I'm in heaven: House-sitting for the next four weeks. It's an amazing gig in a lovely, luxurious home. My roommates will be two dogs: a golden lab and a mixed-breed (black lab/shepherd?) bitch. I am revelling in doggie love and kisses, but there's a definite downside to the canine company: dirty floors, shedding hair and doggie smell.
The Challenge: Erasing the grubby evidence of your co-existence with animals, while making sure you don't leave any toxic residues behind.
Old School: Most people turn to commercial cleansers such as Mr. Clean or Pine Sol for hard floors, and any number of commercial carpet-cleaning sprays for the rugs. A vacuum or broom can get rid of the hair, while spray air-fresheners, plug-ins or scented candles mask the beastly odours.
So? That's just a few too many petrochemicals, allergy-inducing artificial scents, colours and neurotoxins (from the pine), nasty propellants, wasteful metal cans or plastic bottles, and nose-numbing air pollution from the air-fresheners. Not to mention too many toxic hazards for animals who spend a lot of time licking themselves after lying around on the ground. Their body weights, like children's, are much smaller than ours, and toxins can accumulate in greater concentrations inside them.
The Greener Fix: Start with prevention. Wipe their paws when they come indoors! A damp mop with vinegar and water will rinse away dirty footprints, while an eco-friendly carpet spray (I like Nature Clean's Pet Stain and Odour Remover) - or just plain vinegar and water* - will lift out most dirt stains in carpets.
The dog smell? Don't mask it - prevent it. Wash dogs often with a suitable eco-friendly pet shampoo. This cuts down on the natural body oils that harbour the bad smells and leave grime where the animals regularly lie. Wash bedding frequently. To quickly and temporarily freshen the air, use an eco-friendly room spray, natural beeswax or soy candles scented with essential oils (or just use the oils themselves in a scent diffuser), or for ongoing odour treatment try natural minerals like zeolite or baking soda.
*Update: A reader has suggested sprinkling baking soda over the damp carpet after spot-cleaning pet messes with vinegar and water. "It not only dries it faster, but pulls with it any missed dirt and best of all - smells. It works really well on rugs as you can put it on the underside too." I've never tried this, but if you do and you like it, let me know!