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Proper Green: Pet Friendly Cleaning Tips

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Keeping pets (and their messes) clean doesn’t require toxins with questionable safety or environmental records. Here are a few ideas for keeping clean and green.
Dear Proper Green,

I’ve been spending more time and effort lately thinking about how to keep my family safe from harmful toxins — I’ve been doing things like eating organic and cleaning my home with natural, less toxic options, too. Are there any cleaning tips to keep in mind for the environment and my pet, too?

-Alicia M., Boulder, CO

Dear Alicia,

Most folks these days are thinking the same way. Those furry, feathered, or scaly friends are members of the family too, aren’t they? So how do you go about making sure they’re safe?

If you like a little do-it-yourself, there are four all-natural products that can help you handle problems Saint-Bernard or Pomeranian sized. Baking soda, white vinegar, salt and lemon juice can tackle most of the cleaning challenges you’ll run into with your pets; best of all, they’re perfectly safe to use around them!

After a while, even the cleanest home can start to smell a little like Mr. Nibs. To clean and freshen up your carpets or your pet’s bedding, sprinkle the surface with baking soda and let stand for 15-30 minutes, and then vacuum. If you have a carpet steamer, rather than using a chemical cleaner, you can use white vinegar and water to wash.

Accidents occur, even with the best-behaved family members, so when they do, break out a bottle of club soda and give the area on your carpet a scrub as soon as possible after the accident. Once dry, sprinkle the area with baking soda to remove any remaining smell and let stand for 45 minutes to an hour. Vacuum up the baking soda, and your carpet should be stain and odor free!

If the spot is extra stubborn, and the stain remains, you can apply lemon juice to the spot (always test in an out of the way place first!); let it sit for 15-30 minutes, checking periodically to see the stain has disappeared. Rinse well with water (distilled is best), then blot to remove as much of the moisture as possible. More important than having the accident disappear is insuring it doesn’t happen again - that means getting rid of the odor so Fifi or Captain Snuggles doesn’t repeat the mistake. Deodorize by mixing white vinegar and water, apply to the area, and then rinse with plain water.

If your furry family friend is getting a bit funky, and you don’t have time for a full-on bath, you can help them smell fresh and clean with a dry bath. Baking soda sprinkled on their coat, rubbed in by hand, then brushed through with their usual brush or comb helps freshen up. This is an excellent option for cats, as most want nothing to do with a full immersion bath! Baking soda is perfectly safe to ingest, so no fear when your cat or dog has a tongue bath after their dry bath.

If you do opt for a full water bath, add white vinegar to the post-bath rinse water to remove soap residue. Rinse a second time to minimize the smell of the vinegar.

If your friend is feathered, or lives in a terrarium or other cage, you can clean his/her home using a sponge dampened with vinegar and sprinkled with baking soda. Vinegar has a high level of acidity and will kill most germs and viruses, as well as mold! Sprinkle a layer of baking soda on the bottom of the cage, terrarium or even the litter box to help keep down odors.

Fish tanks can be cleaned using non-iodized salt – simply sprinkle on your damp sponge and scrub the interior of the tank. Rocks can be cleaned by being soaked and scrubbed with undiluted vinegar. Rinse everything well before putting your fin-y friends back in their tank.

If the do-it-yourself route isn’t for you, there are a variety of greener, less toxic cleaners on the market. Be sure to follow the directions on the label, and make sure your furry family member is not in the room when you use the cleaner.

Do you have any tips for safe, green pet and home cleaning? Share your tips in the comments below!
About Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and the environment are still evolving) to providing easy ways to make your every day more sustainable, Proper Green aims to help smooth the way with answers to questions that are important to you!

Do you have a question for Proper Green? Send inquiries to Please note: Questions may be edited for clarity and length.

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Proper Green
Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and... more

  • maria d. 3 years ago
    Hi - I wanted to share how I reuse large plastic detergent bottles for dog duty cleanup around the yard. As needed, I save a one gallon plastic detergent or softner bottle. I cut off the top being careful to save the handle. I am ready with that and a child's plastic shovel to walk arount my yard to pick up 'dog duty'.
    I then empty it in the designated wooded area of the back of my yard. When the container has seen its last day, (usually lasts about one year), I have another waiting.
  • AMANDA M. 3 years ago
    thank you! much needed info
  • Ice C. 3 years ago
  • Anne S. 3 years ago
    Learning new things is always important
  • Beverly L. 3 years ago
    great tips
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