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Keeping your household clean and sanitized is at the top of most chore lists, and knowing what cleaners are safe for dog & cats is must-have information for pet parents. But is there a pet-safe disinfectant that's also effective against human illnesses? How do you know what to look for when choosing cleaning products?
The key to purchasing and using cleaners with confidence is to know which ones to avoid, which can be used safely and how to keep cleaning supplies out of your furry friend's reach.
Side Effects of Hazardous Cleaning Products
There are very real consequences for pets that ingest, touch or inhale toxic hazardous cleaning agents. The following are some of the side effects pets may experience:
- Upset stomach
- Respiratory infection
- Chemical burns
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
- Subtle signs may indicate skin exposure and are easy to miss — itching/scratching/redness/sores/
Pets and Household Cleaners
Cats and dogs like to chew on stuff, and lick everything from shoes to floors to fabric. That's why, if possible, it's best to avoid cleaning products with hazardous ingredients and always follow the manufacturers instructions. NEVER apply any household cleaner directly on a pet.
Harmful Ingredients for Dogs & Cats
These are some common ingredients where caution is needed:
- Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (BACS): This chemical is a very common disinfectant. It's also the top active ingredient in most brand-name and store-brand disinfecting wipes and sprays.
- Phenol: This organic chemical compound is used in some disinfecting wipes, sprays and floor cleaners. Some, but not all, cleaning products that have "sol" in their name contain phenol.
- Ammonia: This industrial chemical is in many household cleaning products for floors, windows, ovens, toilets, drains, bathrooms, stainless steel and multi-surface cleaners.
- Isopropyl Alcohol: Known more commonly as rubbing alcohol, it's the active ingredient in hand sanitizer.
- Bleach: Household chlorine bleach is a very common household cleaner on its own or as an added ingredient.
- Non-Chlorine or "Color-Safe" Bleach: Less toxic than regular bleach, this product usually contains hydrogen peroxide, which can cause vomiting.
- Essential Oils: Generally, you want to avoid using pure, undiluted essential oils in a home with pets, especially if you have cats. Most essential oils are toxic when ingested or inhaled.
If you do need to use disinfectant wipes or spray in your home, explains the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), ensure safety by following the product's directions exactly as stated. Call your veterinarian or poison control center with any questions. Disinfecting your home can be necessary, so if you are concerned about it affecting your pets, it is a good idea to keep them out that room for a couple of hours while the chemicals dry.
What Are Safer Cleaning Ingredients for Pets?
These are a few less harmful options although, as always, moderation is key and ingestion should be avoided:
- Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP): This non-toxic, pet-safe disinfectant contains surfactants, compounds that acts as detergents and foaming agents. AHP is a more stable than the traditional hydrogen peroxide.
- Dish Soap: This tried-and-true cleaner disinfects without causing harm to pets. However, don't use dish soap to clean your pet, advises Preventative Vet, because it can irritate their skin.
- Vinegar: Vinegar is
anacetic acid with trace chemicals that can be used for cleaning (and cooking!). It kills some viruses and bacteria.
Research "natural" ingredients as you would any other ingredient, emphasizes the American Kennel Club (AKC) "Natural" doesn't necessarily mean safe.
Guidelines for Safe Use Around Pets
Use a pet's-eye view of the world when bringing cleaners into your home. Think about where they walk, sniff, sleep, play and relieve themselves. Assume that none of your surfaces are out of reach for your pet! Consider taking your pet outdoors while cleaning or open windows to allow for aeration when using strong smelling cleaners. Even you can't smell it, a pet probably can.
- Read labels carefully: Know your terms and research what's unfamiliar.
- Follow direction: Wait for the cleaner to dry completely before touching it, keep your pet at a safe distance from it and wipe down the surface afterward with a non-toxic cleaner.
- Store products securely: Cat-proof and dog-proof your home from even the mildest cleaners. This can include putting in cabinets or in bins that your pet cannot open. Also, make sure to close the lids on any products that have them, so your pet isn't tempted by additional smells.
- Keep products in original containers: If you do transfer a product to another bottle, clearly label the new bottle.
- Be aware of cross-contamination: Don't reuse cleaning products containers and don't track wet cleaners into your home on your shoes or clothing.
When in doubt about any cleaner, talk to your vet to find out if a product is right for your home. Making informed decisions about what cleaners are safe for pets keeps your home sparkling and your beloved pets happy and safe. If you fear that your pet has ingested any cleaner or chemical regardless if it is considered pet-friendly or not, contact your veterinarian or poison control right away to understand what your next steps are.
Christine Brovelli-O'Brien, Ph.D., is a writer, STEAM educator, and devoted pet mom. She's a professional member of the Cat Writers' Association (CWA) and has written for industry-leading companies and organizations, including What to Expect When You're Expecting and NIU STEM Read. Find and follow Christine on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien