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A clean sweep?
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A clean sweep?

Spending much more time at home means that – alongside baking and DIY – many people have become a little obsessed with cleaning. Indeed, social media cleaning guru Mrs Hinch has racked up a whopping 3.3 million followers on Instagram who follow her daily hacks and advice. And, while it’s important to be extra vigilant about cleanliness and hygiene during the current crisis, it’s essential to consider the health and wellbeing of the pets that share our homes as we wipe, scrub and disinfect. 

Animal charity  Blue Cross states: “Being at home more with our pets is great – but, inevitably, during these difficult times, a lot of us will be cleaning more than usual. Certain products are toxic to pets and they can’t read labels like us, so it’s our job to keep them safe. Remember that dogs like to explore their surroundings with their mouths, so if they’re curious or anxious they may turn to chewing on something you don’t want them to. So, above all, it’s important to keep all products locked away when not in use.”

Adverse effects

Feline welfare charity, International Cat Care , advises: “Lots of household disinfectants, including antibacterial products and patio cleaner, contain the cationic detergent benzalkonium chloride. Cationic detergents are an irritant and can cause adverse effects in cats that have licked treated surfaces or walked on them and then ingested the chemical when they later groomed themselves or cleaned their paws.”

And of course, household cleaning chemicals can affect any animals in your home that may come in contact with them – from indoor rabbits to ferrets, rats and chinchillas. 

Blue Cross advises that there are three products in particular to be extra careful of:


  • If you’re cleaning the floor with bleach, make sure it’s diluted with water and rinse the floors afterwards. Be sure to wait for it to dry before letting your pet into the room. A wet floor means that bleach can be transferred onto your pet’s fur more easily, where they’re at risk of licking it when grooming later. If you’re using bleach to clean a pet’s crate or carrier, give it a thorough rinse with water afterwards and air it out to dry. Remember that bleach is in toilet blocks too, so be sure to leave the toilet lid down.

Laundry detergents, tablets and capsules

  • All of these can be toxic for a pet if they ingest a large amount. Be extra careful by storing tablets and capsules in secure storage, such as Tupperware, and detergents need to be kept in a cupboard, away from curious pets.

Dishwasher tablets

  • These can pose a threat to our pets, so always remember to store them in a Tupperware container out of the way.

The charity warns: “These products can cause burns on your pet’s paws, as well as in their throat and stomach if they swallow them, which can lead to permanent damage and can even be fatal. Look out for pet-safe products, these have less chemicals in them, which means they are less likely to cause such severe reactions.”


Hand sanitiser contains alcohol, which, if ingested in large amounts, can be toxic and cause sickness and tiredness. This needs to be treated like any other cleaning product and kept out of the way – and never let your pets lick your hand if you’ve just applied some. 

International Cat Care recommends taking some simple steps to prevent pets being exposed to the toxic benzalkonium chloride chemical found in many household disinfectants:

  • Dilute the product in line with instructions

  • Don’t allow your cat to access the area where it has been used until it’s dry 
  • Don’t allow your cat to walk over a recently treated surface

  • Store products out of sight and reach of your cat

  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions

  • If used outside, try not to allow your cat to access a recently treated surface that has become wet after rain

  • Clean up spills quickly 

Alternative cleaning methods worth considering include:

  • Steam cleaning, which is chemical-free 
  • Non-ionic or anionic detergents, such as diluted washing up liquid, which are less of an irritant
  • Properly diluted bleach – a good antibacterial agent if disinfection is necessary

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Sources: bristolpost.co.uk, pdsa.org.uk, icatcare.org.uk

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