Pets Shed Constantly. Here’s How to Keep Up

If you are a pet owner, it’s likely you know this: pets shed constantly. A typical house cat can shed up to 75,000 hairs a day. If you are a typical human, you probably also know that you lack the time and the will to keep up with that kind of cleaning. As a result, pet hair builds up on floors and rugs, which can go from annoying to disgusting in a matter of days.

Many vacuum manufacturers offer special “pet hair” models, but Wirecutter, a New York Times Company that reviews products, has spent hundreds of hours of testing and confirmed that any decent vacuum can handle any amount of pet hair. Pet owners’ willingness to clean is the real limiting factor. So what are the best options?

Robot vacuums work best

Because robot vacuums work autonomously and can be set to clean daily or even multiple times a day, they’re better than any other type of vacuum at keeping pet hair from accumulating.

“Before the Roomba, we vacuumed once a week,” said Alex Arpaia, a staff writer at Wirecutter. “We run the Roomba two to three times a week, and there is a clear difference.” She said it’s also helpful for picking up errant litter. (See more in this guide to the best vacuums for pet hair.)

But robot vacuums have quirks that take getting used to. Much like the animals they’re cleaning up after, robot vacuums have a voracious appetite for unwholesome objects: loose electrical cords, socks, underwear, bits of food, balls of yarn, piles of excrement. Unlike pets, however, the vacuums are programmed to shut themselves off upon ingestion, and fixing them is as simple as removing the blockage — no tools (or vet trip) required. In any case, new owners quickly learn to keep such items off the floor.

And although robot vacuums are effective on most area rugs and short-pile carpets, their suction isn’t as powerful as that of manual vacuums. On top of that, they’re totally ineffective on high-pile rugs and carpets. So you should still have a manual vacuum on hand for occasional deep cleaning. Wirecutter’s guide to upright and canister vacuums looks at multiple models.

Cheaper options

If you’re not ready to take the plunge on a robovac, and if your home mostly has hard floors, a good dust mop is a great option. Wirecutter’s pick is the O-Cedar Dual-Action Microfiber Flip Mop, from its guide to brooms, dustpans, and dust mops. Its 18-inch-wide head sweeps a broad swath of floor with each pass, so cleaning a large room takes only a few minutes. The microfiber material is a magnet for pet hair and is washable and durable. The mop’s low-profile head and its long, lightweight handle allow it to reach all the way under large sofas and king-size beds — places where pet hair tends to accumulate, and where manual vacuums don’t reach.

Microfiber cloths are excellent for wiping pet hair off furniture. Chemical Guys makes highly regarded car-care products — Wirecutter recommends the company’s microfiber washing mitt in its guide to washing, waxing, and detailing your vehicle — and a 12-pack of its 16-inch-square towels costs less than $20. As with the mop head, you should wash these towels only with non-bleach detergent and avoid using fabric softener, which leaves behind a film that compromises microfiber’s performance.

For upholstery

Robot vacuums work only on floors, and most hand-held vacuums are too weak to clean pet hair off upholstery because they lack a rolling brush head. The attachments that come with a canister or upright vacuum work great, but a cordless stick vacuum makes the chore quicker and easier. These cordless vacuums are almost as powerful as their corded floor-vacuum counterparts but are much lighter and easier to handle. Wirecutter’s current top pick is the Dyson V7 because it delivers strong suction and long battery life, and because it handled better than anything else they tested.

So long as you mount the charger in a convenient location, a cordless stick vacuum remains ready to grab and go for any little mess. As a result, many people find themselves doing frequent quick cleanups instead of letting messes build up. And that helps keep pet hair from accumulating on floors, too.

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