Furry family members are super cute but, incredibly untidy. Use these expert tips to tackle your worst pet messes in the safest, smartest way.

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Two Girls with Chinese Shar Pei Dog on the Sofa and Ginger Cat
Credit: Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

A Shaggy Sofa

Instead of running the hand vac over the upholstery—many, many, many times…

Try the rubber-glove trick: Put a pair on, moisten them with water, and then run your hands over the cushions to collect fur. It’s so satisfying to see all the hair that accumulates.

PRO TIP! Brush your pet regularly, ideally once a day (even if just for one minute!), to reduce the amount of fur that ends up on your sofa, says Kurt Venator, D.V.M., Ph.D., Purina’s chief veterinary officer. Keep up the habit during shedding season, which is both spring and fall for cats and dogs.

A Funky Pet Bed

Instead of washing Fido’s bedding only when your mom comments on the odor…

Try laundering it once a week to kill bacteria and other weird stuff, like parasites. (Separate it from your own loads.) Use a fragrance-free detergent, since cats and dogs have sensitive noses, says Gary Richter, M.S., D.V.M, a veterinarian spokesperson for Rover.com. Pass on fabric softener, too, since the residue can be harmful to pets.

A Grimy Crate

Instead of grabbing your strongest cleaner and spritzing away…

Try spraying with a bleach-free cleaner, says environmental biologist Lorraine Rhoads, of Dogtopia, a dog-day-care franchise. Bleach can be irritating to pets and corrode metals. We like Lysol’s Power & Free Multi-Purpose Cleaner With Hydrogen Peroxide. Or DIY by mixing equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water. Spray the solution, and let sit for ten minutes. Rinse with warm water, or wipe off with a damp towel to remove residue.

A Crusty Food Bowl

Instead of banging remains into the trash and rinsing the bowl…

Try washing your pet’s dishes with hot soapy water after every meal to kill bacteria, says Dr. Venator. Use a different sponge from your regular one. Experts do not recommend feeding raw diets to pets, but if you do, immediately remove what isn’t eaten, especially if you have a crawling toddler. Wash your hands with soap and water. Then disinfect surfaces the raw food has touched with a spray like Seventh Generation Disinfecting MultiSurface Cleaner.

A Foul-Smelling Litter Box

Instead of scooping only when you start to see huge mounds…

Try to scoop twice daily, and replace all litter at least once a week. We know, this isn’t a fun activity, but stinky old litter will repel your cat, and it may try to tinkle in another area of your home. Scrub the box with warm water and unscented dish soap. Rinse and let dry. For speedier tidying that eliminates the need to scrub, line your box with a litter-box liner or a trash bag that you replace every week.

PRO TIP! If you’re pregnant and can’t delegate this task, wear gloves and wash your hands afterward to reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis, says Dr. Venator.

Hairy Clothes

Instead of passing the lint roller over your sweater and avoiding black clothes…

Try a fabric sweeper like the FurLifter Garment Brush, which will remove more hair with its microbristle pad. Dry clothes with plastic dryer balls, which lift fur as clothes tumble, depositing hairs in your dryer’s lint trap. 

Furry Floors

Instead of frantically sweeping or busting out the vacuum when you get a surprise text from a friend who wants to swing by…

Try cleaning hard floors daily with a vacuum or a microfiber mop. But don’t sweep, says Rhoads. It’ll kick everything back up into the air! For carpets, regular vacuuming is especially important because pet hair tends to needle into carpeting, making it harder to remove over time, says Jeremy Strickland, of Randy’s Carpet Care in Michigan.

PRO TIP! If you’ve let the carpets go a long time, use a squeegee or a rubber carpet rake to pull up hairs, says Michael Silva-Nash, executive vice president of Molly Maid of Northwest Arkansas and Greater Little Rock. Follow up with another vacuum sesh if necessary.

A Carpet Accident

Instead of drenching the spot with water and rubbing in the accident…

Try blotting—not scrubbing!—pee with a clean towel. This will soak up excess moisture. Dip another clean towel into a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and warm water, and dab the area with it. Let dry. Don’t get the spot too wet, because that may turn your carpet brown, says Strickland. If there’s still a smell and your rug is made of synthetic materials, spray on hydrogen peroxide and rake it in with a gloved hand. For carpet made of natural fibers, like wool or cotton, sprinkle baking soda over the area after it’s dried. Let it sit overnight, then vacuum up. Use the same regimen for poop, but don’t pick it up right away (as gross as it is!). Let the mess, ahem, “harden” before collecting.

PRO TIP! Our experts recommend homemade cleaners here because they’re usually safe on carpets and they won’t leave behind chemical residue that can trap more dirt. Do a test patch first. If you opt for a store-bought spray, avoid ammonia-based ones, which can intensify the urine smell, making your pet think the area is an acceptable place to go.

Parents Magazine