I know this stuff. I grew up in a house that could have doubled for a pet store. We had cats, dogs, ferrets, lizards, rabbits, fish, birds. And we had some particularly stinky examples of the species: a dog with skin allergies, multiple male cats "spraying" their territory (ever had to hop a "pee spot" to get out of your bedroom?), an old ferret (enough said). Our house definitely smelled like animals. As an adult, I am determined not to let my home fall victim to the animal stink. I am at war with pet-related odors, and with my arsenal of specialty pet products, despite living in a small Brooklyn apartment, I have been largely successful in this war.* And now I'm going to help you. Yes, my first helpful blog post:
The Definitive (Over)Budget Pet Guide to De-Stinking Your House and Home
Part I - Furnishings & The Floor
- Anti-Icky-Poo ($29.95 for a gallon). This odor-eliminating product is a miracle worker. This is for your worst case scenario: a dog or, worse, a cat releases its bladder onto your couch, mattress, or carpet. You know, the one squat (and then it's never just the one) that stinks up something on which you spent a substantial amount of money and where you and your family, friends, lovers sit, lay, and sleep. Anti-Icky-Poo is for that. It's an enzymatic cleaner. It has an active bacteria ingredient that eats the decaying organic matter rather than just masking the smell. So what's left behind is odorless -- no pee odor and no terrible chemical smell. Anti-Icky-Poo saved my couch from the wrath of Lola. You can use this product for any organic or bio odor (including poop, pee, skunk, corpse and odors with a human origin).
Instructions: Clean up the mess, spray Anti-Icky-Poo onto the compromised surface, then wait for the product to dry.
Notes: First, this is for odors, not stains, so you may need to follow up with a stain remover once this product is dry (see below). But you have to use this product first -- if you use it after another cleaner, especially a synthetic cleaner, it is less effective and can cause discoloration. Don't go to town with tons of cleaners -- just spray or pour Anti-Icky-Poo on the area and trust that it will work. Second, it takes three times as long as you think it will for this stuff to dry. Wait it out. Third, Anti-Icky-Poo even works on old odors. Seriously, this stuff is the BEST.
- Nature's Miracle Just for Cats Orange-Oxy Stain & Odor Remover ($10.85 for 24 fl. oz. spray bottle). This is currently my preferred product for pet stains and for doggie accidents on our large area rug. Lulu is the only one of our animals who has "accidents" anymore, and I put it in quotes because it only seems to happen when its raining outside [ahem, Lulu], but we also sometimes have accident-prone puppy visitors. C'est la vie -- I wouldn't have it any other way. I also use this product on the rug to remove muddy paw prints and to generally brighten it up from animal and human shoe traffic. [Why do we -- Brooklyn beer brewer and animal hoarder -- have a light colored rug? Anybody?]
Instructions: (1) Wipe up as much of stain/odor-causing material as possible, (2) Spray entire area, (3) For tough stains, use a stiff brush, (4) Allow everything to air dry completely, and (5) Keep pets away from treated area until dry.
Notes: First, for cat pee or large areas, don't listen to those Nature's Miracle fanatics, start with Anti-Icky-Poo (above). Second, this product is good for small spots on carpets or large rugs, but if you're dealing with soiled bedding or something otherwise small enough to put in a washing machine, just wash it instead with an enzymatic pet laundry detergent, which will be addressed in Part II of the Guide. Third, this product has a slight chemically orange odor that lingers until the spot is totally dry (which can take a few days), so I like to keep the windows open and the ceiling fan going in the meantime for circulation.
- Dog Whisperer Natural Stain & Odor Remover for Hard Surfaces ($13). My past five apartments in Chicago, Baltimore, and Brooklyn have all had hardwood floors. You can use an all-purpose cleaner for vinyl or linoleum floors [I personally like Parsley Plus All Surface Cleaner ($5.29 for 22 fl. oz.)], but you need a special cleaner for hardwood floors. Cue the Dog Whisperer. Confession: I have not used this new formulation, but I was obsessed with the old one. Hopefully it is the same stuff in new packaging. Currently, for any pet messes (poop, pee, puke, etc.), human spills, or mud on the floor, I've been using Nature's Miracle Dual Action Hard Floor Stain & Odor Remover ($11.78 for 24 fl. oz.), which works just fine. But I was give-it-to-other-people-as-a-holiday-gift obsessed with the Dog Whisperer cleaner, so I will probably buy the new formulation when I use up my current spray bottle of Nature's Miracle.
Instructions: Spray and wipe up.
Notes: These products are for finished floors only. For unfinished floors, soak 'em with Anti-Icky-Poo (above). I'm officially a broken record.
- Dyson DC28 Animal Vacuum ($649.99). Vacuum everything often. This is key in controlling odors and reducing allergens in your home. I'm talking your carpets, your rugs, your hardwood floors, your couch cushions, etc. I don't actually own this vacuum (I own a cheap old Hoover Nano-Lite), but if I had a large home or carpets + an infinite amount of money, I would sure as hell own this vacuum. The Dyson DC28 Animal is the vacuum of my dreams.
Instructions: Plug it in, turn it on, watch your pets scatter like it's the end of the world. Empty the canister often (and preferably outside).
Notes: Before vacuuming carpets or large rugs, I like to sprinkle a baking soda product like actual baking soda ($4.26) or Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Dirt Fighters Carpet Odor Eliminator - Pet Fresh ($4.85). Don't use these products on hardwood floors, though -- the baking soda just gets stuck in the cracks. Oh, and you should mop hard surfaces, too, of course, but that's not animal-specific so I won't get into it here.
- Shark Cordless Pet Perfect II Hand Vac ($68.12). I do own this hand-held vacuum (a.k.a. dust buster), on the same theory as the vacuum. This one was awesome for a hot second and then lost its suction power. I am in the process of troubleshooting, but I feel like this always happens with dust busters.
- Flor Modular Carpet Tiles (prices vary). My next large rug purchase will actually be a bunch of small dark-but-not-too-dark-colored Flor carpet tiles put together, and I will keep a set of back-up tiles in the closet. Flor modular carpet tiles can be removed and then cleaned, refreshed, and replaced, perfect for a home with pets. I will use this guide to select them. In my dreams, I have a Flor rug and vacuum it with a Dyson DC28 Animal Vacuum. And no, it's not weird that I dream about rugs.
- Hypoallergenic Waterproof Mattress Protector ($39.95). Unless you're one of the well-adjusted non-crazies who don't allow animals in their beds, if you have a puppy, just suck it up and get a waterproof mattress protector. [We currently have a hypoallergenic mattress protector because Kyler has dog and cat hair allergies, but if we ever have another accident-prone puppy, which is ALL puppies, I will definitely get a waterproof cover.] Yes, you can get the pee smell out of your bed with an enzymatic cleaner, but it's better to never get to that point -- just get a waterproof mattress cover. I found this image on the Internet. Cute, right? Also, I'm so glad Betel is a "big dog" now and despite her size can hold her pee longer than any other dog I know. No more "I'm sorry," although I don't believe she has ever been "sorry" about anything in her life.
I think this concludes Part I - Furnishings & The Floor.
To preview the rest of the guide:
Part II - Bedding & Other Washables
Part III - The Air
Part IV - The Litter Box
Part V - The Beasts
* My most honest friend who also incidentally hates animals (yes, really) had this to say about my apartment: "I would never know you had pets from the look or smell of your apartment. The only give-aways are the cute water fountain and cute plush animals toys and things like that." - Sabrina
** The $188.05 cost in the post title is everything but the vacuum and Flor tiles, although it decreases to $119.93 if I go back in time and never buy the stupid dust buster. Turns out it's not cheap to smell this good.