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(MCT)—If you have a cat or dog at home, you know pet smells and stains are just a fact of life. Before you reach for a product filled with unwanted chemicals to clean up after them, Do Your Part and consider a few safer options for your pet and your family.

One of the most effective and economical options is to use baking soda. Sprinkle the powder in litter boxes to prevent smells. For stains, a paste made with baking soda and water can be used on carpets and many fabrics to remove the evidence and to deodorize.

Club soda is another easy and economical carpet saver. Its bubbly action will help bring the stain up to the surface so you’ll be able to simply blot the residue away with a rag. Go further to neutralize the smell by sprinkling baking soda on the area after it dries. Simply vacuum clean after an hour or two.

Vinegar is another favorite of mine when it comes to cleaning up from pets. White vinegar will help you not only kill bacteria; it will also deodorize the area. Spray it on, let it set for several minutes, and then scrub the spot until the stain releases. Lemon juice can also be used to neutralize offending odors.

Then there are some safer store-bought options. Clean and Green offers pet specific cleaning products that work wonders on tough spots including leather. I’ve tried it on my own stained leather chair with great results. They also have non-toxic fabric deodorizers that are good for places where your pets like to hang out.

If you need a large area rug or carpets cleaned, look for eco-friendly carpet cleaning companies. There are more green carpet cleaners now than ever. Ask specifically what process the company uses and what is in the solutions being applied to your carpets.

Experts recommend staying away from cleaners containing perchloroethylene or naphthalene. These are known carcinogens. Instead, use plant-based carpet cleaners, which are safer for people, pets and the planet.

Using unnecessary chemicals in our homes isn’t good for our families or our pets. So the next time you have to clean up after your four-legged friend, Do Your Part and make a healthier choice.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, eco-expert and author of “Do Your Part,” a practical guide for everyday green living available at

Distributed by MCT Information Services.