How to Spend Less Time Cleaning Up After Your Dog

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Written by: Anne-Marie Hays | Best Company Editorial Team

Last Updated: February 24th, 2020

Close up of two happy dogs

Many dog owners feel that they have underestimated the amount of work involved in adding a canine to the family. On top of feeding, grooming, and walking your dog, there is the added work of cleaning up after your pet, inside your own home. Merry Maids cleaning expert Melissa Witulski advises, "One to two furry pets will add about 25 percent more time needed for cleaning and there are homes which will double the amount of time. This can be even more if your pets are allowed in all rooms of your home."

In a 2016 Survey, 18 percent of dog owners said that damage to furniture, carpets, and floors is a drawback of owning a pet, while 12 percent mentioned odors, 32 percent said shedding, and 26 percent said that cleaning up was a drawback overall. To help pet parents spend less time with the dreaded cleanup and more time enjoying the benefits of their four-legged family member, here is some advice from cleaning experts: 

Minimize damage to furniture, carpets, and floors

What preventative measures can we take to protect and care for our furniture carpets, and floors?

Cover your furniture

To many Americans, furniture is a big investment and meant to last for many years. While it may not necessarily be an heirloom, you still want to keep it free of any damage, whether liquid, solid, or from claws and teeth. This may seem like a no-brainer, but furniture covers can save you tons of cleaning time, while protecting your furniture.

Sarah Brunette, brand director of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company, suggests that you specifically "use washable covers to protect against animal hair and staining," while Witulski adds that putting a "pet cover or blanket over sofas, chairs and other furniture," also helps to avoid scratches, fabric pulls, and your dog's natural body oils from soaking into your upholstery. 

Try some dog socks

If you are worried about your pet scratching or damaging your hardwood or laminate floors, consider some paw protectors for your pupper's feet. There are all different types available. These can also help pets that have trouble navigating hardwood floors, and some are even meant to keep your buddy safe from scorching summertime sidewalks. 

Re-treat your carpet

"To avoid permanent stains," Brunette suggests, "a soil retardant applied to the carpet will help prevent future mishaps." Most new carpet already has protective soil retardant applied, but this can wear off in two to four years. This type of protectant is often oil, water, and dirt repellent. Having this re-applied can lengthen the life of your carpet, make vacuuming more efficient, and make cleaning future dog messes faster and easier. 

Get the wiggles out

Does your dog really want to eat your couch? What about your shoes? 

Pet industry expert Dana Humphrey, aka The Pet Lady, says, "If your dog is chewing the couch, it's because he's not stimulated. He has too much energy and he's taking it out somewhere." She suggests more exercise and brain-stimulating activity for your dog. While we know that it can sometimes be hard for people to make time for outside play, walks, or games, perhaps the added benefit of more one-on-one attention and exercise time with your dog means less damage to your home and furniture. Pent-up puppy energy spent indoors alone, is often spent destructively. 

Minimize pet odors

In addition to accidents, pet dander, and hair, odors are commonly caused by poor grooming, skin infections from bacteria, fleas and parasites, yeast infections in your dog or cat's ears or feet, and dental problems, which only start in the mouth, but get passed to your animal's coat when they groom themselves, and to your carpet, furniture, curtains, and linens around the house. Dogs' skin also has natural oils that are often transferred to your floor and furniture. Let's look at some ideas for minimizing doggy smells in your home. 

Use baking soda

"The worst part about odor is it gets trapped in everything the pet lays on," says Brunette from Molly Maid. "Whether it’s their bed or a family couch, the smell lingers. An inexpensive, simple fix to this problem is baking soda. Sprinkle over the desired area and let sit for 15 minutes. Once the baking soda has soaked in, vacuum the area, and say goodbye to unwanted odor."

Let the washing machine help

Your washing machine can be your secret weapon for cleaning more than clothes. "Area rugs, blankets, and machine washable draperies and linens can be easily deodorized in the washer," advises Jack White, Vice President of Technical Services at RainbowInternational, a Neighborly company that provides cleaning and home restoration services. "Start by adding a 1-lb box of baking soda to your regular laundry detergent. Once the wash cycle is complete, air-dry your items in the sun, when possible, to eliminate any lingering odors. If you can still smell pet odors, rewash with an enzymatic cleaner."

Deodorize hard surfaces

"Essential oils offer an environmentally safe and effective way of deodorizing surfaces in your home," says White. "Simply fill a spray bottle with water, adding 10 drops of essential oil. Then, use the solution to spray and wipe-down any hard surfaces in your home." However, he warns, "As pets are more sensitive to essential oils than humans, never use them undiluted, and never allow animals to ingest the oils." 

According to White, "Popular essential oils for combating pet odors include lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree."

Replace air filters and purifiers

If you are still experiencing unwanted pet smells in your home, consider replacing your air filter or investing in an air purifier. 

Air purifiers can be an added defense against pet odors; however, you need to get the right kind for your home. According to HomeAirGuides, "Most air purifiers come with a standard HEPA filter which is good at removing pet dander that is around your home. While this HEPA filter is good for reducing allergies, it won’t take the odor away. For an air purifier to be genuinely effective at removing cat and dog smells, it must include an Activated Carbon Filter."

If you want to try a less expensive solution, AirPurifiersAmerica suggests replacing your home's HVAC air filters more frequently. One-inch filters should be replaced about every two to three months, and three to five-inch ones last up to one year. There are even special filters for pet owners that you can try, which include carbon filtering for pet odors. Carbon HVAC filters use activated charcoal to trap smells.

Dog and child napping together 

Minimize shedding cleanup

It's not news. Most dogs shed. Normal shedding happens twice a year, in large amounts, but some breeds have more hair and shed more. Some individual dogs even shed more than others of the same breed. The biggest culprits include Akitas, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Boston Terriers, Chow Chows, Corgis, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, and Siberian Huskies. These guys naturally shed a lot, getting rid of thick winter coats that come off in the springtime.

However, just like humans, dogs hair follicles have a natural growth rate, and hairs can rub off or fall off individually throughout the year. Let's take a look at some ways to minimize the time pet parents need to spend actively cleaning up fluff from their indoor environment. 

Designate a bedtime space

"A designated sleeping area for pets will contain hair mostly to one area," advises Brunette. 

Witulski adds, "Keep your pet’s bedding clean and fresh, and you’ll help cut down on the number of stray hairs elsewhere. Vacuum the bed often, even those that are washable." Whether that be a kennel, doggie bed, blanket nest, or dog house, cleaning one very concentrated space of Fido's left-behind dander and hair/fur makes a difference. 

Protect a favorite spot

Dean Davies, Cleaning Supervisor at Fantastic Services suggests that "you can cover the furniture or at least the parts where your pet likes to sleep/lay the most. Cleaning the hair this way is much easier because you can simply throw the blanket in the washer, rather than having to pick it up from the sofa."

Regular grooming

"Regularly brushing and grooming your pet is a great way to minimize loose hair on furniture and floors," advises Witulski. "Use a drop cloth or plastic bag under your pet to catch the stray fur while brushing, so hair does not end up on the floor." Then, depending on your drop cloth, you can fold up the hair and deposit in the trash, clean it in the wash, or use a vacuum attachment to suck it all up.

Regularly bathing your dog helps to reduce shedding, in addition to being good for Fido's health, says Dr. Marty Becker, DVM. He adds, "Bathing loosens and removes fur that’s ready to be shed. A bath tool like the Kong ZoomGroom really helps loosen and remove fur in the tub as well."

When it comes to grooming your dog, it's not one or the other. Both brushing and bathing are necessary. In between regular baths, you should still be regularly brushing your pup. If your dog is one of the big shedder's mentioned above, Becker suggests using a special grooming tool like the Furminator, to make the process easier. 

Hack your washer

Do you love your pet, but feel paranoid that you constantly have pet hair on your clothes. Are you going through lint rollers like crazy? Are you worried that the pet hair you carry on your clothes makes you look unprofessional at work? Minimize the time you take worrying about pet hair on your clean clothes by using products like the FurZapper when you do laundry. This product is a sticky/tacky disc that you add to your washer and dryer. Made of medical-grade silicone, it is non-toxic, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and reusable. Michael Sweigart, President of FurZapper says, "[Y]ou throw this into your washer and your dryer and as its tumbling and cycling through the wash and the dryer, it's actually plucking the hair off the clothes and washing it down the drain or putting it in the lint trap." It's not for one-time use. Sweigart says that it can be used 200–300 times or more. The upper limit of how many times one can be used isn't even known yet. It doesn't even have to be washed. It can just be thrown back in with the next washing machine load. 

Upgrade your vacuum

A vacuum cleaner can be a pet owner's best tool when it comes to not only quickly handling excessive shedding around your home, but also sucking up odor-causing dander. 

If you can invest in a big change, there are always central vacuum systems (which would take a major home upgrade), and robot vacuums that will do the work for you (with options varying in price from $200 to $1,000). Ben Team from K9 of Mine shares this take: "A robot-style vacuum cleaner can be helpful for keeping the dog hair off your carpets, but some dogs may become frightened of them or even try to attack them, so caution is warranted."

He also notes, "Dog hair can be a bit more difficult to vacuum up than typical household dust and debris. So, if you go with a traditional vacuum cleaner, it is important to select one that is powerful enough to pick up doghair." All vacuums are NOT created equal. As Team mentioned, you may benefit from a vacuum that is designed with cleaning pet hair in mind. While there are several ways of measuring a vacuum's suction power pet owners should consider whether their vacuum's suction is optimized for cleaning up after a constantly shedding dog. 

Evaluating a vacuum's suction power and its ability to do the best job possible of cleaning up after your pet, can be a little confusing for those of us that didn't exactly ace physics class. (If you want to learn more about evaluating vacuum cleaner suction, check out this in-depth video from Vacuum Facts.) That's why it is really helpful when trusted product reviews are available for people in your situation. Hence the popular google: best vacuum for pet hair, which gets searched about 19,000 times per month in the United States, according to Ahrefs. It seems like consumers are less than satisfied with their current vacuum's suction power and looking to upgrade. 

Dog outside in a stream

Minimize pet cleanup

As the phrase goes: work smarter, not harder. In this case, we went looking for strategies, tools, and products that can help to reduce or eliminate regular cleanup needs. Here's what the experts said:

Try a puppy placemat 

Is the area around your pet's food bowl constantly messy? Do you find that you have to sweep or mop up Fido's dining space after every meal? While you can certainly purchase purpose-made products to help keep your pet's bowl area tidy, Witulski shares this suggestion: "Place a mat underneath food and water bowls to catch any overflow as well as to keep bowls stationary when your pet is eating." This will help to reduce the frequency of cleanup as well as the time and energy needed, because you can just remove and clean the mat, rather than sweeping or mopping the floor. 

Clean paws upon re-entry

"Backyards where pets roam free are great, until they bring the whole yard inside with them," says Brunette. Consider how humans treat the issue: 

Did you grow up in a no-shoe home, where shoes were always removed at the front door? If you didn't, you probably have visited the homes of people that did this or you may have adopted this policy to keep your light colored carpets as pristine as possible. Stopping your pet from tracking in mud and debris would eliminate tons of floor cleanup later. But a dog doesn't have shoes to take off.  

Brunette suggests, "Keep a towel near the door to wipe the pet’s paws when they come in to prevent a mud-splattered carpet. For a more thorough cleaning, dip each paw in warm soapy water and towel dry." Witulski agrees, with the additional tool of pet-safe wet wipes to your pet parent toolbelt. She advises to "give your pet a full inspection each time they come into the house. It may be time-consuming, but you’ll save money and energy on cleaning in the long run." This is a great preventative measure. 

Spend less time looking for elusive number ones

If you have a hard time making sure that you locate and clean the right pee spot, "it may be worth investing in a black light to help locate where your pet has had an accident," suggests Witulski. 

Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, President of ServiceMasterbyZaba.com, a Chicago-based carpet cleaning company agrees. She advises that you "Use a black light to reveal pet stained areas in your carpet that you might not otherwise be able to see. This technique pinpoints spots that need special carpet cleaning treatment." Not to mention the time saved from going from spot to spot, sniffing for the problem, and the big shock when you find the pee spot, but accidentally smell it too close. 

Clean up messes right the first time

"To banish poo and pee smell from a carpet is a harsh task," says Harriet Jones, a former cleaner and current cleaning and maintenance supervisor for UK-based Go Cleaners London. "And if I have to conclude, many pet owners struggle to cope with pets' potty problems."

She continues, "The real question here is why does puppy release itself on the same exact spot each time? The answer is simple: your pet is drawn to the potent smell in the fabric, left behind by the previous potty issue treatment." 

"Working as a cleaning expert may be far from vet science," she says, "however, owing to my practice here is what I’ve learned: In order to prevent future accidents, urine and poo stains should be treated in a proper way. If you want to get rid of those, regular detergents are futile."

So, what products or methods should be used to eliminate all number ones and number twos effectively, the first time? Jones helps us out by sharing effective DIY carpet cleaning methods. "For all hands-on enthusiasts," she says, "here is a list of tried and tested DIY remedies to get rid of pet urine and poo smell of a carpet:

  • Tackle those ASAP. If you let it sit for a while, poo and pee get deeper info textile fibers and possibly pass the padding underneath, making the stain harder to be removed — not to mention the potent stench taking over the house. 
  • If the spot is still wet, go ahead and blot the area as much as you can using clean rags. Next, sprinkle it liberally with baking soda. The white powder naturally neutralizes any funky odors. Let the soda sit for a couple of hours and then spray it with distilled vinegar (the mild acid offsets the ammonia smell of urine). The bubbling process will loosen dirt and urine smell from the carpet’s fibers.
  • For old stains, you can use 4 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of mild dish soap. Mix both components in a bowl. Gently rub the mixture into the soiled area of the carpet. Blot it quickly before the blend eventually causes carpeting discoloration. A word of caution here: Move fast and use white rags since colored ones can transfer dye to your carpet."

If you want to get a pet-safe carpet cleaner, says Jones, "I would also recommend using a store-bought enzymatic cleaner: as substances produced by living organisms, enzymatic cleaning products break down biological substances such as urine and feces, without causing harmful effects on pets." This type of cleaner helps to minimize that confusion that causes pets to keep dropping off packages in the same spot. Why?

DoodyCalls helps us understand: Dog pee and poo contain lots of protein. Some types of bacteria love to eat this protein and when they digest it, it can be stinky. So, you need to eliminate the protein. Enzymatic cleaners contain live microorganisms that do just that: eliminate the protein, which eliminates the bacteria, and the smell that attracts your dog to that same spot of carpet. 

The bottom line

While all pet owners surveyed weren't too happy with the drawbacks of pet ownership, dog lovers might get a kick out of knowing that despite these downsides, dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy. Perhaps cleaning up after your best friend isn't as bad as it sounds, considering the benefits we get from dog ownership. We hope that these ideas from our network of cleaning experts will help to decrease the time you spend cleaning up after your dog and increase the precious time that you can spend enjoying its company. 

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