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May 21, 2012 8:52 AM   Subscribe

What methods have you used to reduce and clean up pet hair (cat picture included), human hair and human skin? I feel like I'm living in some sort of suffocating winter wonderland.

My household (we are renting a townhouse) consists of:

-Me and my 5 million hairs that shed all over the house
-My boyfriend and his moderate/severe psoriasis which causes flakes of skin to shed all over the house
-Our newHandsome Cat who has been shedding all over the house

Here are the details:

-Me and my hair: bought a hair catcher thing for the shower. But my hair is all over the bathroom floor, the bed, the couch and on my clothes.
-Boyfriend is on a 4 month waiting list to see a dermatologist. there aren't that many around here. His psoriasis is quite moderate, so it's not just one area; It's his whole head and body. The bed, couch, car, his clothing and the air is full of his skin particles.
-My cat doesn't like to be brushed. he lets me get a couple of strokes in and then he gets pissed. Like me, it seems like the more I brush him, the more hair sheds - and it never ends. He has short hair.

So, basically I have drag out the vacuum constantly and go through 600 sheets of lint roller paper a day. I gave up on dusting. If I were to dust all the dusty areas - it would take me about 4 hours every other day. Plus it seems like dusting only moves dust around and makes me sneeze 300 times.

Leaving the windows open is great but not when it's 90 degrees out.

So, what kind of tips and/or products can you recommend us?
My ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of dust/dander.

Please keep in mind that I rent, so I can't use advice I found in a previous askme that advised geting rid of carpeting (I wish!) or installing/modding huge equipment.
posted by KogeLiz to Home & Garden (37 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You have my sympathies! I have short-ish hair and two cats and I still find it a struggle to keep the hair and dust controlled. I dust using those disposable swiffer things -- they seem to do better at actually trapping the dust and not just moving it around. Then I vacuum afterwards (my theory is the dust falls to the ground, then the vacuum picks it up). Remember that you can vacuum your furniture, too -- get a hand-held vac with a battery so you can take it into the bathroom or the car, etc. Just don't get a cheapo dustbuster -- they're useless against pet hair. You need the kind that has little brushes at the end.
posted by chowflap at 9:00 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

For the cat, you can get one of a variety of brushes meant to remove as much loose fur as possible. It really does make a difference. They're usually called "deshedders."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:01 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could also try a number of the available hepa-filter based air cleaners; some of them are pretty darn good at catching large and small particulate matter. The only problem there is you might have to change the filters more often than you'd like. Certainly it won't catch all of your stuff, but it would probably be a step or so up from your current conditions. You could even get multiple units, but might not like the ambient noise everywhere.
posted by bitterkitten at 9:03 AM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sounds like my house - sigh. We have exactly the same set of problems.

Leaving the windows open is great but not when it's 90 degrees out.

This won't solve everything, but try an exhaust fan. Place a regular box fan in a window on the shady side of the house and aim it outward. We don't have A/C and we run one of these almost every day, in the evening into the night, to pull the warm air (and dust) out of the house and bring cool air through. It helps to some degree.

I don't vacuum every day, but I got a microfiber broom/mop sort of thing - looks like a Swiffer, but no disposable pieces - and that helps keep the floors looking OK without all the vacuuming fuss.

Clothes brushing used to be common and is a good way to get yourself presentable if you're wearing dark colors. Works better than a lint roller.
posted by Miko at 9:06 AM on May 21, 2012

For carpet, I bought a rubber carpet brush, and I use that. It actually works well on the cat hair & litter that accumulate on tile/vinyl flooring as well. Then all I need to do is vacuum up the piles. Obviously, I do vacuum the whole area periodically as well, but this helps for the daily stuff.
posted by kellyblah at 9:07 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have white sofas and black and brown kitties. I went to Ikea and bought some of those $2 throws and put them on the sofas where the kitties sit and look out the window. You can launder them, but it doesn't work very well. Frankly I think of them as disposable.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:08 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

The swiffer duster really is pretty awesome at actually picking up dusty bits instead of just swooshing them all over the rest of the house. I also personally shed enough to make a hairball mini-me at least once a week, and so far constant vacuuming is the only way I've been able to combat this. I thought about getting a roomba but then I'd have to pick up everything off the floor, so idek. One thing that does help a bit is when I use those cans of compressed computer cleaning air to blow all the shed hair into one corner where I can later vacuum it up.

Can the cat stand still for extensive petting and cuddling? I've seen those late nite infomercials for those brushing glove things where you trick your pets into thinking they're receiving only cuddles when in fact it is both cuddles AND brushing. No idea if they're any good, though.
posted by elizardbits at 9:08 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ah, I'm sorry, I missed the part where your cat doesn't like being brushed.

If he doesn't mind being PET, one thing that has worked for me to get rid of loose hair is to wet my hands a little, just enough that the fur sticks to them, and run my palms along my cat in a sort of purposeful petting potion. The fur that was about to be left on my couch would stick to my hands instead, and I could get quite a lot off of my cat this way without actually using a brush.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:09 AM on May 21, 2012

For you, increase your daily vitamin intake. If you're very healthy and are getting 100% of all the vitamins you need, your hair will shed less. Also, switch to satin or silk pillowcases and bedding, your hair will snag less and stay on your head overnight. If you don't already shower in the morning, start doing so, and comb through your hair in the shower with heavy conditioner to get the stragglers out. If you're feeling jaunty, there are a lot of really chic headscarf tutorials for hanging around the house. When I put my long hair up in a scarf to putter around on a weekend, I feel very rockabilly.

For your boyfriend, even though he's on a waiting list for a dermatologist, he'll be able to help minimize the flaking by taking cool showers instead of hot, and moisturizing. The more moist his flaky patches are, the less they'll flake off. By the way, be sure the derm takes his problem seriously. Some are sort of ho-hum about psoriasis and consider the plaques livable. He needs to be assertive about his need to de-flake.

For your cat, the furminator is your friend, stay strong, your cat doesn't have to like to get brushed to get brushed. The swiffer, too, as recommended above. A quick swiff around the house daily, especially in corners and on baseboards, helps things stay cleaner. But if it's an insurmountable amount of dust/hair/skin, and you have a birthday coming up or something or have some spare cash, check out the Roomba that's made for pet owners. Just run it every couple of days, be sure to clean it out, and let it do the work for you. Lots of people I know say it's the best investment they've made for their home to keep things clean.
posted by juniperesque at 9:12 AM on May 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

Some sort of hand-held vaccuum is a must, especially since hair and dust tends to accumulate in corners - you can do a quick stroll-n-suck around the perimeter of each room.

For your cat, I suggest you get a grooming mitt like this one - your cat might like the feeling more, and it has a large surface area that traps loose hair, which is super useful for shorthairs. (We have a shorthaired cat and a Furminator and while it gets rid of a ton of fur, the fur tends to come off in large fluffy clouds rather than sticking to the comb. I often take the lintroller straight to the cat after furminating him, to get rid of the excess.)

As for your own hair: in the shower, when your conditioner is soaking in, use your fingers to comb through your hair, gently but thoroughly. This will get out a good wad of loose hair for you to dispose of as you please. Cutting your hair short, if you're open to that, will mitigate the shedding as well.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:16 AM on May 21, 2012

I've got a few cats and after doing research bought this air purifier. I think it helps keep airborne particles down.

They love to lay in the same spots on the furniture and create these sort of hair mattresses from lost fur, which can be a pain when you want to sit down. I bought some cheap little seat cushions from Ikea and keep them on those spots. The cats think they are getting the royal treatment, but now I can just toss the hair cake aside when I want to sit and it is much easier to clean a few small cushions.
posted by orme at 9:16 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I go through this war as well. For my own hair, I've limited myself to combing or brushing only in the bathroom. Also...I got a short haircut.

Rubber dishwashing gloves work really well in picking hair up off the couch and other fabric surfaces. Way better than those lint-paper rollers, but not as good as vacuum attachments.

Get a Roomba to do daily vacuuming for you ( often has them on sale).

An air filter that can be scheduled to run automatically.

The Furminator is outrageously expensive for a cat brush, but it really works.
posted by hooray at 9:16 AM on May 21, 2012

1) Seconding the grooming mitt. I've never seen a cat say no to it.

2) My mom's battle against cat hair is won with throws and couch covers. Unlike Ruthless Bunny, she gets good quality ones (try the thrift shop if you're looking for cheap) and washes them every week or so. She washes the couch covers every-so-often, but keeping the throws on protects the couch covers for the most part.

3) For your hair, try switching shampoos. I switched to Wen a few months ago (after a year of my mom raving about it, my cousin independently started it and loved it). My family all has long, thick hair, and OMG it reduces fall-out drastically!!! I used to have huge clumps of hair in the shower drain (as normal amount of fallout without my hair thinning, you know I'm sure). Now, I have such a small amount (it doesn't even clog the shower any more, yay! My bf's roommate, who has maybe 2" long hair, has more shower fallout than I do, and my hair is a few inches past my shoulders. It still seems to get everywhere, don't get me wrong, it's just 90% less volume of everywhere. My (wood) floor is no longer covered in hair, it's wonderful! And, as a "side benefit," my hair is smoother, shinier, and easier to style.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:24 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just popping in to say, depending on what your cats eat, improving their diet might help. We switched from some regular brand (I can't remember now) to Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance (which is not even the most hippie of crazy cat people hippie foods, just the one our cats liked) and our cats' fur and therefore their shedding improved. They still shed - but just less.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:28 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Generally it's advisable in these cases to double the regularity with which your cleaning person visits.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:32 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

RJ Reynolds: "Generally it's advisable in these cases to double the regularity with which your cleaning person visits."

I think the cleaning person lives there full time and wrote this question...

Money saving tip: Forget the lint roller. Get a roll of duct tape. Cut off a piece about 8-10" long and make a circle of it with the sticky part on the outside. Use as you would a lint brush. Costs less and works better.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:43 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you can afford a vacuum with a water basin, like the Rainbow, it really does seem to help at least with the problems of dust being kicked up when you vacuum and dust seems to stay away longer. Similarly, I find that when I dust, wetting the dust first makes it less of an allergy issue. YMMV.
posted by eleanna at 9:43 AM on May 21, 2012

I just bought a good vacuum and I run it every day. It has upholstery attachments that make getting hair off fabric a breeze. I also vacuum the dog beds, shelves, baseboards and occasionally the dogs themselves. I have the old vacuum downstairs so I don't have to lug anything around. I also have a cordless stick vac for hunting hair balls on the hardwood. And a rubber brush, a steam mop for quick cleaning and a Hoover floormate for serious cleaning. The vacuums and steam mop are strategically placed around the house to make a quick cleanup feasible.

Sounds insane but it keep everything under control.
posted by fshgrl at 9:58 AM on May 21, 2012

"Generally it's advisable in these cases to double the regularity with which your cleaning person visits."
Mr. Reynolds, I have taken your advice and have asked my janitorial staff to increase their hours at my estate. This should take care of my dust issues.

Okay, I am now looking at $700 worth of products on Amazon. There are quite a few ideas mentioned that I will be trying to implement! I'm still trying to decide if I want to invest in a Roomba or high quality air filter.
posted by KogeLiz at 10:10 AM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding the FURminator. For what it's worth, my cats like it quite a bit more than a regular brush. You never know with cats...
posted by Juffo-Wup at 10:11 AM on May 21, 2012

I realize that I sound flip above (talking about the cleaning person) but this:

"If I were to dust all the dusty areas - it would take me about 4 hours every other day."

Correct! It would. So let me expand: I'm worried about how much time already is spent cleaning by the residents of this household. (I'm also worried about the waiting time for a dermatologist. Ack. Can he be sent out of town??? Poor fellow!)

Anyway, I'm sure you have done your own time/value calculation regarding cleaning, but often having things done professionally is less expensive than people think--particularly in states like yours.

When I do that math, I find that I am more likely to make more money—enough money to pay someone to come clean even!—if I have five more hours in a day. That is time I can use. And there are lots of people without estates who find the math works out for them. :)

I'm saying these things because lots of us were brought up to think some things are "rich people things" or they are "for other people" or "just not possible" and that's not always true.

In any event, if that's not the case there--and it often isn't, to be fair--it would also not be crazy to have someone come in just once to nuke the house top to bottom for spring. (The cats are shedding everywhere here! I have cat hair in my mouth right now!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:25 AM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

This doesn't do anything to solve your immediate problem, but if Handsome Cat is a new addition, it may comfort you to know that he is probably at his shedding-est right now. My three cats are definitely shedding much more than usual since it's spring.
posted by duien at 10:40 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Long time FURminator owner here. It's great but just with anything you have to be consistent with it. I could spend an hour with my cat doing this ever few weeks, or, just a small bit every few days.

I did try the Roomba and quickly sold it, it's just not strong enough and was far too much hassle for what it cleaned. I'm a gadget guy but this just didn't work for me. With house keeping there isn't a magic way to make it clean, it's just plain work. Some tools like a good vacuum will be of great help as well as good dusting clothes but you still have to operate them in a consistent manner and not get behind.
posted by firetruckred at 10:41 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is what I do (one girl withe long, curly hair that falls out a lot and flakey skin, one cat, one dog)

- Zoom Groom the cat at least every other day. He LOVES it, which helps. It is great for getting all the loose hair off everything. $6

- Swiffer Dusters - I run a duster over hard surfaces (besides countertops) about once per week.

- Wipe down counter tops every day.

- Roomba running pretty much all the time.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:41 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing Metroid Baby. we have a DustBuster and I think it's probably one of the best inventions around. it's a lot easier than lugging the vacuum cleaner out everyday
posted by gt2 at 11:44 AM on May 21, 2012

My mom runs a housekeeping business, and she always suggests to people with animal hair problems to get a roomba and run it every day. They don't replace a regular vacuum, since they don't work amazingly well, but they do a great job of keeping animal hair and dust at bay if you use it regularly. Just turn it on each morning before you leave the house if you don't want to be bothered by the noise, and clean out the dirt trap when you get home. This way you don't have to pull out the full size vacuum nearly as often just to keep things manageable.
posted by markblasco at 11:52 AM on May 21, 2012

I have found the Scotch Fur Fighter to be the most effective device ever to get dog hair off of our couch and other furniture. It's basically like velcro you can run over your couch.
posted by fyrebelley at 12:04 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

it would also not be crazy to have someone come in just once to nuke the house top to bottom for spring.

Oh I know. We thought about it, but we both feel uncomfortable having people in our place. But I'm really starting to change my mind about it. !
posted by KogeLiz at 12:22 PM on May 21, 2012

I double up with a Dyson and a Roomba, both of which filter their exit air pretty well.

Even after running the Dyson, the Roomba (since it goes under more furniture) still gets an amazing amount of fur. Running it once per day manages to keep the fur/hair situation under much better control. Even though it doesn't do the "best" job, just having a robot vacuum to take up the slack has been worth it. FYI it'll stall if it sucks up a cat toy and gets it jammed in the brush.

If you're not sold on the Roomba, wait until one shows up on Woot - they do fairly often for roughly $150.

Furminator - give kitty lots of treats and distract him with treats while you furminate. It'll get him acclimated to it and let you do it more often.

Depending on how much fur you get out, run the brush down him 1-4x before pulling off the clump with your other hand. More than that, and it'll start exiting back onto him or flying about in big fluffy clouds (as someone mentioned above). With this approach, I usually remove about a kitten sized clump of fur from my cats at one go before they get too huffy to stick around.

Could you comb or brush your own hair a couple times per day? If it's coming off a lot, that'll get the "almost" ones before they jump frantically from your head.
posted by bookdragoness at 1:06 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might think about getting your thyroid tested if you feel your hair loss is truly excessive. That can be a symptom (I forget whether of hyper-, hypo-, or both).
posted by désoeuvrée at 1:22 PM on May 21, 2012

For dusting, you might want to consider a premium-quality black ostrich feather duster.

You can teach your cat to tolerate brushing if he likes affection or treats. Start with short amounts of time on a regular basis, using a soft brush and giving him lots of petting and/or treats while you do it. Gradually increase the amount of time. The key is to make it a pleasant activity for him.
posted by moira at 1:44 PM on May 21, 2012

Roomba, Swiffer, hand-held vac, grooming mitt, put down microfiber cloths where the cat hangs out, if puss will think he's on some special royal seating arrangement and stay there. Air purifier if you can afford it.

If you can, get into the habit of a quick run across the vinyl flooring in the bathroom and kitchen right before you go to bed. This is not a good job, don't worry about corners. Just get the bulk of the stuff off the middle of the floor. It takes me less than two minutes. With two dogs, three cats, four horses, and a garden doing this even every other day keeps things manageable. I tell myself I have to do it every other day, and that makes it a certainty I'll get it done several times a week. I also leave the dust mop out in a corner. Better looking at a dust mop than and a floor that is hairier than one of the critters. And I can always tell visitors, oops, you caught me tidying up.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:08 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ok. I have psoriasis and shed skin flakes everywhere too.
Here's what me and the boyfriend do:

We sweep the floors almost every day. When I sweep, I don't try to be perfect, I just try to get the bulk of the flakes done. In a one bedroom apartment, this takes about 10 minutes. I've avoided having carpet for many years. I own a roomba and we use it occasionally - I find that I have to pre-sweep if I don't want it to get filled immediately. A cheap air filter that I think was recommended on metafilter, was to take a box fan and put an AC filter on it and run it constantly. We tried this for a while and it may have worked but I'm not sure.

I tend to shed the most flakes in a few areas: where I take my clothing off and in bed. If you can identify his zones of greatest flakiness, you can get him to clean them immediately thus decreasing the amount of flake in the house.

Psoriasis general advice: find a lotion that his skin can handle. Cetaphil worked for me. Have him lotion up twice a day on all his flakey surfaces. Until he can get his appointment (boo for long waiting periods for things like this), he might want to find a way he can increase his sun exposure. Don't go crazy and go tanning, just make sure that his flakey bits get some sunshine on a regular basis.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:39 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

whoops, I forgot to write that the Roomba definitely makes a difference in the air quality.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:44 PM on May 21, 2012

Another "nay" vote on the Roomba. I've been through a couple and (like firetruckred) found them a PITA to use around pet fur and long hair. It needs constant babysitting and cleaning, which negated any time saved over regular vacuuming. Try a non-electric floor sweeper instead -- much less expensive and will probably do a better job on your carpets than a Roomba.

I also second the motion for you to make use of sofa covers and kitty cushions. Any preventative measures you take will make you much happier in the long run. And if the covers and cushions aren't soiled, but just covered with hair, toss them in the dryer as needed and save yourself some more time. This will also kill the dust mites that are making you sneeze.

As for your boyfriend's psoriasis, that's a tricky one. Google has lots of suggestions on "natural home remedies" for psoriasis, but as with any of those types of "cures", you'll want to take the suggestions with a grain of salt and use your best judgement. What can't hurt is to have him switch to the gentlest type of soap and natural detergents he can tolerate and to do his very best to keep his skin moisturized and happy. Perhaps he can use jojoba oil on his damp skin after each shower and apply throughout the day to any dry patches that appear. Good luck.

I'll also advocate for HEPA air purifiers -- they're really awesome at not just keeping your air clean and allergies at bay -- if you place them in high traffic rooms throughout your house, they will save you a ton of vacuuming. You don't have to get fancy though; this small Hunter works really well in small to medium sized rooms (as long as you vacuum the carbon insert regularly and change the filter when needed). Bonus: they make excellent white noise machines as well.

Oh -- and those microfiber mops are the bomb. I rarely have to vacuum my wood and tile floors because mine does such a great job if I use it daily (buy extra pads though). One side has a smooth side for "sweeping" and the other side has more nap/tooth to it for mopping. After sweeping, you can either pick the cat hair and stuff off first and flip it to the other side, then wet it and mop your floors or use one pad and toss the dirty one aside and mop with one of your spares. These things aren't gonna sterilze your floors or anything, but they're a real time saver when it comes to keeping floors tidy on a day to day basis.

Good luck!
posted by LuckySeven~ at 3:09 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Re: dusting. I'm confronting this issue, and am considering moving toward having lots of cabinets instead of open shelves, and putting doors on the bookcases. That way, the contents don't need dusting, and the cabinets should be easy to dust.
posted by amtho at 3:41 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

One thing about the Swiffer many people don't think of: you can use them on the walls and ceiling, too. Wet Swiffers do a great -- albeit disturbing -- job on kitchen ceilings.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:49 PM on May 27, 2012

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