BLOGS Ask the Animal Expert Ask Annie About Animals – Jan 2016

Dear Annie,

My mother always used bleach to clean everything when I was a child. She swore that it was the only thing that really killed the germs. Is that still true now? Is bleaching everything the best way to clean up after my pets if I want my house to be germ-free?

Clean Scene Jean

Dear Clean,

While I commend you for wanting to have a clean home, there are a number of concerns when using bleach. Surfaces must be washed first before bleach is applied since it becomes inactivated by organic debris. Bleach degrades over time, even in unopened bottles, so your solution must be mixed fresh daily. Take care when using and discarding bleach since it is toxic to aquatic life. It is very irritating to the skin, eyes, and lungs, so wearing gloves, mask, and eye protection is advised. Due to their smaller size and higher metabolism, our pets have an increased vulnerability to the toxic effects of bleach. They tend to lick their paws, and fur, where residual bleach can be harbored from walking on, and lying on, bleached surfaces. Confining a pet in a recently bleached area without adequate ventilation can have serious adverse effects on the respiratory system as well. Bleach also discolors fabrics and corrodes metal. Bleach, when used properly, kills germs. However, it also has the potential to kill, or injure, your pet. In 1993, in response to worldwide health and environmental concerns, the American Public Health Association called for a phase-out of chlorine, a sentiment echoed later by the Michigan State Medical Society. Bleach, with an EPA category I toxicity, only takes a few drops to a teaspoon to be ingested by a 150 pound person for toxic effects to occur. And by the way, bleach is banned in Europe.

Bleach is not the only intermediate level disinfectant listed by the EPA, however. Botanicals, such as thymol, are equally as effective, while at the same time being much safer. The EPA says, “thymol has minimal potential toxicity and poses minimal risk” and lists botanicals under the safest level, a category IV toxicity. Unlike bleach, botanicals are safe for aquatics and pose no environmental concerns. Thymol has been used throughout history and across the globe, from ancient Greeks to Native Americans. It has an extensive write-up in the 1898 King’s American Dispensatory. In a 1914 bulletin, the United States Bureau of Education recommends the use of thymol for cleaning hookworms from the intestines of children. Essential oils, such as thyme, rosemary, and basil, and derivatives from them such as thymol, are proven effective against E.coli, listeria, and salmonella bacteria. They are bactericidal, viricidal, and fungicidal. There are some very safe and effective botanical products available for purchase. One thyme-based brand is 99.99% effective against Rhinovirus, H1N1, Influenza A, E.coli, salmonella, staphylococcus, and pseudomonas.

Simple kitchen products can be utilized for safe and effective cleaning as well. Vinegar can wash your vegetables AND your floors. It kills E.coli, salmonella, and shigella bacteria. Following your vinegar wash with a hydrogen peroxide wash will increase your germ killing ability. But remember, your entire house does not need to be completely germ-free. Scrubbing with hot water and soap is generally adequate cleaning for most surfaces. In the war on germs, you can enjoy the sweet smell of victory without defeating your pet’s health.


Send your ‘Ask Annie About Animals’ questions to:
Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC
1657 S. Getty, Suite 28 Muskegon, MI 49442
or email your question to:

Annette_VidaAnnette Vida is a licensed veterinary technician with multi-species experience in day clinic, emergency clinic and mobile veterinary care facilities. She is also a certified dog trainer with 40 years experience. Annette has been involved with rescuing animals for decades and shares her home with her wonderful husband and many (rescued) animals. She owns and operates Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC, where she offers animal related consulting services and training. Her office is located at 1657 S. Getty, Ste 28, Muskegon, MI 49442. Call 231-740-3879 for an appointment—home consultations also available.

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