Written by Jean Bauhaus for AKC
Commercial cleaning products are loaded with potentially hazardous ingredients like bleach and ammonia. Some also contain perfumes and other ingredients that can irritate a dog’s eyes and skin, and even cause breathing problems. But that doesn’t mean you have to let dirt and germs take over your home in order to keep your pooch safe. You likely have everything you need in your pantry and medicine cabinet to mix up dog-safe cleaning solutions that are powerful enough to deodorize, remove stains, and make your home shine.
During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to note that, while these products are effective for cleaning, they should not be confused for disinfectants that can combat COVID-19. For those purposes, consult the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website for lists of effective substances used to kill certain viruses.
Do-It-Yourself Pet-Safe Cleaner Ingredients
These are the ingredients you’ll need to mix your own dog-safe cleaners for almost every part of your home.
The acetic acid content of vinegar makes it a powerful cleanser. This household staple is an effective agent in killing bacteria and microbes, and also has anti-fungal properties that make it useful for tackling mold. You can use either white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar (ACV), both of which are edible and completely non-toxic. Your pup might not appreciate the smell, but don’t worry—the strong vinegar scent fades once it dries.
Also known as sodium bicarbonate, this milder form of salt is great at absorbing and neutralizing odors. It’s also mildly abrasive, making it a safe but effective scrubbing agent for sinks and countertops. Baking soda has alkaline properties, which is the opposite of acidic, making it a good companion to vinegar and boosting its effectiveness at cutting through grease and unclogging drains.
While the citric acid in lemon juice is not quite as strong as the acetic acid contained in vinegar, lemon juice is nevertheless a powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal agent. Combined with vinegar, the boosted acid content is great for tackling lime and calcium deposits and eliminating soap scum. Lemon juice on its own is also effective at removing coffee and tea stains. Don’t have any lemons? Lime juice works just as well.
Hydrogen peroxide is a mild, oxygen-based bleach with antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. It’s excellent for removing tough stains as well as killing mold. The oxygen in peroxide can also help break down odor-causing compounds in urine stains. Although it’s a bleaching agent, as peroxide breaks down it turns into water and oxygen, leaving behind no residual toxins that might harm your pup.
Dog-Safe Cleaner Recipes
This solution is great for sinks, countertops, cabinet doors, the inside of your microwave, and the outside of your toilet bowl, as well as for mopping floors. In a spray bottle, combine equal parts water and vinegar (either distilled white vinegar or ACV) and shake to blend. For best results, use filtered or distilled water that won’t leave behind mineral deposits, especially if you have hard tap water. For a more powerful cleaner, add a small amount of lemon juice and/or hydrogen peroxide. But keep in mind that hydrogen peroxide breaks down and loses its effectiveness when exposed to light, so if you’re using a clear bottle, wait to add it until you’re ready to use it.
Toilet Bowl and Drain Cleaner
Pour half a cup of baking soda in your toilet bowl or down your drain. Follow with one cup of vinegar and then stand back and enjoy the volcano effect. Let it sit for ten minutes to break down dirt, grime, and odors before following up with a scrub brush. For drains, follow your drain volcano with a tea kettle full of boiling water to rinse away any residual grease that might cause clogs.
For windows, mirrors and other glass or shiny surfaces, a solution of water mixed with equal parts vinegar or lemon juice in a spray bottle will do the trick. Hydrogen peroxide on its own is also effective at cleaning and shining glass and metal. Wipe with newspaper or an old t-shirt to prevent streaks and lint residue.
Make a thick paste of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and lemon juice or vinegar. Using an old toothbrush or a cotton cloth, apply the paste to the stained surface. For tough stains, let it sit for five to ten minutes before scrubbing. Wipe away the residue with a damp cloth.
Carpet Stain & Odor Remover
Add one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide to the all-purpose cleaner recipe above. Spray directly on the stain and blot it up with an old T-shirt or paper towel. For pet urine stains, let it sit for a few minutes before blotting to allow the hydrogen peroxide time to work on the odor-causing compounds. Repeat this process until the stain is gone. To combat any residual odor left behind, allow the spot to dry and then sprinkle it with baking soda. Leave it 10 to 20 minutes to absorb the odor before vacuuming. However, although mild and pet-safe, hydrogen peroxide is not a color-safe bleach. Do a spot test on a portion of carpet that’s hidden from view before using it to treat carpet stains.
If you’d like to add scent to your home-made cleaning solutions, steep orange or lemon peel in vinegar for at least 24 hours and strain it before adding it to your spray bottle. Avoid adding essential oils, which can be harmful to pets if not used properly.
As you can see, your pantry is probably already stocked with everything you need to keep your home spic and span, while at the same time keeping your pets healthy and safe. To reiterate, however, dog owners should note that everyday cleaning solutions should not be confused with disinfectants used to kill viruses like COVID-19 and others. Stay up-to-date on important information for dog owners during the ongoing pandemic by visiting our “coping with coronavirus” page.