How We Keep a (Mostly) Clean and Healthy Pet-Friendly Home

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There are a handful of recurring questions we receive that pop up week after week, and while some of them are item-based (as in, how’s that so-and-so holding up?; we answered a lot of those right here!), most of them have to do with the cutest, sweetest valuables in the home – our pets! They might read like:

Are your dogs allowed on the furniture? or How do you keep the cat food out of the dogs’ reach? or Do Jack and CC play nice with Libby? or Is your home always as fur-free as it looks online?

We love Jack, CC and Libby to the moon and back (it honestly cannot be normal), but I’d be lying if I said we don’t find tumbleweeds of fluffy grey fur floating along the baseboards. Mopping the floors takes a backseat more often than not, and we don’t dare wear black pants – lest we want shiny, slobbered knees. Our home does get hairy! Our pets do make messes, get into mischief and knock over the occasional beverage. All this to say, we’ve found our groove by implementing – and most importantly, sticking to – a few tricks that help us keep a (mostly) clean, happy and healthy pet-friendly home.

We choose the fabrics in our home carefully. Our couch, armchairs and reading chair were all purchased second-hand and upholstered in two types of fabric: heavyweight velvet and outdoor Sunbrella. In our experience, we’ve found that velvet doesn’t pill or pull under kitty claws (we talked a little bit about that here!), and outdoor fabric easily cleans up with warm water and a drop of dish soap! When deciding on upholstery fabric, we collect swatches and try to destroy the samples with a push pin, and maybe not surprisingly, there’s a clear winner in almost every case. Tip: When purchasing pillows, we’re always sure to see if the cover is removable for easy washing.

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We’re a no-dogs-on-the-furniture household. Sadly. More than anything, we would love to snuggle with the whole family on the couch (and on rare exceptions, say, a horrible no good day, we do), but we do our best to stick firmly to this rule for one reason: our sweet girl, Libby. Libby is quite small, and she wants nothing more than to lounge uninterrupted on every pillow and couch cushion throughout this whole house. The way we see it, the furniture is 100% her domain. The couch – the chairs, the bed! – are hers alone. Of course this means less fur and grime covering every last surface, too!

We stick to hard-wearing rugs. Lately, our rugs of choice fall under three categories: vintage Persians, outdoor-use (are you sensing a theme?) and 100% wool. To us, a quality vintage rug only gets better with age (and a yearly-or-so professional cleaning!), and the small scale patterns help to conceal stubborn spots. The rug in our dining room, above, is outdoor-rated faux sisal, and yes, we have had to rinse it with soapy water. And finally, a 100% wool rug will typically hold up better over time. The lower the pile, the better. Tip: These Baxter rugs are an absolute favorite! So much so, we have one in indigo and one in grey.

We spread out our cleaning supplies. There’s a cleaning caddy in the laundry room, soap scum removers and Magic Erasers in the bathroom, and vinegar, Mrs. Meyers and dish soap solutions under our kitchen sink. Having all of these supplies spread throughout the home eliminates any extra steps to hunt down the right supplies, and that has changed everything. And can I get real weird for just a second? We also purchased a second vacuum so that we could have one on each floor. I know (my own eyes rolled out of my head the day we bit the bullet), but you guys, it was a game changer. We made the switch to Dyson years ago and haven’t looked back, but we recently upgraded to the V6 Motor Head, and going cordless has made vacuuming much more enjoyable! Although the canister is small, it’s oddly satisfying to watch it fill up.

We give our pets a space to call their own. This one piggy backs off the no-dogs-on-furniture rule, but it’s really important for us to give each pet a safe space; the different zones help to keep the peace between Libby and the pups. Libby’s food is hidden in a laundry room cabinet, Jack and CC’s pet food station is their happy place, the reading nook is pretty much the doggie sleeping lounge, and although we tried to get rid of it, CC needs her crate. We keep it tucked in the corner of the bedroom, and she uses it as her own mini comfort station, mostly in the evenings. (We splurged on this cute crate cover, but it is what it is!)

We stop the dirt before it enters the house. For the most part, we’re a shoes-off household. We don’t enforce it with guests, but more often than not, they’ll notice our stocking feet and do the same. (It’s also our mindful way to cut down on noise for our neighbors in the garden unit below us.) And just as we slip off our sneakers before settling in, we make sure to wipe off all eight doggie paws after an exceptionally muddy/rainy/sticky walk.

We cut down on fur before it begins. A long, long time ago, we shared our tricks for addressing the hairy situation. Many of those things still hold true – we Furminate, we vacuum regularly (even more so since we’ve gone cordless!), and we bathe our dogs often. Every handful of weeks, as Scott gathers up the pups for their baths, I’ll take that time to collect all the dog beds and liners for the wash. I’ll vacuum the stairs, furniture and rugs, and those are the evenings where we can feel our house really shine.

In the end, all the decisions we make in this house always go back to Jack, CC and Libby. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve shown a rug/pillow/blanket/insert-any-accessory-here to Scott, and the first question out of his mouth is, How do you clean it? Simply put, if it’s not pet-friendly, durable or hard-wearing, it’s out. Even still, we are firm believers that you can have your pets and your dream home, too, but like anything worthwhile, it’ll take some honest-to-goodness effort.

For all the other pet-lovers out there, what are your go-to tricks for keeping your home and family, both happy and healthy?

  • laura {not a trophy wife} - April 20, 2017 - 8:13 AM

    Love this! I have an entire category “Woof” devoted to our pets.
    We have an Aussie and a Berner. I love the idea of their own space… we don’t kennel them anymore now that they are house trained, but I love the idea of dedicated space. Hmmmm…. you got me thinking…. lauraReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 20, 2017 - 9:09 AM

      I LOVE Aussies! I had two growing up. They’ll always hold a soft spot in my heart.ReplyCancel

  • CC - April 20, 2017 - 9:03 AM

    We call our pets “The Kids” and we are pretty crazy about them too!

    Last year, I started upgrading our air filters. I now get the super duper allergen reducer air filters. While we still have fur tumbleweeds when I fall behind on vacuuming, I have noticed WAY less dust and pet dander overall. They are more expensive but totally worth it. Less dusting and my allergies haven’t bothered me at all so far this year.

    We also have a dedicated ‘Kids Room” that is just for our fur babies and where we keep all their stuff. So the toys, food, litter, etc has a much smaller footprint, or paw print if you will! :DReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 20, 2017 - 9:12 AM

      Such great points! We recently went up to super allergen as well, and it HAS cut down on some of the muck in the air. Plus, it’s healthier for the longevity of your furnace, too.

      And you brought up a good point – while we don’t have a whole room for the pets (that’s awesome), we have one big, deep drawer in our kitchen island for all of their medicine, treats and toys. Having everything in one place was a MUST when we were figuring out what goes where during our kitchen renovation.ReplyCancel

      • Hannah K - April 20, 2017 - 11:43 AM

        I’ve seen the allergen filters state change every 3 months. With pets, how often do you change yours?ReplyCancel

        • Kim - April 20, 2017 - 11:53 AM

          Every 3 months, no question!ReplyCancel

  • Jackie - April 20, 2017 - 9:25 AM

    Do you have the cordless Dyson? I’ve been debating one. I’d love to know how you like it.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 20, 2017 - 9:32 AM

      We do! The link and our take on it is in the post. :)ReplyCancel

    • Nicolette - April 30, 2017 - 1:27 PM

      The cordless has changed my life! I know it sounds dramatic but I’m telling you this thing is great. The most annoying part of vacuuming to me was always getting the vacuum out, unwinding the cord, finding an outlet, hanging to switch outlets, then wind up the cord. All of this is eliminated! I think the biggest complains are the small canister size and battery life. As long as you get in a routine, this won’t be an issue.ReplyCancel

  • Chelsea - April 20, 2017 - 9:44 AM

    Thanks so much for sharing! I have a one-year-old greyhound mix who we got towards the end of last summer and I’m just now that we’re starting to get into a groove and out of the puppy phase, we’re starting to get to the “holy crap, we have no idea how to live and be normal grown-ups with a dog in our apartment” phase, so this is all very helpful!ReplyCancel

  • Misie - April 20, 2017 - 9:48 AM

    We bought the Dyson cordless last year – agreed the canister is small when you have husky style tumbleweeds – but it’s so convenient! When we had our couch made we took the various swatches and rubbed them ALL over the dogs to see which showed fur the least. (thankfully we really liked the gray – which is now our universal color choice for anything they will be touching) Maeby’s undercoat is seemingly lighter than air and still gets on everything…everything; we were recently introduced to the furminator and the shampoo so here’s to hoping! Thanks for the fabric tip – that’s quite helpful :-) If only my lululemon’s could be furminated – I will forever be the hairy girl in yoga class.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 20, 2017 - 10:22 AM

      We totally rub down our pets with any fabrics we’re considering, too! So funny. And three cheers for the cordless Dyson. It makes quick vacuums much easier, and we’re WAY more likely to do it.ReplyCancel

  • katie - April 20, 2017 - 9:55 AM

    We have 2 long hair cats, and a golden, so pet fur is a constant battle in our house… after much debate we bought a roomba and it’s been amazing. We let it do it’s thing every other day, and I feel like our house is just cleaner overall. It’s actually helped cut down on the dander in the air, and we haven’t had to dust as often. We still bring out the big pet vacuum every few weeks, but I honestly think that the roomba does an impressive job of deep cleaning. Now I’m trying to justifying buying a second one for upstairs ;)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 20, 2017 - 10:01 AM

      I’m so skeptical of the Roomba, even though we only hear great things! Which model do you have?ReplyCancel

      • kerry - April 21, 2017 - 11:06 AM

        I have the 595 Pet series and we love it. Our house faces east/west and we have long hardwood expanses. The sun shines PERFECTLY to illuminate any dirt and dust, so we can’t really let it get too bad, but I loathe vacuuming. The downsides to Roomba as I see them are 1)you have to get anything that might tangle or get in its way off the floor,although it rambles right over the footer rods for our couch and 2)you do have to clean/maintain it. It honestly takes a minute after each vacuum run, and 10-15 for a deeper clean/brush the hair off the rollers which I do once a week or so.

        About once a month I roll through the house with a dust wand attachment on my regular vacuum and do moldings, etc but for day to day floor cleaning, the roomba is great. It also does fine with our area rugs, which are all also low pile wool.ReplyCancel

        • Kim - April 21, 2017 - 11:54 AM

          Thank you!!ReplyCancel

          • Erin Griffiths - April 24, 2017 - 8:27 AM

            My husband surprised me with a Roomba this Christmas, and I am surprised at how much I love it. We have a large, hairy Bernese Mountain Dog, a cat and a 9-year-old boy, and the robot vacuum is a total game changer. It runs almost every night while we sleep. Then I just need to do light touch ups with a handheld vacuum upstairs in between our biweekly big cleans.
            We have 650 model – I think the cheapest one. I was extolling it’s virtues to a friend at dinner once, and she ordered it right there on her phone!

          • Kim - April 24, 2017 - 9:07 AM

            You guys are convincing us!

  • Kristin - April 20, 2017 - 10:04 AM

    It’s always interesting to hear how others do things! I was under the impression in our old house that Alice the dog was not allowed on the couch. Turns out as soon as I left, she climbed right up. In our new house, I gave up. The furniture is now either vintage/old or slip-covered, and nothing is too precious. Yes it takes a little more tidying, but it’s fine. Plus it’s cute to see two kitties and the pup snuggled up together.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 20, 2017 - 10:16 AM

      Haha, well, they don’t dare climb on the furniture when we’re around, but they LOVE snuggling on the chairs when we leave the house. So, it’s a daily battle. That said, you’re absolutely right – nothing is too precious. That’s pretty much our motto around here.ReplyCancel

  • Taylor - April 20, 2017 - 10:10 AM

    Thanks for sharing these tips! Have you found a bed that you like for larger dogs that holds up well to washing?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 20, 2017 - 10:15 AM

      We have beds from Shop Janery made from outdoor fabric! I’ll pre-treat any stains before I throw them in the wash, but by sticking to outdoor fabrics, it helps them to last longer.ReplyCancel

  • Virginia - April 20, 2017 - 11:01 AM

    Seriously, thank you so much for sharing this. We have a cat and a dog and sometimes I bemoan that our home will never look Instagram-y because… here’s a dog crate. And pet bowls. And a litter box. And fur tumbleweeds. (I could vacuum every day and there would still be fur tumbleweeds.) Pets have *stuff* and they make messes! It just seriously made me so glad to see the photo of the crate in your bedroom, because that’s also my reality. Our pets are part of the family and this is their home too.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 20, 2017 - 11:34 AM

      Totally. We always joke that this is more their home than ours, ha!ReplyCancel

  • Bernadette - April 20, 2017 - 11:08 AM

    Hoping Katie comes back and can tell us what kind of Roomba she has too! I’ve found that having 2 dogs somehow means having 1000x the pet hair of just one dog, and have been debating the cordless Dyson (LOVE my corded one, but it can be a hassle for quick clean ups) or a Roomba (but which one is best?!).ReplyCancel

    • Flora - May 6, 2017 - 11:18 PM

      Ahh I wanted to chime in since I have both a Dyson corded and cordless vac and a Roomba. I’m pretty embarrassed about it to be honest, since having three vacuums seems really weird and excessive.

      But! They are all so good. I have the Roomba 665 (I think it’s the same as the 650 but has a longer battery life) and run it every other day. I run it when I’m home or out with the pup because I’ve heard of some horror stories of Roombas running through pet accidents (pretty much poo armageddon). The suction isn’t super powerful, but overall it does a decent job collecting the GSD tumbleweeds. It works best on hard floor and low pile rugs. Our house is a bit tough for the Roomba to navigate – it’s a ranch but the hallway layout makes the Roomba confused. I think it’ll do better in a really open concept home.

      We picked up the Dyson V6 cordless recently. I justified the purchase because it was on sale. It comes with a couple attachments but I like that you can use all your doodads from your corded vac with it too. We use it for small messes and to keep the pup’s favorite areas and our furniture relatively hair free.ReplyCancel

      • Kim - May 8, 2017 - 1:18 PM

        We love this feedback, thanks, Flora!ReplyCancel

  • katy - April 20, 2017 - 11:12 AM

    We have 6 cats. (not on purpose, it just kind of happened) I got a Roomba (the pet one? 650?) last year and it has changed our lives. We’re a single-story house, all wood floors and no rugs (cats think it’s a secret cat box so we finally just gave up) and the only level change is down to the entry way, so we put the roomba invisible wall there and set it run every day just before we get home form work. It’s finishing up as we get home, gets emptied, and goes back to it’s port to charge for the next day. He lives under the course, out of sight. SO MUCH BETTER. Once a month we still have to get in the nooks and crannies and under low furniture to get the cat bunnies that have hidden away beyond Roomba reach. There have been two downfalls with the roomba – you can’t leave cords on the floor because it will eat them. Might not be a problem in other households, but our computer tower is on the floor and we tend to leave our phone cord plugged in to it (hot spot) and it’s been eaten a few times… Other downfall is making sure to pick up in the morning and leave a clear path for Roomba to run. Which is a great way to keep the house picked up, but sometimes it will eat a cat toy (it just stops and we rescue it when we get home). It’s like our little robot housekeeper, and it has helped with pet hair and seasonal/dust related allergies, so definitely worth the investment! Especially if you’re a lazy house cleaner and hate to sweep/vacuum.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 20, 2017 - 11:34 AM

      Man, we really might need to check out the Roomba! Thank you for chiming in with all these tips!ReplyCancel

  • Paige - April 20, 2017 - 1:58 PM

    These are all awesome tips!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.comReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - April 21, 2017 - 5:34 AM

    Thank you Kim for sharing all these tips. We have cat and a dog at home and having spread out cleaning supplies and the long time delayed Roomba which we have been debating to buy it or not will really help us.ReplyCancel

  • Martin Joy - April 21, 2017 - 6:29 AM

    First of all, Thank you for sharing this useful article, I loved it. Really if we have a pet so we should know How to keep a Clean and healthy pet-Friendly at home.

    I Have a pet so I will this ideas and tips.ReplyCancel

  • Katy DeBardelaben - April 21, 2017 - 10:32 AM

    Whoa, the most interesting thing about this whole post to me is the revelation that you have neighbors downstairs! Am I totally late to the game here?! I’ve been following for a long time but never knew that your house had a garden apartment downstairs! I have so many questions. You guys own the whole building right so is this an additional source of income for you guys? Do you ever see yourselves not letting anyone live there in order to have more space? Guest suite or Airbnb perhaps? Do the people that live there ever complain about the noise of renovating? I don’t know why but I’m so fascinated by this :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 21, 2017 - 10:40 AM

      Haha, those are all such great questions! You’re going to learn a lot more about the garden apartment in the coming weeks, hint, hint…

      But to quickly dive in, yes, we own the whole building, and we’ll likely always keep it as an income stream (as a rental). It has a front/back entrance that we can’t access without going outside, so it doesn’t make too much sense for us to have that as a part of OUR home.

      And somehow, our renters have never complained about the renovation noise, but we were also upfront about the work before they signed on the line.

      More to come!ReplyCancel

  • Katie - April 21, 2017 - 12:47 PM

    Ahhhh this post is perfect! We have a lab/german shephard who has black fur, and white carpet all over. Excellent combo right? I’m often found brushing insane amounts of fur off the dog outside or running around our house with the cordless Dyson. You’re not alone in the battle!ReplyCancel

  • Jenna - April 21, 2017 - 5:29 PM

    Do you have any specific info on the outdoor-rated faux sisal you mentioned? I just can’t seem to get passed how much wool rugs shed!ReplyCancel

  • Karen - April 23, 2017 - 8:15 PM

    I have a nonshedding cockapoo – non shedding breeds are an epiphany!! I will never get another dog that sheds. Having said that …. Why can’t pitties/all other dog breeds be non shedding too ☹️ReplyCancel

  • Staci - April 24, 2017 - 2:31 PM

    Wow, the crate! I didn’t know CC had one. I have one and it is such a design buzzkill in my bedroom. I tried spray-painting Mosey’s white (so it blends in better with our light walls) but that has not held up so great over time.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 24, 2017 - 10:28 PM

      It IS a buzzkill, but CC loves it so much. And so, we keep it for her. :)ReplyCancel

  • Christina D. - April 24, 2017 - 10:09 PM

    Hi Guys, love the blog and seeing pics of your furbabies:) I just furminated our long hair cat-if you keep up with it on a regular basis it really helps, I am 100% with you all. Also I always thought your rental unit was in the garage:)) Not sure why I imagined it there and not “under” the main unit:)) Probably has to do with my being born and bred in southern California. Not a lot of rental stream opportunities in properties here-and I would consider you dream landlords! We are renters and some things are just so important to us-the a/c needs to be in good working order/we need to change the air filters every 3 months/good insulation keeps the cool in and the dirt out…lots of things that we check out/ask about of prospective rentals. Sometimes the information is just not available and we have to see in person. I would rent your place in a heartbeat because of your honesty, fairness and committment to doing the job right:)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 24, 2017 - 10:31 PM

      This is so sweet, thank you! We’ve learned a lot being landlords to both the garden and our previous condo, so we do try our best to be as attentive as possible – when needed. (And yup, Chicago winters wouldn’t do well with a unit in the garage, ha!) There’s a lot of good stuff to come with the garden apartment, so stay tuned…ReplyCancel

  • Lucy (UK) - April 26, 2017 - 3:01 AM

    Ah yes I love real life posts! We also got a cordless Dyson and it’s lived up to all our expectations. Our normal Dyson isn’t actually that heavy but it’s cumbersome, and it meant hoovering became a once weekly marathon, ducking and diving under each and every piece of furniture to snag all the fur, kindly left in the wake of our 9 kg Norwegian Forest cat (who, joy of joys, is now shedding his winter coat – thank goodness he’s cute and affectionate!). But with the cordless it’s so dang easy to zip it round or do a quick clean up of the lounge and kitchen if we have people coming over. I love love love the food station you made for the pups and am planning to do a take on this for Ralph over the summer :). Keep up the amazing work guys!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 26, 2017 - 8:43 AM

      So true, the cordless just makes us that much more willing to do the vacuuming – less time unwinding the cord, plugging it in, unplugging and finding another outlet… It has changed the way we clean our home so much! And if you end up making the dog food station, we’d love if you sent us photos!ReplyCancel

  • Monique - May 3, 2017 - 6:46 AM

    Another informative article. Even though animals can add to cleaning chores, I feel they are well worth it.

    This tip isn’t for everyone but when I began feeding my 8 year old dog whole foods, ie. raw beef or cooked chicken/pork with veggies and other nutrients, my dog began shedding much less. When I brush her now, I rarely collect hair in the brush. Other added benefits are her teeth became white, mobility improved, hair became darker and she loves her food.ReplyCancel

  • Dianne Tolar - May 4, 2017 - 2:36 AM

    I do not understand. No dogs on the furniture. Then you say one dog can. Did I read correctly?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 4, 2017 - 9:43 AM

      Libby is allowed on the furniture, but she’s a cat. :)ReplyCancel

  • Cindy - June 13, 2017 - 11:24 PM

    I have a question about your pillows. Like you, we limit ourselves to pillow covers that can be removed and washed, which are EXTREMELY hard to find. Any chance you’d like to provide a source list of pillow covers you’ve found through the years that can be thrown in the washer?

    Also, do you wash even the pillow covers that aren’t technically machine-washable? For example, I notice that you have the fabulous xbase pillow from CB2, which can only be spot cleaned (I’ve researched it in the past). Do you throw caution to the wind and wash even “spot clean only” covers? Do you make exceptions?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 14, 2017 - 9:40 AM

      Hi Cindy, GREAT question! Here’s the thing, you know how Target always has the cutest pillows? We can never buy them, because about 99% of them don’t have removable covers! So frustrating. Here are some favorites:

      Crate & Barrel has the BEST velvet covers!
      C&B’s cotton blend pillows look like linen, and we couldn’t love them more
      CB2 pillows all have removable covers, but of course we stick with ones that are a cotton blend of some sort
      West Elm is the same – we try to stick with cotton blends!
      Also, I’d be amiss not to mention IKEA or H&M Home for affordable basic pillows in wide color varieties!

      For our beloved X base pillow from CB2, you’re right – we throw all caution to the wind! It’s been through the wash and dryer more times than I can count, and it has survived just fine. The same goes with any of the velvet pillows you see in our home!ReplyCancel

      • Cindy - June 14, 2017 - 10:18 PM

        This is SO helpful, thank you for the sources and the advice!ReplyCancel

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