Cat-Safe Cleaning Products

Let's face it - cats are clean freaks.  They clean themselves throughout the day to keep their coats shiny and their scents in check.  But what about the house the cats live in?  We humans are stuck with those cleaning duties, and some of the things we might use to get the job done are potentially harmful to cats.  Anthony K. writes:

We have stopped using store-bought cleaners and clean our surfaces and floors with a mixture of water, Seventh Generation dish soap, vinegar and tea tree oil. Is this safe for our cats? Are there any store-bought surface/floor cleaners that you could recommend as safe for cats? Thanks!

Anthony, most common household cleaners are unsafe because most of them include phenols and/or bleach, both of which are deadly to cats.  Since cats walk on the surfaces we clean and then lick their paws, it's extremely likely that they'll pick up what we're putting down, so we only want to put down products that are 100% safe.  Even after completely dried, a freshly cleaned floor will have some residue left from the cleaning products used.

Phenols are particularly destructive to cats' nervous systems.  They show up in lots of household products, most notably in Pine-sol and Lysol.  Note that both have "sol" in their names because of this active ingredient.  Some products are sneakier, so it could take a little bit of digging on the ingredients list.  It's worth the effort to avoid this killer toxin.

 
 

At the top of our safe list are Mr. Clean's Magic Erasers.  These little "sponges" often do a better job than the toxic stuff.  The Magic Eraser is an abrasive, melamime foam "sponge" that works well on tile, sinks, tubs, counter tops, walls...virtually all hard surfaces.  Just be sure to rinse away any of the foam left behind.  It's worth noting that there were some internet rumors about the toxicity of the material in Magic Erasers, but that was debunked by Snopes.

 
 

Another great product is the dry Swiffer Sweeper.  These miracle dusting cloths pick up cat hair like a magnet and leave nothing behind in their wake.  Take note that we don't approve of the wet version of the Swiffer.  Only the dry version of the sweeper is safe for cats.

The absolute best all-around safe cleaner for everything in your home from windows to floors is a solution of one part water and one part vinegar.  You can even use this solution in a steam cleaner for carpets.  We won't guarantee that your cats will approve of the smell, but at least it won't harm them, and it will get your home as clean as those toxic cleaners do; possibly even cleaner, since you won't be leaving behind a trail of chemical residues.

Tea tree oil is a problem because it's been shown to be toxic to cats and dogs.  In a recent study of the ASPCA's Poison Control Center's database, it was revealed that 77% percent of the cats and dogs who were reported to have come into contact with 100% tea tree oil had an adverse reaction.  You're probably using it diluted, but it would be better not to use it at all.

Seventh Generation products are probably okay in small doses but they do contain some synthetic ingredients.  The second ingredient in their dish soap is sodium lauryl sulfate.  They list it parenthetically as a "plant-derived cleaning agent".  It may come from plants but it's a common chemical detergent found in many soaps and shampoos.  There's currently a debate over whether or not this chemical causes cancer.  We may be being overly cautious, but we'd recommend against Seventh Generation because of the way they spin their marketing to make their products seem more natural than they actually are.  Their dish soap is really no safer than Dawn, which should be okay to use as long as you're not bathing your cats in it.

There are other good alternatives.  A great replacement for bathroom mildew removers is plain old lemon juice.  Just be sure to rinse it away thoroughly as most cats really hate citrus.  Lemon juice also works wonders on grease stains in the kitchen.

Furniture polish is awful for cats.  A good alternative is plain olive oil.  When you're done polishing you can cook up some pasta!

 
 

As long as you're cleaning, you might want to do a little pest control.  Almost all pesticides are a no-no.  The only one we've found that's completely safe for cats is Cedarcide.  It's cedar based and it kills most insects on contact.  We've used this product for years and can give it our full endorsement.

Anthony, simpler is always better when it comes to cleaning products.  Many of the so-called natural cleaners on the market contain a plethora of chemical ingredients.  Don't buy the hype (or the higher prices).