By Eric Stenson
Pets bring us many hours of love and companionship. They also can bring us some hellacious messes of various sorts. Sensitivities to the ingredients in many typical household cleaning products mean that natural alternatives often can present safe substitutes to tidy up your home without putting your four-footed friends at risk.
According to a PetMD blog, chemicals found in cleaners can cause physical harm to pets, including sneezing, coughing, nasal and eye discharge, salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy, seizures and even death. These chemicals include phenols, phthalates, formaldehyde, bleach, isopropyl alcohol and perchloroethylene.
The Skout’s Honor line includes a variety of cleaning and neutralizing products for urine, stain and odors as well as a toy and bowl cleaner. And, according to the company’s website, it soon will be introducing a spray for eliminating skunk odors. The company’s products are enzyme free, and the website describes them as “the next generation of green cleaning technology.”
“I think we will continue to see a gradual move away from the traditional enzyme cleaners that have dominated the market for so long,” said Pete Stirling, chief operating officer at Skout’s Honor in Irvine, California. “We are in the middle of a green chemical revolution, and pet cleaning companies should be leading the pack. Effective, natural solutions are a great way for the dedicated pet retailer to separate themselves from food, drug and mass retailers.”
To Stirling, maintaining a steady customer focus is what makes the difference in being a successful manufacturer and distributor.
“It isn’t enough to simply have a better product,” he said. “We need to be a better company, earn the customer’s respect and make decisions that will positively benefit the brand-consumer relationship for the long haul.”
The Norm is Natural
Biokleen of Vancouver, Washington, offers its line of Bac-Out products, which, according to its website, “offer a unique and synergistic blend of live enzyme-producing cultures that naturally break down stains and odors.” The offerings include fabric refreshers, surface and floor cleaner, stain and odor remover, and rug shampoo.
“We have three simple criteria for all of our product innovation efforts,” said Ted Morgan, Biokleen’s director of marketing. “First, all products must be plant- and mineral-based. Second, they must be safe for pets, families and the environment. And, third, they must work.”
Morgan envisions a time when natural cleanup products won’t just be a niche but instead will become the mainstream.
“We believe that a day will come when all cleaning products are plant- and mineral-based,” he said. “There is overwhelming data that the wellness trend is driving growth in nearly all retail channels.”
Pure Ayre of Kent, Washington, makes a general odor eliminator for pets and a specialty skunk odor eliminator.
“Whenever I spray something in the air or on a surface, being food grade, it’s a safe product for anybody—[like those with] food allergies, asthma, sensitivities,” said Alice Pfaff, North American sales manager for Pure Ayre. “But does it work? Yes, it’s an enzyme product. It’s a contact product, which means it works on air odors. But if I have a new puppy and if it’s going on the carpet, it absorbs odors. It breaks apart what’s causing the odor, does not just mask it. It makes the odor go away, it does not add a scent to the mix.”
Indeed, Pfaff expresses such confidence in her company’s product that she maintains it can even be sprayed directly on pets.
“It’s safe, natural, powerful, versatile,” she said. “There are so many different uses. With my dog, I can spray her head. You can use it on the nose and the mouth.”
When it comes to controlling pet messes, there is more to it than just cleaning up after them. The Bark Potty replicates the dog park experience indoors, allowing your canine to answer the call of nature in a pastoral environment without having to brave the great outdoors.
“My wife and I used potty pads with our indoor dogs but hated the piles and piles of unrecyclable waste we generated on a daily basis when using potty pads,” said Zack Norman, co-CEO of Inglewood, California-based Bark Potty LLC. “We wanted to make a natural solution and ended up making something that works even better because not only is it easier to train, we built it to last weeks, not days.”
All Bark Potty parts are either fully recyclable or are natural and compostable, Norman said. Sustainability and effectiveness were keys in the product’s development, he added.
“It needed to neutralize odors, be easy to train, and replace up to 60 pads,” he said. “We achieved these requirements with our secret fibrous bark fill.”
Norman says the Bark Potty has been enthusiastically received by dog owners, and the company maintains training videos on YouTube so owners can help their canine companions get the hang of using the product.
Of course, even with the winter weather, your dogs will need to go outside eventually. For pet owners who want to clean up their pet’s business while keeping green, Veejay Patel has an answer.
BioDOGradable of Rancho Santa Margarita, California, makes dog-waste pickup bags and cat-litter cleanup bags from bioplastics designed for compostability and biodegradation.
“The transition into the pet industry was not an overnight decision, but instead a decision that resulted from many years of working with plastics and learning that they are truly detrimental to our planet,” said Patel, director of operations for BioDOGradable and a plastics engineer by training. “My love and concern about nature has motivated me to continue pursuing sustainable management and environmental science. This transition placed bioplastics technology in my palms. Immediately, I knew that I would want to create a product that would help reduce plastic pollution.”
Patel is expanding his product line, including recently beginning production of home pet waste composters, starting preorder sales during the first quarter of 2018. This composter turns organic waste along with pet waste when used with BioDOGradable bags into compost, which then can be used for gardening.
From a retailer perspective, Doug Staley, owner of Pet Palace in New City, New York, says that pet owners are increasingly looking for cleanup products that work without negative side-effects to pets.
Brands he carries include Simple Solution, Nature’s Miracle and Pure Ayre. He says enzymes play a big role in effectiveness, as they help prevent the pet from returning to the same spot to make another mess.
With 35 years of experience in the pet supply business, he predicts that the market for natural cleaning products will continue to expand.
“People are looking for alternatives,” he said. “It will be a good portion of the business until they develop dogs that clean up after themselves.”