Household Cleaning Products That Are NOT Safe for Dogs

Most common cleaners are toxic to pets -- and people. We point you to some alternatives.

Dog with cleaning supplies.
Photography by WilleeCole on Thinkstock.

Many of us use household cleaning products that are not exactly safe for dogs. Ingredients such as bleach, ammonia, chlorine, glycol ethers, and formaldehyde — found in common household cleaners such as Pine-Sol, Mr. Clean, Clorox Bathroom Cleaner, Scrubbing Bubbles, Windex, Tide, and Cheer — can be toxic to adults and children, but pets are particularly at risk for things such as cancer, anemia, and liver and kidney damage, according to studies that include data on pets. Here’s what you need to know.

Toxic Ingredients That Aren’t Safe for Dogs

Avoid purchasing or using products that include these ingredients:

  • Ammonia — Used in many degreasers for ovens, glass, and stainless steel, ammonia burns mucous membranes and contributes to asthma. If it is mixed with bleach, it creates a poisonous gas, which can be deadly to small animals.
  • Chlorine — Used in disinfectants, toilet bowl cleaners, and automatic dish detergent, chlorine is also used to bleach coffee filters or clean pools. It can cause dizziness, vomiting, and laryngeal edema. Avoid this ingredient, and be careful about letting your pet swim in the pool.
  • Glycol ethers — Found in glass cleaners, carpet cleaners, and spot removers; linked to anemia, lung damage, and kidney damage in people and pets.
  • Formaldehyde — Used in products such as soaps and even some pet shampoos; a carcinogen that can contribute to asthma.

Cleaning Products That Are Not Safe for Dogs (and a Few Alternatives!)

Here are a household cleaners that are not safe for dogs, with some alternatives:

  • Floor Cleaners — These include Pine-Sol and Mr. Clean. Even if you manage to get all of the residue off the floor, the vapor lingers and is dangerous to your pet.
  • Bathroom Cleaners — These include Clorox Bathroom Cleaner and Scrubbing Bubbles. Try a product such as Ecover Bathroom Cleaner instead. And never use a continuous toilet bowl cleaner such as Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner. The temptation to drink out of the toilet is a quirk in many of our pups (and cats!).
  • All-Purpose Cleaners — The most common toxic, all-purpose cleaners that scream “Danger!” are Mr. Clean Multi-Purpose Spray and Formula 409.
  • Drain Openers — You may think that since this product is poured down the drain, it can’t be harmful to your pet. But the toxic drain openers give off dangerous fumes long after you’ve emptied them. For a nontoxic, pet-safe option, try Earth Friendly Enzymes Drain Opener.
  • Glass Cleaners — It may seem that glass cleaners, as seemingly “simpler” products, are safe, but don’t be fooled. Instead of something like Windex, try a product such as Nature Clean Window and Glass Cleaner.
  • Laundry Detergent — Laundry detergent can leave residue on clothes and pet blankets, which can be harmful to your pet, especially those who chew on their bedding. Avoid detergents with toxic ingredients like Tide and Cheer and try something like Down East’s Liquid Laundry Detergent.

If you do decide to keep toxic cleaners that are not safe for dogs, make absolutely sure they are put away. Put child safety locks on cabinet doors or put cleaners up as high as possible. Never use them when your pet is in the same room, air out the house after cleaning with them, and never leave any residue. Remember, even when the toxic cleaners are stored and closed, the vapors left behind can continue to harm both us and our pets. The warning signs are clear; we recommend making pet-safe cleaning products a rule around the house.

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