Pet Friendly Household Cleaners

Animals are family. We share our living space with them and we try to make that environment safe for everyone. Plus, they can be messy, they have accidents and don’t clean up after themselves, just like little kids. They need us to keep their environments healthy. I used to believe that clean meant safe, but unfortunately there’s a lot more to it than that.

The Pet Poison Helpline ranked household cleaning products as the sixth most toxic items for dogs. Cats are especially sensitive to phenols and even a small amount absorbed through the skin can be deadly.

There are an increasing number of studies being conducted today, showing direct links between household cleaners and illnesses in dogs and cats. Most people assume that this only relates to situations where the animals have ingested the chemicals directly, but this is not the case. Simple “normal use” exposure is enough to cause very significant damage over time. Paw pads are one of the only places on a dog’s body where they have sweat glands. This means they can absorb the chemicals not only by licking them or inhaling them, but simply by sniffing, walking and laying on the floor. Most of this kind of damage happens very subtly, over a long period of time, and by the time sickness occurs, it is too late to determine the exact cause. Lack of clinical signs early on mean by the time they are present, the animal is already extremely sick. In recent studies, animals that are affected develop some kind of metabolic disease (kidney, liver, or other organ system failure), cancer or some other diseases with similar severity. These diseases are often fatal and prevention means everything!

Another important thing to remember is that if your pet already has allergies, it could actually be these chemicals making them act up.

As concerned pet parents, it’s good to know to what to look out for in the products around the house. According to pet MD, this list is a good start:

  • Phenols (which are typically found in cleaners with the word “sol” in the name)
  • Phthalates (often used in scented products)
  • Formaldehyde (found in general household cleaners)
  • Bleach
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Perchloroethylene (found in rug and carpet shampoos)
  • Amonia
  • Glycol ethers

Watching out for all of this PLUS reading labels, can sound extremely overwhelming. I promise you, it’s not! An easy way to transition, is holding off on the commitment. Keep the cleaning products in your house but just do an experiment. The first thing I tried was just using vinegar… on everything! It was cheap and easy. After a week I figured I would know if this was something I could stick with. I am a germaphobe, keep in mind, so I was skeptical. Luckily it worked! I was surprised by the results and then graduated to making different things. It wasn’t over night, I just started changing things as they came along, and now I can finally say that I feel that my home is safe from BOTH germs and dirt AND toxic chemicals! Plus, now I can make things smell a little better too. Vinegar in particular can leave behind some unpleasant fragrance. I’ve learned just enough about essentials oils now to use them both as cleaning agents and for odor control. After all, it matters to me not only how clean but what my house smells like too!

Some of my favorite easy clean items include:

  1. Vinegar because it is a fabulous disinfectant. Almost any vinegar will work in a pinch, but I chose white distilled because I’m using it for cleaning only. The reason vinegar does this so well is because it contains acetic acid. It has antibacterial and anti fungal properties because it has a pH of 2.0. This kills bacteria and viruses so effectively, that in a study done in 2010 using vinegar vs lysol to kill the flu virus, the two had identical effectiveness. As a raw feeder, I worry about things like E.Coli and they also did a study using it to kill this on surfaces and sponges comparing it to bleach. Once again, the two were identical. It is also an organic compound that is biodegradable, and as we all know, it is completely safe to ingest. Dog’s may not like it, but it will cause them no harm. In household cleaners, it is usually mixed with water and the ratio is based on the task at hand. An example would be a cutting board vs the rest of the house. On the cutting board, I would use 100% vinegar undiluted, but for almost everywhere else a 50/50 blend is more than adequate.

The uses seem to be endless as it has also proven to be an incredible de-greaser, glass and mirror cleaner, wood and metal polish, soap scum remover, fabric softener, wood floor cleaner, ceramic, tile, linoleum or vinyl cleaner, odor eliminator, it can unclog drains, it loosens mineral deposits (lime and rust), stain remover, coffee maker cleaner, used in the kitchen and bathroom, outside, etc.

Citrus juices such as either fresh squeezed or store bought lemon, are often added to amplify and enhance these cleaning properties as well as improve the fragrance. They have natural enzymes that break down organic matter and very similar properties to vinegar in terms of cleaning. Rubbing half a lemon wedge on top of a cutting board for example, is an easy way to sanitize it.  I read somewhere that citrus fragrances are also uplifting so maybe that’s why I love this smell so much!

*Note: Places where vinegar or citrus juice should NOT be used: On marble, terrazzo, travertine and limestone surfaces or floors because the acid may cause damage. Also, never mix vinegar with bleach! (Or bleach with ammonia) This creates an extremely toxic chlorine gas that is potentially fatal to inhale.

2. Baking Soda Also known as sodium bicarbonate, is another easy solution for so many things. For tougher cleaning jobs where something with abrasive qualities is needed, baking soda does an incredible job. Food bowls with dried on messes, countertops, etc. All you have to do is mix it with warm water and a little bit of salt to make a paste. Dry, it is also an incredible odor absorber, and many people keep an open box in their refrigerator just for this reason. I don’t have carpets any more, but it is my favorite pet odor absorber for rugs and fabrics that can be vacuumed. Simply let it sit for 30 minutes and after a vacuum run, the smells will be completely gone. (For tougher carpet stains, instead of baking soda, a vinegar paste can be made with salt. 2 tbs salt and 1/2 C white vinegar can be mixed into a paste, rubber in, left to dry and then vacuumed. If this doesn’t work you can try mixing 1 tbs of vinegar with 1 tbs of cornstarch and letting it dry for two days before vacuuming. These are much healthier solutions to carpet wash because it can be SO dangerous!)

Baking soda is also great to use under kitty litter and it can even be added to freshen up laundry! Plus, it’s edible so it can even be a great doggie toothpaste additive!

3. Coconut oil has very powerful disinfectant properties. It’s great for cutting boards because it also conditions wood. Mixed with baking soda it can remove upholstery stains. I use it to season cast iron and sanitize all wooded utensils. It does all this while moisturizing my skin!

4. Borax, Mineral oil and Castile soap such as Sal Suds (my favorite- this lasts FOREVER!) are some other common household items that are also considered safe.

And finally,

5. Essential oils such as Lemon oil or Lavender oil are considered safe cleaning solution additives. They contain some disinfectant qualities and can improve scent. There are many others, but these are the two most common. I use them mostly to make my own laundry soap. This is important because everything my dog lays on and touches all day, has usually been washed.

Laundry detergent has a huge track record of causing problems for humans. Studies on this involving pets are scarce, but I’m pretty convinced that it’s even more dangerous to them. This is ALL simply related to them breathing in the washed fabrics. If ingested, it can actually be fatal. I make sure that all of my dog’s toys are rinsed in vinegar or washed with organic soap only, and I try to never buy pet products that were made in China, including beds!

A very simple recipe for homemade powdered laundry detergent is:

  • 2 Tbs Sal Suds
  • 1/4 C Baking Soda

Or a recipe from wellness mamma that I like a lot is:

Dry:

  • 1 bar of Dr. Bronner’s (or other natural fragrance-free soap bar) Grated with a cheese grater
  • In a large bowl, mix 2 parts washing soda (sodium carbonate) – Arm and Hammer is a popular one, 2 parts Borax and 1 part grated soap or 1 C of each and one soap bar
  • Store in a closed container and shake before use
  • Use 2 tbs to 1/4 C per load

Liquid:

  • 1 bar of Dr. Bronner’s (or other natural fragrance-free soap bar) Grated with a cheese grater
  • Melt the grated soap in a pan with 2 quarts of water, stir until dissolved
  • Add 4.5 gallons of hot tap water to a large bucket and stir in:
  • 2 cups of Borax and
  • 2 cups of washing soda until completely dissolved
  • Pour melted soap into the bucket and stir well
  • Cover and leave overnight
  • Shake or stir until smooth and pour into containers for storage
  • Use 1/2 C to 1 C per load

*Note: adding 2 Tbs of Sal Suds to these two recipes can help avoid buildup in the washing machine and

I ALWAYS add some white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment because it really works well for that! I also add a lambs wool dryer ball (dryer sheets are horrible!) for extra softness and static cling. You can add essential oils to these recipes, but I just put some on the ball.

I also make my own coconut oil soap that I use in this and to wash my dog with, but thats a separate topic 😉

*Even natural Fragrances and rooms sprays can very taxing to an animal. There are many homemade organic room sprays, without propellant and other added chemicals, that are a better option when lightly used. I prefer to use 100% organic beeswax candles with pure essential oils to accomplish this. The beeswax has air purifying properties and the essential oils are transmitted lightly but effectively. They don’t need to be lit all the time either. When I’m home I often use a candle warmer instead.

For years now, I have been using homemade cleaners for most things around the house, but my introduction to organic cleaners was a little different than most people’s. I started for effectiveness and then stayed for the health benefits! I was living in a house with white tile floors and struggling on a daily basis to keep them clean. I tried every product on the market, and nothing worked! I had a friend who did organic house cleaning for a living. She recommend that I try white vinegar and Sal suds wiped with a towel. I was blown away by the results! It worked so much better than anything I had ever bought and cost pennies per wash.

My reasons for using it now are completely different, but the effectiveness of it is what keeps me from looking elsewhere. Needless to say, my dog licks the floor. If I used a product with bleach for example, it would be extremely dangerous to her over time.

The idea of “going green” is becoming a lot more popular. For the most part, this is great but I’ve also noticed a lot of products entering the market with more creative “green” labels, and less reputable ingredients. As with everything that gets popular, it’s unfortunately something we have to pay attention to, especially considering the fact that many ingredients that are safe for people are not safe for animals as well. I like to buy organic soaps for example, because Castile is too harsh on my skin. I’ve tried and failed to make a good liquid soap, so I buy them where I get groceries. I’m busy and not interested in googling anything, so my rule of thumb is simple. If I don’t recognize it, I don’t buy it, period. Later on if I want to look up an item I will, but on the spot I won’t take a chance. I’ve made the mistake before of thinking that the front of labels were truthful. Most are somewhat accurate, but many had plenty of things in them that just made them expensive versions of chlorox. (Natural laundry soap was a biggest offender here.)

As far as the floor is concerned, I stick with my original formula.

1/2-1 tbs Sal Suds (any Castile soap is fine)

2-4 C distilled white vinegar

Added to a bucket of mop water

I make my own counter sprays just with vinegar and water or some lemon in a spray bottle. I aim for 50/50 but I honestly probably make them stronger now since feeding raw. For hand and dish soap, I usually just buy it from the store. Dr. Bronner’s or Mrs. Meyer’s are my favorite.

An easy dish soap from diy naturals is:

  • 1 3/4 C boiling water added to a bowl with
  • 1 tbs borax
  • 1 tbs grated castile soap (dr. bronner’s is a great one)
  • Add essential oils of your choosing
  • Mix until combined and let cool for 6-8 hours before putting in a squirt bottle and using.

An easy hand and/or dish soap recipe from live simply is:

  • Mix 1/2 C distilled water with 1 tbs white vinegar
  • Add 1/2 C Sal Suds and 1 tbs jojoba, sweet almond, coconut, olive or other moisturizing oil and stir
  • Add mixture to a dispenser
  • Shake before each use

For my dog’s bowls, I use straight vinegar and sometimes baking soda.

I like DIY for quality control, but it can get very time consuming, so I really want to find brands I trust. Right now, its a short list that still a work in progress, but it includes:

Dr. Bronner’s, Mrs. Meyers, Thieve’s, Skout’s Honor, Green Shield, Planet Ultra, Better Life, The Honest Company,  7th Generation, Earth Friendly, Eco Care, Ecover Zero, Emma Eco Me, Planet Natural Detergent, and Gaia. Method and Green Works are ok and a bit easier to find.

We are still in the process of making the switch 100%. My focus started with what’s safe for my dog. Now I’m trying to slowly transition the rest of the house. In addition to this with winter coming, and closed windows, I worry about the air quality. We live near an airport so we’re getting a second air purifier. I also have a list of natural air purifying plants that I hope to share in a future post.

The product swapping can feel like a lot all at once, but over time it starts to become an easier way to live. I hope at least one of these recipes was helpful! Before next year I am hoping to have a lot more of my own recipes to share!

j

Just for laughs… dogs and vacuums! 😉

Natural Wound Care and the Dangers of Hydrogen Peroxide and Neosporin

Hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin are two of the most common household items in our medicine cabinets for treating wounds. While these may be fine for humans, they can actually be very dangerous and detrimental for treating animal wounds.

First, I must start by stating that I am not a vet. The information here is based on my own life experience and independent research. This is meant for minor cuts only. For anything more serious it is ALWAYS best to see a vet. This includes puncture wounds because while they may be small, they could be hazardous even if the animal that caused them had no known diseases.

Ok, so now back to minor cuts and why it’s not good to use hydrogen peroxide!

The number one reason for this is that while killing bacteria it also kills the body’s natural healing cells. These cells are called fibroblasts, and they are crucial to proper wound healing. The gratifying fizz effect is not only killing off bacteria but skin cells as well. In a pinch, it can be used for immediate attention but only when diluted. I would also flush with water afterwards because you definitely do not want your dog licking this!

How to properly clean a wound

  1. Stop the bleeding. Applying pressure with a piece of gauze or something like it should do this effectively. If this doesn’t work relatively quickly it’s time to get to the vet, immediately!
  2. Remove as much hair around the wound as you can with a simple pair of clippers (no razors). This will allow the area to heal faster undisturbed.
  3. Flush the area. Saline or even water is great for getting rid of dirt or debris. Pressurized washes are ideal. There are many “wound washes” but a saline eye wash will work just fine in a pinch. I just use a squeeze bottle with a pin hole opening and it works very well.
  4. Now it’s time to disinfect.

My favorite method is simply to continue with saline. Repeated flushes with warm water and saline until the area looks clean should be entirely adequate and making a saline solution couldn’t be easier. There are many methods out there. I use this one:

1. 1 cup of boiling water poured into a bowl

2. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, stir to dissolve and leave it to cool.

It is always good to make a fresh solution each time you need it or one per day, but every two days would most likely be fine also.

Another method is

1. Using approximately one level teaspoonful (5 mls) of salt (or Epsom salts) 2. Added to two cups (500 mls) of water.

Both are effective.

I use this twice daily until the wound is healing, then once gently until it’s healed.

Another method that I’ve seen used in cases where wounds seem dirtier or when people just want extra peace of mind is:

Povidone iodine or Bentadine:

I am not a big fan of this but I do keep it in the house. It’s very important to remember to dilute it to a 1% solution. I wound use this in the beginning maybe but then switch to saline. (Also note that some animals can be allergic so it’s a good idea to test it before continued use.)

It is technically considered safe if an animal licks a small amount, so I am slightly more comfortable with this option.

The other commonly used wound care option is Chlorhexidine. I am not a fan of this. When used properly and in a solution form only (not a soap or scrub) it may be safe. If it is diluted to no more than .05% and made with “diacetate” salt and NOT “gluconate” salt, it can be an appropriate day 1 option. My biggest issue here is that it is 100% not safe to lick. It contains hibitane which is very hazardous when ingested and is an irritant to skin, eyes and nose when inhaled. I also have seen studies that show that repeated or prolonged exposure to chlorhexidine soap can cause serious organs damage. I know this is not a study done on the solution version but I still don’t like it.

Next, it’s time to

5. Dry the area and keep an eye on it.

Gauze bandages can help protect large wounds. Infection can happen at any stage so it’s important to keep checking.

6. Clean once or twice a day. You can gently massage it as it’s healing with a piece of saline soaked gauze. It is actually best to remove scab tissue during the healing process because it actually speeds up healing quite a bit. This doesn’t mean rip, which could cause more damage, but rather soaking and massaging until it’s ready to come off.

Aftercare

Ok, now it’s time to discuss

Neosporin

(Or polysporin)

I’ve had problems with Neosporin when treating myself because each and every time, my wounds got worse! I know a lot of people also use it on dogs, so I thought it was worth investigating.

First of all, it is made of petroleum jelly. Petroleum jelly originates from crude oil, which is toxic to skin. It also forms a film on the skin surface that slows down the healing process and prevents the wound from closing fast. Also, continued use of things containing antibiotics leads to stronger and more resistant bacteria. Then there’s the simple fact that most dogs will lick anything greasy, which creates additional trauma to the wound and prolongs healing. It is not healthy for them to ingest this either!

A lot of people prefer using nothing. In many cases this is the best method. (I stop the licking though at all costs because I know first hand this is always counterproductive to healing!)

For larger wounds that may need more care, I use a healing balm that I made myself. Colloidal silver is also wonderful. I’ve also tried plain old coconut oil and had great success! Although there are many great products on the market, I have learned the hard way not to just trust something because it says natural or organic. I still research the ingredients and one that I like a lot is resQ organics.

ResQ Organics (green label) makes an incredible product with manukora honey that I LOVE! It’s soothing, great for healing, safe to eat and helps heal any issue very fast!

Many people advise against the use of essential oils because they are not always safe when in contact with the blood stream. I support this entirely, when they are undisclosed, because it’s not worth the risk. However there are safe alternatives that can help relieve pain and speed up the healing process.

Healing Sprays And Rubs

For minor wounds, helichrysum, niaouli, sweet marjoram and lavender are all considered safe. (If you are unfamiliar with Helichrysum oil, it’s an antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal and an anti-inflammatory just to name a FEW of it’s qualities. It’s amazing, and very worth checking out!)

There are more safe and healthy oils but I have a recipe for a natural

wound care spray that is:

120 ml base oil (coconut, olive, almond, jojoba etc)

4 drops helichrysum oil

5 drops niaouli oil

5 drops sweet marjoram

10 drops lavender oil

This can be used directly on an open wound to clean and treat.

For AFTER the wound has closed, I have a natural disinfectant spray recipe that is also great for stings, bites, rashes and poison ivy. It is always best to use this in moderation and no more than one or two weeks max, but it can be a lifesaver!

240 mls water

5 drops eucalyptus oil

5 drops lemongrass

2 drops cinnamon

Shake well

For scar tissue (that can be problematic down the road) I use

30 mls sweet almond oil

1 drop bergamot oil

1 drop German chamomile oil

1 drop helichrysum oil

1 drop rose oil

1 drop patchouli oil

10 drops vitamin E oil

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and massage into healing scar tissue (I use this on myself as well)

For paw pad injuries:

Anti-inflammation and moisturizing wound care:

30 mls extra virgin coconut oil

2 drops rose hip oil

1-2 drops rose oil

1 drop helichrysum oil

Massage into paws as they heal from small cuts scratches or abrasions.

I used these and like them a lot but I can’t help but mention here my version of the gold standard, which is Dr. Dobias’ healing spray. The ingredients here along with resQ organics helped inspire my own healing balm. (I am holding off on sharing that recipe only because… quite frankly I lost it! We moved recently and I know that it is somewhere. When I find it I will make a separate post because I was blown away at how great it worked even on my own cuts!)

Dr. D.’s

Healing Spray

“BASED ON EUROPEAN TRADITION, MADE FROM THE FINEST HERBS

Calendula is used topically for healing wounds, acne, reducing inflammation, soothing irritated tissue and to control bleeding. It has antiviral, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Hydrastis (Goldenseal) is considered a great natural anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial herb and is often used to boost the medicinal effects of other herbs.

Witch Hazel has astringent properties and reduces inflammation and swelling by shrinking and contracting blood vessels back to their normal size. It is also used to treat acne, bruises and insect bites.

Yucca is used to treat skin lesions, sprains, inflammation and to stop bleeding. It is also beneficial in the treatment of arthritis and joint pain.

Skin Spray is non-toxic, all natural and contains no chemicals or preservatives. It can be used for the whole family – children, adults and all pets.”

So, there you have it! That’s how we treat minor wounds now and I can’t express enough how much better things heal! My dog recently lost a dew claw. It was bad! She even needed minor surgery. After the bandages came off, she kept reopening her wound, so I had to keep it covered. In the past I used prescription cleaners. This time, I went all natural (not against the vet’s advice) and it made SUCH a significant difference, I will never go back. We don’t take chances, we see our vet, but when it comes to managing small injuries, we finally have a plethora of solutions that work incredibly well for my whole family!