Use Allergen-free Cleaning Products to Treat Your Dog’s Allergies.

allergen-free cleaning sprayWhen your dog has allergies and sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to eliminate their exposure to dyes, chemicals and perfumes found in many cleaning products.  It will be difficult if not almost impossible to completely determine if your pup is allergic to the wide range of ingredients found in cleaning solutions.  However, if your dog exhibits allergy symptoms while indoors, chances are high that your cleaning products could be adding to their discomfort.

Use Powder-based Bathroom & Kitchen Cleanser
Most kitchen and bathroom cleaning products come in aerosol or pump spray containers.  Although these sprays make it easy for you to quickly cover large surfaces, they also throw chemicals and perfumes into the air – which could bother your dog.  A great way to avoid these harsh chemicals and perfumes is to go back to the basics and use a good old fashioned power cleanser.  These powder cleansers have little to no fragrance and don’t mist chemicals into the air.

I’m a big fan of Bon Ami Power Cleanser. Not only does it to a great job of picking up soap scum and stains, but it is also gentle enough to not scratch surfaces.  It’s also amazing at removing dried on foods from stainless steel pots and pans.

After using a powder cleanser, your air may not have the “just cleaned’ scent that the perfume-rich cleaning products offer, but your surfaces will be just as clean and your dog may breathe a little easier.

Try Allergen-Free Dusting Sprays
Many traditional dusting sprays have a wide spray range to cover a greater amount of surface area.  While this may make cleaning easier, it also increases the chance that these chemicals could spread into the air and be inhaled by you and your pet.  New allergen-free varieties, like Endust Free, have a more narrow spray area that reduces mist.  Allergen dusting sprays also should be fragrance free, as strong fragrances can trigger allergic reactions in humans and pets.

Sprinkle Baking Soda on Carpets & Rugs
An unfortunate side affect of dog allergies is dog odors.  No matter how often we shampoo Elsie, we find that within days she gets a little musty smelling.  This smell has a way of attaching itself to her dog bedding and our rugs and carpets.

Before I learned about allergies and cleaning products, I used to sprinkle carpet cleaners or use fabric sprays on our rugs to eliminate odors.  Then, I learned that the chemicals and perfumes in these products could actually be contributing to her problems – and also her odors.

Now, the only product I use on our carpets is Arm & Hammer baking soda.  Baking soda neutralizes odors by regulating pH, keeping a substance neither too acidic, nor too alkaline.  Baking soda contains natural ingredients for odor fighting, which means it contains no fragrances or dyes.

Since sometimes the baking soda comes out of the box too quickly, I’ll put it in container with a lid for sprinkling – such as an old spice or parmesan cheese container.  Just clean out the empty container, fill it with baking soda, and you’re ready to start sprinkling over your carpets.

Use Perfume & Dye-free Laundry Detergent & Dryer Sheets
Although some people love the fresh scent that laundry detergent and dryer sheets give their clothing, allergy sufferers often find that the perfumes and softening agents bother their skin and make it hard to breath.  Our favorite brand of laundry detergent is Tide Free & Gentle. It comes in both a liquid and powder form.

Consider washing your bedding and your dog’s bedding with laundry detergents designed specifically for allergy sufferers.  These products contain no dyes or perfumes.  When you wash your dog’s bedding, I’d suggest eliminating dryer sheets altogether.  Your dog won’t mind if there is a little static cling and you won’t have to worry about any of the softening agents bothering your dog’s skin.

Stop Using Commercial Air Fresheners
There continues to be much debate about whether air fresheners contain toxic chemicals that work as indoor pollutants in your home.  In a 2008 University of Washington study of top-selling laundry products and air fresheners, it was discovered that these products threw several different chemicals into the air. Each product contained at least one chemical deemed as toxic under federal law.

Since there is too much unknown about the affects of these chemicals on humans and pets, it would be best to avoid regular use of air fresheners in your home.  Here are some more natural alternatives:

  • Kill odors at the source.  Rather than trying to cover up odors with perfumes, it’s ideal to figure out what the smell is coming from and to eliminate it. If the smell is your dog, then frequent baths are necessary. You’ll also want wash their bedding each week and use baking soda on carpets and rugs when vacuuming.
  • Simmer cinnamon.  A great way to scent your home with little expense is to simmer a few cinnamon sticks in water on your stove.
  • Use essential oils.  Essential oils are an excellent way to naturally scent your home.  You can create your own room sprays or opt to use a diffuser or light bulb ring.  Due to the potency of these oils, you need to be careful to not ingest the oils or rub them directly onto your or your dog’s skin.  Read all directions when working with essential oils.

These are just a few suggestions on how you can eliminate the use of dye and perfume laden cleaning products.  The key is finding more natural methods to clean and remove odors at their source.

Dog Allergy Treatments. Remove Mold in Your Home.

Mold can be a big problem for allergy-prone dogs.  In addition to outdoor mold, mold can grow indoors in humid spaces like bathrooms, kitchens, basements, garbage cans, refrigerators, carpets, and sheetrock.  Once you start looking for mold, you may be surprised at how prevalent it is in your home.

I live in an older home, in the Mid-Atlantic, where it can get quite humid.  After I started researching allergies, I’ve learned that my home can be a breeding ground for mold.  Here are some of the regular places I find and treat our mold:

  • Showers and Sinks.  These are likely the most common place for mold to grow in your home.  Since showers and sinks contain a lot of moisture, it’s an easy place for mold to grow and spread.  I’ve found the best solution is to spray on a mildew and mold cleaner or bleach, leave it on for 10 minutes and then rinse and wipe clean.  This should keep the mold at bay for a couple of weeks.
  • Window panes.  In the winter months, I find that our home has some condensation forming in the corners of our window panes.  If left unattended, mold will eventually appear. I now wipe the condensation regularly, and use a mold cleaner or bleach as needed.
  • Basement corners.  One year, when left unattended, our basement walls started to grow a bit mold in the corners.  After cleaning up the mold, we’ve now learned to check these walls regularly and not lean any items against the corners – to prevent excess moisture buildup.
  • Window unit air conditioners.  We use some window unit air conditioners in our home during the hot summer months.  One year, I took a close look at one of our units and found mold growing on the intake vent.  I now include a good bleach wipe down of these vents as part of a regular summer cleaning routine.

In addition to the sources of mold I’ve listed above, you can also find mold growing in dishwashers, washing machines, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, since all regularly contain water.  Be sure to check these devices regularly and be prepared to eliminate mold as needed.

Dog Allergy Treatments. Vacuum, Sweep & Mop Often.

clean floor allergiesIf you suspect that your dog has allergies, it’s a good idea to start a regular cleaning routine.  Allergen particles are first carried through the air, but eventually will setting onto your furniture and flooring.

Some of the biggest allergen magnets in your home are carpeting and rugs.  Carpeting, especially designs with a higher pile have a lot of nooks and crannies that allergens can settle into. It’s difficult to ever completely remove allergens, but with regular vacuuming (at least once a week), you can eliminate most allergens.

It’s important to know that many old or inexpensive vacuums may actually contribute to poor air quality in your home by throwing allergens back into the air.  There are now several asthma and allergen friendly vacuums which include a small-particle or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.  Be sure to follow the directions for cleaning or changing these filters to keep them working efficiently.

In addition to vacuuming your carpets and rugs, you’ll also want to pull out your vacuum attachments and regularly clean fabric chairs and couches.  Allergens can settle into your furniture and then be tossed into the air each time someone sits down.  As mentioned earlier, if you have slip covers or area rugs, these should be washed in hot water every couple of weeks.

Allergens are not quite as problematic on hard surfaces like hardwood floors, tile and linoleum, since there are fewer places for them to hide. But, you’ll still want to clean these surfaces each week as well.  I’ve found that it works well to either gently vacuum these surfaces or sweep with a broom.

Once the surfaces are clean of crumbs and dirt, I follow up with the following techniques to rid the floor of any additional dust or allergens.  For my wood floors, I like to use a dry dust mop, such as the Swiffer Dry Mop.  These do a great job of picking up additional dirt that I wasn’t able to pull up with the broom or vacuum.

For my tile and linoleum, I’ve recently started using a steam mop.  Steam mops clean your hard surfaces using hot water – no chemicals or detergents.   I use the Haan Steam Cleaning Floor Sanitizer , but there are many other brands and models as well. I’ve found this steam mop does a nice job of cleaning my floors, without leaving behind chemicals or sticky cleaning agents.  The cleaning pads can be washed in the washing machine, which makes maintenance really easy.  These steam mops certainly cost more than a traditional mop, but I’ve found it’s easier to use – which means I’m more inclined to use it regularly.

References:

Allergy-proof Your House by the Mayo Clinic staff
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/allergy/HQ01514

Tips to Control Indoor Allergens by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=18&cont=533

Dog Allergy Treatments. Wash Bedding & Fabrics in Hot Water.

washing machineIn the last post, I reviewed the benefits of dust mite covers.  Although dust mite covers are an excellent way to prevent dust mites from living in your mattress and pillows, you should also plan to regularly wash bedding and other fabrics to prevent these creatures from invading your bedding and furniture.

It is recommended that you wash your bedding – including comforters and bed spreads once a week in hot water.  The hot water will kill any dust mites and the regular washing will eliminate the presence of dead skin cells (what dust mites live on) in your bedding.  Regular washing can also rid your fabrics of other air-traveling allergens like pollen.

In addition to your own bedding, don’t forget to wash your dog’s bedding each week as well.  This includes dog beds.  When you shop for dog beds, look for a model that can fit in your washer and dryer and use hot water when washing.

Be sure to regularly wash and slip covers or throw rugs as well. Virtually all fabrics in your home can attract dust mites and other allergens.  Although it may seem time consuming, the time you spend washing these items will save you time that would otherwise be spent at the vets office or administering allergy treatments.

Dog Allergy Causes. Air Fresheners and Cleaning Products.

Cleaning ProductsAs you clean you home to eliminate dust and other allergens, you could be causing more harm than good.  Perfumes and chemicals found in air fresheners and cleaning products can often trigger allergic reactions in sensitive dogs.

Many cleaning products today, like dust cleaners, and bathroom and kitchen cleaners, come in aerosol cans or sprays which make it easier to cover large surfaces.  Unfortunately, these sprays are also good at sending chemicals into the air, which can then be inhaled by you and your pets.

Laundry detergents and dryer sheets also contain dyes and perfumes which can harm allergy-prone dogs.  These chemicals can be particularly bothersome if you wash your dog’s bedding – since your pup will be lying directly on these allergen-rich fabrics.

If your dog is itchy year round, particularly after a house cleaning session, you may want to consider changing your cleaning products to those which are more allergy-friendly.  We’ll discuss more allergy-safe cleaning options in our Allergy Treatments section.