We are, however, happy for them to take place in gardens that are large enough to facilitate safe social distancing.
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are among the worst offenders and are found in a huge selection of common products intended for everyday use (Read more at: The Green Home website). Products containing these chemicals are not only damaging to human health, but also to the health of our much-loved pets. The immediate effect of contact on a dog or cat’s health might be eye, skin or gastric irritation, while long-term ingestion may contribute to or cause a variety of serious and potentially irreversible health conditions. Think about it, you mop your floor with one of those off the shelf “guaranteed to kill all germs” products, your dog or cat walks across it while it’s wet and then proceeds to lick his/her paws - it doesn’t take a genius to see how this situation could quickly develop into something unpleasant.
Avoiding products with VOCs is only half the battle, however - as we’ve discovered - because the vast majority of cleaning agents touted as ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘environmentally friendly’ or ‘non-allergenic’ (or, indeed, sometimes all of the above) still contain ingredients that could be considered unsafe for pets. Specifically, many cleaners in this category use citrus derivatives to provide fragrance/scent and there’s plenty of information out there warning of the dangers of citrus toxicity to cats and dogs.
They may also include essential oils such as tea tree for its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and lavender for both antibacterial and fragrant properties. Cats and dogs are unable to metabolise these compounds and ingestion can cause liver damage and, ultimately, death if large quantities are involved.
So, what, you ask, can the conscientious pet owner use to keep his/her house clean and pong-free? It’s a good question and one that, to date, we’ve only been able to come up with a single answer to: white vinegar. Apologies if this isn’t a revelation to you and it’s something you’ve always known but for the best part of my life, vinegar has been something I’ve either put on my chips or added to a salad dressing. For everybody else, yes, I hear your doubts and I sense your hesitancy, but really, simple white vinegar is something of a marvel when it comes to home sanitising.
Unquestionably, the smell is initially quite strong and off-putting but it fades rapidly as it dries and not only does it shift dirt, but it does a mighty impressive jobs of removing odours. You can imagine how smelly a dog walker’s van gets, especially in winter (no, strike that, you can’t possibly imagine how bad a dog walker’s van smells at the end of a week where it’s done nothing but rain) but exposed to the deodorising powers of white vinegar, it quickly smells of nothing (yes, believe it or not, no smell can actually be indicative of cleanliness; although, cleaning product manufacturers have done a pretty good job of convincing everybody that things can’t possibly be clean unless they reek of some hideous, laboratory-created perfume).
Apparently, it’s a good germ killer as well. Regular white vinegar designed for human consumption is a five per cent concentration of acetic acid and, according to sources, is capable of killing up to 80% of bacteria but stronger concentrations capable of tackling a higher percentage are available*. We buy ours from the Unicorn grocery in Chorlton, mainly because we like their ethics and we shop there for food anyway but some supermarkets stock it on their cleaning product aisles and it’s definitely available at good old Wilko.
Now when we clean the inside of our van we do it with a clear conscience, knowing that not only will it be largely free of bacteria and contagions but also of VOCs, petroleum derivatives, and dangerous fragrances (both artificial and natural) making it an altogether safer environment for its regular canine occupants.
*NB: White vinegar may not be strong enough to kill bordetella bronchiseptica, the bacteria that can lead to development of Kennel Cough. In suspected or confirmed cases of either the bacteria or the subsequent virus, the heat of a steam cleaner may be necessary to destroy these pathogens and prevent them spreading to other dogs.
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