a tendency to remove some of his food from the bowl and drop it on the floor while he's figuring out how best to eat it. He also splashes water all over the place - not ideal if you have a hardwood floor in your kitchen, or tiles with grout that may stain.
A silicone feeding mat you can place under your pet's bowls can be easily cleaned in the sink, which means you don't have to go for the mop and bucket every time your dog or cat makes a mess. They often come with a raised lip all around the edge, so water shouldn't escape the mat.
A fabric mat may be machine washable but doesn't make for a great feeding mat. If left on the floor while damp, damage could be done to the surface.
We implied earlier that you'll be feeding your animals in the kitchen, but that may not be the room with the most appropriate flooring. Feed them wherever the floor is least likely to be damaged by any food and drink that leaves the bowl without making it into their belly. A tiled utility room for example.
Also bear in mind that any nearby walls might get caught in the crossfire... Water and food stains on painted walls can be difficult to remove and may cause lasting damage to painted surfaces (more on that next). Radiators can rust when frequently splashed with water.
8. Decorate using washable paint
It's not just mealtime misdemeanours that can ruin your wallpaper and painted walls.
Mud and rainwater brought inside and shaken off after a walk can do harm to wall surfaces, as can slobber. None of our pets have been super slobbery but their saliva has still ended up finding its way onto walls, mirrors, windows… you name it. Wet noses also transfer nasal discharge (yep) onto clothes, windows and walls.
If you're keen to cover walls with paper make sure it's a wipeable paper, which will likely be coated with vinyl and suited to scrubbing clean.
If you prefer paint, there are a number of brands that manufacture washable paints that can be cleaned with a sponge and mild detergent. Some of the more durable paints can even be scrubbed quite vigorously without the surface being affected. These are ideal for kids armed with crayons as well as the family dog spraying mud around the place.
A good quality, standard vinyl paint may handle occasional cleaning with a non-abrasive cloth, but some paint will likely be transferred to the cloth and the surface finish may be damaged if you're not careful.
9. Use an absorbent 'dirt trapper' or barrier doormat
Even after a thorough hosing down, Paso still manages to bring a bit of outside indoors. And like many dogs, he has a tendency to wait until he's inside before shaking himself off.
A super absorbent 'dirt trapper' mat will capture muck from boots and dog paws alike before it gets tracked further into your home, and most are machine washable once you've given them a vigorous shake outside to remove any gritty material. Barrier mats also dry quickly on the line or in the drier but we have two in rotation that we switch out when one's in the laundry.
If you have a wooden floor that could get damaged by a damp mat, we recommend you use a design that has an impermeable plastic backing material, or you could place your absorbent mat on top of a non-slip plastic mat.
10. Make good use of throws and slipcovers
As greyhound owners we fully expected to be sharing the sofa with the dog, but we soon discovered that Paso's fixation with staying warm meant that he wasn't interested in laying on our leather upholstered Chesterfield, as it's cool to the touch even in summer.
That said, if our furniture was more to his liking, we're confident we'd have the same problem keeping him off it as we do keeping him off our bed!
To prevent dirt or oily residue making its way onto your furniture, throws can be an inexpensive way to avoid costly disasters. It does seem a shame to buy furniture because you like the design or the upholstery and then hide it from view under a large throw, but if you can encourage your dog to lay only on the throw you may get away with covering just part of your sofa. Avoid throws that are loosely knit as claws will get caught and more dirt and grit will make its way through compared to a material that's tightly woven.
Slipcovers are also ideal for pet owners as they can be machine washed, dyed if necessary and even replaced fairly easily. If you're spot cleaning a slipcover we recommend removing it first to avoid moisture or the stain itself from penetrating further.
If you're struggling to keep your pets off the bed and are worried about muck and fur soiling your clean bedding, a heavy duty bedspread or bed throw should do the job.
Shake throws off outside before placing them in the laundry, as this will reduce the amount of fur and grit that makes its way into your washing machine.
If you're concerned about washing pet throws and mats in the same washing machine as your clothes, you can use washing machine cleaner in between loads or antibacterial additives when washing pet-related stuff. These products kill up to 99.9% of bacteria and some even include descaler to remove limescale that may compromise the performance of your washing machine.
11. Buy a secure bin and lock down your food
If you have a food-motivated pet we recommend investing in a kitchen bin that's inaccessible to your dog or cat. Something like a pedal bin should do the job, and the heavier the better as a food-driven breed that's a bit more switched-on than our greyhound would have no trouble knocking over a lightweight bin to get at what's inside.
The main concern here is the health and wellbeing of your pet - chicken bones and chocolate can be fatal - but secondary to that is avoiding the re-decoration of your kitchen with last night's leftovers.
Some pets don't know when to give up, however, and the most persistent may just have to be kept out of the kitchen. 😿
It's also important to make sure that any food - including pet food - isn't left in accessible locations. Some breeds of dog in particular will literally gorge themselves to death given the opportunity, so food must be kept out of reach at all times. Even close supervision might not be enough - I recently took my eye off Paso for a few seconds to catch him trotting back to his bed with a freshly baked lemon butterfly cake.
12. Keep your car clean with a waterproof boot liner or seat covers
We're diverging from the clean home theme here but I'll take any opportunity to rave about our boot liner, which has saved our car upholstery over and over again.
Despite Paso being an ex-racer who travelled throughout the North East and beyond to compete, he's prone to travel sickness and usually does the deed a couple minutes before we arrive at our destination. This was a big deal when it filled the boot with sick, but the clean-up is so much easier now that we have a waterproof, machine washable boot liner that covers the entire boot space. These are available in various different sizes depending on boot size and whether you're travelling with flattened rear seats, and offer protection from muck, pee, drool and vomit. Waterproof seat covers and hammock-like designs that can be placed between the front and rear seats are also available.
If the accident happens on the outward trip, we carry a large bottle of water that allows us to quickly remove the mess, and then we'll either hose down or launder the liner once we've returned home.
So now you're hopefully armed with a few new tips to go with the ones that are already working for you, which we'd love to hear about in the comments! 💬