By Tracie Korol
A layer of electric green pollen on every surface is the Lowcountry signal that Spring cleaning is about to begin. Time to open the windows and get out all those aerosol sprays, wet-jets, polishes and disinfectants and do the house up proud before clamping ourselves into the A/C for summertime. Know, however, the chemicals found in conventional cleaners can be more dangerous than the dirt they’re intended to clean.
In 2008, the Washington, D.C., based Environmental Working Group conducted a study to determine the effects of cleaning solutions on our pets, and found high levels of toxic chemicals from household cleaners in dogs and cats. For dogs, blood and urine samples were contaminated with 35 chemicals, including 11 carcinogens, 31 chemicals toxic to the reproductive system, and 24 neurotoxins.
Obviously the cleaners, waxes, and stain barriers we use on our floors and carpets are critical – dogs spend a lot of time lying, sitting, and walking “barefoot” on these areas, and guaranteed will find something to lick off the floor or off their paws. Products that claim to be safe may not be. Descriptions like “natural”, “eco-friendly, “non-toxic,” or, frighteningly, even “organic” don’t ensure a product is safe. Remember what’s printed on the package has little to do with what’s IN the package. Toxic products can be marketed as “pure,” “gentle,” “hypoallergenic” and “organic” due to labeling loopholes.
When we, and our pets, inhale or ingest toxins from cleaners, the poisons go directly into the bloodstream and then to the internal organs. Cancer is the #1 killer of our canine companions in the U.S. and Canada today. Weakened immune systems can open the door to cancer. Toxins weaken immune systems. Conventional products can contain toxic ingredients with unknown long-term side effects that you may want to avoid such as phthalates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phosphates, petrochemicals, petroleum-based by-products, and chlorine bleach. It appears those chemical cleaners are not such a good idea, after all.
The good news is that using non-toxic cleaners is easy, they can clean as well as the commercial products, they won’t hurt your Best Friend, and they cost much less. With a little preparation (half an hour at the grocery store and half an hour of mixing your own cleaners), you can have a sparkling house, make your home safe for you, your children and your pets; and you’ll save money doing it.
Ingredients to consider: white vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, Castile soap, tea tree oil, olive oil, empty plastic spray bottles, jars with tops, reusable dusting cloths, old cloth towels or diapers, spatula or cardboard (useful for scooping up solids), club soda, plastic bristle scrub brush and/or dobie-type of sponge, permanent marker to label each container. Recipes and green cleaning suggestions abound online.
But before you start moving the furniture and vacuuming like my mother, consider how your dog will react to the abrupt changes in the house, the increased activity level and certainly, the different smells.
Dogs and Dust: Dogs that have respiratory issues or are sensitive to dust and airborne allergens — especially short-nosed breeds like bulldogs and pugs — should visit with a pup friend until the dust settles (literally).
Who’s underfoot? Some dogs can’t resist the urge to help you do your chores — especially when you’re scrubbing their precious treasures. For safety, make sure your pet is not nearby while you’re cleaning, particularly when you’re slinging the vacuum or spraying your vinegar solution.
Keep your dog calm. If your pet equates any disruption in the house with his world coming to an end, it’s best to send him on a play date until you’re finished with your spring-cleaning.
Reward yourself for creating an immaculate space by treating your Best Friend to a new fashion collar or toy you can play with together.