If you live in a pet-friendly household, you know how fun, funny and endearing a pet can be to have around. Developing a close bond with a cat or dog can help reduce your blood pressure and give you a more positive outlook on life, too. It isn't all romps in the park and peekaboo games with the catnip mouse, though. With all that unflagging devotion and unqualified acceptance comes lots of pet hair. Why, oh why does your favorite fur ball have to shed so darned much, anyway? Isn't life tough enough just making sure he eats a balanced diet and gets his shots on time?
When the dust bunnies under your couch start to look furry enough to warrant a call to the exterminator, we have some suggestions that will make it easier to control pet hair and breathe a sigh of relief -- without the risk of coughing up a hairball.
Cover the surfaces your pet uses frequently with blankets and area rugs. More hair on washing machine friendly surfaces like slipcovers and mats will mean less hair in your carpeting and furniture -- and less wear and tear on your vacuum cleaner, too. Consider it a decorating challenge. Interior designers are doing great things with washable slipcovers and accent rugs these days. You can add some seasonal flare to your décor while putting down makeshift fur traps. Hey, this could be an excuse to redecorate!
Here's a washing tip: Throw hair laden cover ups in your clothes dryer with a fabric softener sheet for 10 minutes before washing. The tumble cycle and softener will loosen lots of hair you can later empty from the lint trap. Adding liquid water softener to the wash cycle will release more stubborn hairs into your wash water, too.
Hair-proof Your Home
If you want pets but are determined to keep your home a pet hair-free zone, try outfitting your rooms with furnishings that are naturally hair resistant. As you might guess, this includes products made with slick or anti-static materials. Hair just slides off to be vacuumed up later. Here are some examples:
- hardwood, laminate, tile or vinyl floors -- This is a hint that wall-to-wall carpeting can be a challenge to maintain if you have a pet that sheds a lot.
- leather -- Opt for top grain leather or brushed leather if scratching is (or might be) a problem.
- heavy duty cotton fabric
You might also try camouflaging pet hair until you can tidy up. Think furnishings in muted tones or prints that blend with your pet's coloration. This might sound silly, but if you love Fido (Max or Sasha), and are in the market for a new couch, it's something to think about.
Take the DIY Approach
Diligent housekeepers have come up with lots of ways to gather up wayward pet hair. Some are more effective than others, though. Here are a few you might want to try:
- Lint pick-up rollers -- You know those adhesive rollers designed to remove lint from clothing? They're pretty effective at removing pet hair from furniture and draperies. They're economical, and replacement sticky rolls are available for standard-sized wands. You can buy them in bulk, too.
- Rubber glove scrub -- This hands-on method relies on rubber gloves and water. Put the gloves on and moisten them with a spritz of water. Wipe the hair laden areas in your home and watch the hair come up like magic. Rinse the gloves in a bucket of water as needed. A variation of this method uses a dense sponge instead of gloves.
- Dryer sheets -- Static clean sheets applied directly to furniture can also help release hair from fabric, but they may leave a shiny residue. Test an inconspicuous area before using this suggestion on your furniture, carpeting or draperies. Instead of a softener sheet, you can use a little liquid fabric softener in a spray bottle filled with water. Spritz and wipe.
- The lazy sock method -- If you find mounds of pet hair on your kitchen floor in the morning or when you get home from work, "skate" around your kitchen while wearing athletic socks (or get your kids to do it). The advantage of using this trick is that it doesn't stir up the hair like vacuuming or sweeping can. It's also a fast chore you can perform before meal prep that will keep pet hair from becoming an ingredient in your recipes.
Use the Vacuum
If you have pets, you're no stranger to the wonders of vacuum cleaning. Some vacuums are more durable and better at removing pet hair than others, though. Suction is important, but so are factors like ease of use, belt endurance and agitator brush effectiveness. Before you buy a new vacuum, take a look at what some of the independent testing labs like Consumer Reports have to say about the newest vacuum cleaners on the market. Effectiveness at picking up pet hair is included in most vacuum cleaner rating summaries. You'll also discover that some manufacturers offer models specifically designed to tackle pet hair. We admit this sounds pretty promising, but it may be more hype than anything else, so do your homework before you buy.
To get the best performance from your current vacuum cleaner, change the bag often. In most conventional vacuums, the bag acts as the onboard filter. The unit functions less effectively when the bag is full. Keep the wand or agitator brushes clean, too. Pet hair can get tangled in the cleaning brushes of your vacuum, especially if your pet has long hair.
The way you clean can also have an impact on how well your vacuum handles pet hair removal. Some experts recommend going over each area of your carpet three times in alternating directions to loosen and eliminate embedded hair. It's a good idea to overlap your strokes slightly as you work, too.
If pet hair is piling up in drifts along your baseboards or swirling through your rooms like dust every time the air conditioner kicks on, then performing a little after-the-fact hair cleanup may not be enough to solve your pet hair problems. This is especially true when the seasons change and your pet's undercoat is adapting to warmer or cooler conditions. Your pet may be dropping hair like a nor'easter drops snow, and there's a good chance there's plenty more where that came from.
Dead coat is hair that's still in your pet's soft undercoat but not attached to his skin. When your pet is a big shedder, there's probably quite a bit of "dead coat" ready to drop onto your floors and furniture every time your pet turns around, sits down or -- breathes. Think of it as tomorrow's vacuuming project in the making. There's good news and bad news here: The bad news is that some pets can shed copious amounts of undercoat hair in spring and fall (but you probably already know that). The good news is that regular grooming can liberate dead coat pretty easily before it becomes a housecleaning nightmare.
These tips will help:
- The more you brush your pet, the more dead coat hair you'll be able to trap and dispose of -- before it makes it into your carpet.
- Consider vacuuming your pet. Yes, you can vacuum the hair right off your pet. Your cat may take offence at the indignity, but some dogs actually like being vacuumed, especially if you introduce them to a vacuum cleaning routine when they're young.
- Giving your pet a bath regularly will help loosen dead coat and make it easier to brush out.
- A deshedding tool can help loosen and remove hair that a brush or comb misses, so consider adding one to your pet grooming kit.
HowStuffWorks finds out how often you should wash your coffee cup or mug to avoid germs.
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