Pets and People

Best Household Cleaning Products to Manage Pet Dander

posted: 05/15/12
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Pet ownership has many high points -- companionship, stress relief, unconditional love -- but the daunting amount of dander your furry friend can shed is not among them. Those tiny particles can make a pet-filled home seem less like a blessing and more like a curse, especially if you or someone in your household is allergy-prone. Generally a mixture of dead skin and dried proteins, dander is what triggers pet allergies. It also can be tough to get rid of, because it has a tendency to grab hold of everything it lands on, refusing to let go -- at least not without a fight.

Start with the Basics

You can tackle many household surfaces, including baseboards, ceilings and walls, simply by wiping them down on a regular basis with a basic all-purpose cleaner and hot water combination. This approach should be fairly easy on the wallet. Even if you're trying to keep it cheap, though, make sure to at least dampen your dust cloth with a little water. Dry dusting just kicks the dander back up into the air, giving it the opportunity to settle elsewhere.

Sprays and solutions used for eradicating dust mites may also be helpful, since pet dander collects within dust, and these products -- which contain active ingredients like benzyl benzoate or tannic acid -- can be effective in breaking down dust and its contents. If you're afraid, however, that harsh chemicals in traditional products may cause eye or lung irritation for family members and pets, there are also several eco-friendly cleaning solutions on the market. These are typically made from non-toxic, plant-based ingredients and naturally occurring minerals and are said to be as effective as regular cleaners.

Don't Forget the Details

To remove dander from furniture, there are now a number of lint-type brushes and rollers on the market that incorporate the use of rubber or adhesive sheets specifically for the removal of dander-filled pet hair. Sometimes you can shampoo upholstery to get it squeaky clean as well. Items such as carpets and drapes also tend to collect a great deal of dander, so you may need to clean these surfaces more frequently in order for your efforts to be most effective. This is particularly true when you're dealing with cat dander, which contains a protein called Fel D1, a particularly potent allergen. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, even if kitty is physically removed from the premises, it can take up to six months to completely get rid of these particles.

Never underestimate the number of things you can add to your laundry list. Many slipcovers, rugs and drapes are machine-washable, and there are non-toxic detergents available that can remove dander from these items, clothing and bedding without the use of harsh chemicals. If you have a lot of carpet and other textiles in your home, it also might be a good idea to invest in a vacuum with a High Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) filter. This may be more of an investment than most basic cleaning products, but it's specifically engineered to remove allergens from surfaces, and therefore deserves a spot on the supply list. Also, consider picking up a pair of gloves and a surgical-type face mask to wear while cleaning, since you'll most likely kick up some dander particles in the process.

Remember the Source

Don't forget to clean the original source of the dander as well: Giving your pet a regular bath will help control the amount it's carrying around on its skin and fur, just waiting to shed and become airborne. To this end, there are many anti-dander shampoo options on the market for dogs and cats. Typically, these products contain ingredients like sulfur and salicyclic acid to help slough off dead skin cells, but there are also some eco-friendly shampoo formulas that are plant-based and biodegradable.

Keeping dander under control is going to take a little planning, along with some elbow grease, but if you know the proper tools and products to use on each area of your home, it doesn't have to be an insurmountable problem.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. "Tips to Remember: Indoor Allergies." 04/08/2010.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. "Pet Allergies." 04/08/10.⊂=18&cont=236

Brody, Jane E. "Learning to Live with Your Pet (and Breathe, Too)." 05/16/2006.

Global Healing Center. "How to Eliminate Pet Dander." Mayo Clinic. "Pet Allergies: Lifestyle and Home Remedies." Nash, Dr. Holly. "Dog Shampoos: The Function of Common Ingredients." Veterinary Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc. Simple Green. "Product Comparison." United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Dust Mites." 04/09/2010.

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