Spring is in the air, and for many of us, that means getting a fresh start with some serious housecleaning. Don't forget about your pets when you're spiffing things up for spring! We've rounded up our best tips for adding pet care to your cleaning checklist, and we talked with experts about how to keep your spring cleanse pet-safe. And of course, since every pet is different, speak with your veterinarian about any pet-specific or health-related questions.
Start your spring cleanse by taking charge of the dirt.
1. Clean crates and carriers. Spring is the perfect time to get crates and carriers sparkling. Dr. René Carlson, the American Veterinary Medical Association's immediate past president, recommends cleaning crates and carriers once a week using "warm soapy water (dishwashing detergent) or a mild disinfectant."
But be cautious with the disinfectant. "Most disinfectant solutions contain some ingredient that can either be toxic or leave fumes that are very irritating to animals' sensitive respiratory membranes. So I usually stick to warm soapy water and dry the crate thoroughly," she says. "If a disinfectant is needed, it can be used as long as it is rinsed off thoroughly and aired out, so any remaining fumes in that limited area are dissipated."
If you want to use bleach, Dr. Carlson says to use a mix of no more than "1 ounce [of bleach] to a quart of water." Rinse and air the crate thoroughly to get rid of any fumes.
Once your pet's carrier is clean, commit to a weekly wipe down. And if you have questions about choosing the right cleaning products or are worried about accidental poisoning, consult your veterinarian.
2. Launder bedding and covers. Bedding should also be cleaned once a week, according to the American Cleaning Institute. "Choose a pet bed with washable, removable cushions to make cleaning easier," says Brian Sansoni, ACI vice president of communications. "Have multiple covers so that one is available while the other is in the wash."
Dr. Carlson says pet bedding can go in the washer and dryer with "only a small amount of regular unscented laundry detergent normally used for one's own laundry." If you use bleach and there is residual fragrance, air the bedding.
Not sure how long it's been since your pet's bedding had a wash? Consider buying a replacement. Robert Concister, owner of Le Pet Spa in New York City, says that if bedding smells or looks dirty no matter how much you clean it, it's time to start fresh — and get on a schedule of weekly laundering.
3. Wash dishes and toys. When's the last time you washed the dog's bowl? Dr. Carlson advises cleaning dishes and toys weekly, using regular dishwashing soap and hot water. "If a dishwasher is available, washing once a week in the dishwasher helps more thoroughly clean and disinfect dishes, as long as the rinse cycle works properly," she says. "Toys can be laundered or washed in the dishwasher, depending on the degree of soiling and if they are considered more in the laundry category or dishwasher-safe material."
Sansoni agrees that most dishes can go in the dishwasher, with the possible exception of stainless steel, and says bleach can also be used.
"First, clean it with soap and water, then prepare a bleach solution, adding a tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water. Then pour it into the dish and clean it with the bleach solution," Sansoni recommends. "You can leave the bleach solution in the dish for about two minutes — make sure it's out of reach of children and pets! — and then rinse it out and let it air-dry. This should work on any bowl, except aluminum bowls."
4. Clean your pets' winter clothes. Before packing away your pets' clothes for the summer, see how the manufacturer recommends cleaning them. "I would not normally dry-clean any pet clothing products due to known toxic chemicals," Dr. Carlson says, "but if absolutely necessary, be sure to thoroughly air them out afterward, much as we would treat our own clothing."
Most clothes should be washable, either by hand or in a washer. Dr. Carlson uses "only a small amount of laundry detergent, preferably unscented."
To store clothes during the warmer months, she recommends using a "clean storage container in a dry area (not humid basements, for instance), and no moth balls due to the residual odors. Always store items after being properly cleaned and dried."
Once you've conquered the cleaning, take advantage of the order and cross these tasks off your list.
5. Prepare for tick and flea season. If you live in the South, you're probably thinking about parasite prevention all year long. But if you live in the north, it's time to start planning for flea and tick season.
Fleas and ticks carry a number of parasites that can harm your pet, according to Dr. Carlson. Plan early and check with your veterinarian about what prevention options are best for your pets.
6. Make sure all pets have identification. The most important way to protect your pet against theft or ensure recovery if your pet gets lost is to make sure he has identification. Whether you've moved recently or just never got around to it, this is the perfect time to check this important item off your list. Dr. Carlson says pets should have an ID tag with the owner's name and phone number as well as a microchip. This is also a good time to check with your microchip company to make sure they have your most current contact information on file.
7. Take your pet for a checkup. Use spring cleaning as a reminder to take your pet to the vet. Spring is a good time to check that you're doing the best for your pet's health and that vaccines are all up-to-date. "Wellness should be your number-one spring-cleaning resolution," Dr. Carlson says.
8. Pamper your pet with a trip to a groomer. "One way to rejuvenate your pet for spring is to get the works done," says Concister. During the winter months many owners let their pet's hair grow long because of the cold weather. Concister says that this means a lot of pets are badly in need of a grooming when spring rolls around.
"If you don't have a longhaired dog, maybe they just haven't been washed enough, so get them a wash. If your dog has long hair, bring them in for a cut to get ready for the warmer months," he says. Either way, pamper your pet.
And after all that spring cleaning, it might be time for a trip to the spa for a bit of rejuvenation for you as well!
Thanks to Lisa Granshaw and Vetstreeet for this helpful information!