1. Fresh air: This is first because I can’t overstate its importance. For one thing, if you live in a new or a new-ish house, they’re built so well as to be virtually air-tight. That’s great for saving energy but not so great for letting out stink and letting in fresh air. So, open a window whenever you can! Our house, btw, is super leaky and does not fall into that air-tight category. We still have a lot of work to do to fix those problems, but I still make a point to crack or open a window when I’m cleaning or when I start to smell a smell. If you do nothing else on this list, open a window. It’ll make a huge difference.
2. Filter: Keep your air as clean as possible with HEPA filters. HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. It basically works by forcing air through super-fine mesh filters to trap tiny gunk like dander… and pollen, dust mites, smoke particles. So, make sure you buy HEPA filters for your furnace (we buy this kind). If possible, get a HEPA filter for your vacuum, too. Some vacuums allow you to swap filters, but if not, and if you’re in the market for a new vacuum, here’s my quick thought on that: Cheap is expensive in the long run. We’ve gone through more vacuums than I can remember. They’ve all burnt out, except for our Dyson Animal. (It’s like this one, but they actually don’t make our exact one anymore… ours pre-dated the roller ball thing.) We got in 2005, and it’s outlasted about half a dozen others. Expensive up front, yes, but the cost-per-year is totally reasonable. And it works super well for pet dander.
3. Easy-to-clean pet products: So many pet products now come with some kind of odor-resistant technology built in. The cat bed we featured in our 2018 holiday gift guide, for instance, has probiotic technology baked in to prevent odors. At the very least-though, any bedding should have a removable, machine-washable cover like this bed Cooper uses. (BTW, we got this bed ages and ages ago as a press sample when I wrote for a pet magazine, and it still looks basically brand new… back to my point that cheap is expensive in the long run!) And then, of course, wash bed covers, towels, and soft toys on a weekly basis. I do a load of Cooper’s laundry–bed covers, stuffies, towels–along with Ripley’s mice because they all just get smelly with daily use. Definitely don’t run out to buy replacement products unless you are in need of something. I’m never one to recommend buying something for the sake of buying it. However, when you are in the market, look for pet products with anti-microbial odor-resistant technology or at least easy-to-clean features!
4. Cover stuff: This sounds obvious, I guess, but someone recently mentioned the smell their couch picked up from their dog. “Do you have a quilt or something on your couch?” I asked. Nope. OK, here’s the thing: No one wants their furniture obscured by ugly sheets or drop cloths. However, your couch, unless it’s slipcovered, isn’t easily washed. So, get some blankets that fit your decor, things you actually like, and put them down on your sofa as a pretty throw. Encourage your pup to sleep there instead of on the cushions. Coop and the cats all prefer to be on a blanket, so we have one draped on the couch, the arm chair, and the chaise in our bedroom where Coop sleeps at night. All of those things can be picked up on Saturday morning and put through the washing machine. I also have a cargo liner (this one) for my car for the same reason.
5. Baking soda and vinegar, your two new best friends: OK, not even kidding, but I buy these two ingredients in bulk. Your house will never smell like pet odors again if you keep baking soda and vinegar on hand! I can clean my entire house top to bottom with those two and save a ton of money, while being gentler on the planet. Plus, they’re both beasts at eliminating dog odors. I have manufactured-wood floors and scrub them with vinegar. The smell dissipates after a few minutes (less if you have the windows open) leaving behind a smell of… nothing. No smell. No pet odors, no chemical cleaning product odors, no nothing. Just air. As for baking soda, everyone already knows it absorbs odors from the air, but did you know you can use it on your dog like a dry shampoo? When you groom your pup (see tip 6 below), sprinkle some onto his fur to absorb gross smells, then brush out. OK, two more quick tips:
* Vinegar tip: I know this tip won’t be for everyone, but I swear by it so have to share: Stop using fabric softener and dryer sheets (they’re a fire hazard, bad for the environment, filled with toxins, pick your reason why) and start adding vinegar to the fabric softener component of your washing machine. Pet odors will disappear. As will gym odors, baby odors, and front-loading washer odors.
* Baking soda tip: If you have carpet or area rugs, get ready to take your dog on a super-long walk followed by a thorough outdoor groom! BUT! Before you go, sprinkle a thick coating of baking soda into your carpet. Work it in with a brush. Then, head out for the walk + groom. When you come back, vacuum it all up and breathe in the fresh, odor-free air. (Again, bonus if you can leave your windows open through this process.)
6. Groom your dog: Confession: I’m not as consistent as I should be with this because Cooper hates it, and I feel bad making him so miserable. But giving your dog–breed dependent, of course–a thorough brushing outdoors can eliminate a ton of indoor odor. Then, a bath–breed dependent, too–gets out the rest of the reek. Bonus points: Follow the bath up with an ACV rinse to have a fresh, clean, happy pup!
7. Clean accidents immediately: It might not always be possible, like if your pup pukes while you’re at work or something, but the quicker you catch an accident, the better you contain the smell. (Not to mention preventing stains.) Use enzymatic cleaners to prevent marking, of course, and spend some time getting to the root of the problem. Is your dog really, truly, fully house trained? Is there an underlying infection or belly problem? Unless you solve the problem that causes your dog to poop or pee in the house, you’ll never be fully odor-free… (That said, I totally get the occasional freak accident, puke, etc., but still. Figure out why your dog goes inside and work on that.)
Even if you’re a Crazy Dog Lady through and through, like I am, you still don’t want a stinky house. No one wants that. And the thing is, it doesn’t take much effort. The trick is being consistent and staying on top of it.
A final note on essential oils and pet care: I’m sure many of you are wondering about this piece. Lots and lots of people advise diffusing oils to eliminate odors. Many essential oils are safe for pets. Many aren’t. I’m not qualified to speak on this, not in the slightest. That said, we do have an oil diffuser, but I do not use it to eliminate pet odors. Period. Plus, all the oils we have–maybe six in total–have been thoroughly researched and shown to be safe to diffuse with both dogs and cats in the home. I wanted to address that up front and just caution you: You do you, but do it safely with lots of due diligence.