Cleaning Between Litters

“How do you clean everything between litters?” is probably the second most asked question I’m asked. Right after “Why does your arm look like a giant mortadella loaf in videos?” and just before “I heard that you almost cut your hand off while trying to peel a banana. What is wrong with you?”

My basic cleaning rules are:

  1. Everything made of fabric goes into the washing machine (using the Sanitize setting)
  2. Everything made of plastic or rubber goes into the dishwasher
  3. Toys too large for the washing machine or dishwasher are wiped with Rescue Disinfectant Wipes
  4. Cat trees are vacuumed, steam cleaned, then sprayed with Rescue Disinfectant

If your foster kittens had a serious illness or had ringworm, check with your foster staff for their specific cleaning protocol.

The Products

Vets and shelters use Rescue Disinfectant to both clean and deodorize. It’s effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria, viruses and fungi, including Parvo, staph, HIV and more. It’s non-toxic and non-irritating, so it’s safe to use around kittens and pregnant mommy cats. It sanitizes surfaces in 30 seconds, and disinfects in 5 minutes.

I use both Rescue spray and wipes. I wipe toys with it; mop the kitten room floors with it; wipe the walls down with it; pour it into my carpet cleaner; and spray the scratching posts with it. When in doubt about how to clean something, marinate it in Rescue. 

Honestly, Rescue is all you need. It can get expensive, though, so I tend to mostly use it in between litters, when everything needs to be sanitized.

For small messes mid-litter, I use Mrs. Meyer’s Honeysuckle Spray because cats like the smell of honeysuckle, and so do I.

Keep some Clorox Wipes, a box of tissues, and a giant roll of paper towels near the litter boxes. Kittens are splatter-y and super bad at aiming.


The Method

I don’t give each litter of kittens every toy I have. I choose maybe 20 toys, big and small, for them to play with. The rest are kept in reserve. This expedites the cleaning process: I bring fresh toys out for each litter, and I put the most recently used toys to the side; they get tossed into the dishwasher or washing machine the next time I do a load. The large cat trees always stay in the kitten room, but beds, blankets, toys and small trees are rotated through. This is why you may see a toy or bed with one litter, but not see it again for several months.

Some items, like cardboard scratching toys, fall apart after a cleaning or two. These are tossed into the recycling bin and eventually replaced.

When I clean the kitten room, I move everything into the hallway so I can vacuum and mop the floors, wipe down the walls, and clean the shelving. (Links to the vacuums and steam cleaners I like are below.)

Toys are then sorted into bins depending on whether they’ll go into the dishwasher, washing machine, or wiped down by hand. The bins are also sprayed with Rescue when they’re finally emptied.

I clean the large cat trees out in the hallway while the kitten room walls and floors are drying. Each tree is vacuumed with a hand-held vacuum that can reach into each crack and cubby. Cat hair can get stuck where the posts meet the horizontal pieces, so I use my fingers to get that out, and vacuum it all up. Then, I go over every surface (both the carpeted and sisal-wrapped areas) with a lint roller to get any missed hair. While I’m cleaning the cat trees,  I tighten any loose screws with an Allen wrench (I store it with my cleaning supplies).

When all the excess cat hair is off the tree, I use a hand-held carpet shampooer to clean the trees. I fill the tank with warm water and Rescue disinfectant, scrub every surface thoroughly, and let it air dry.

Items like litter mats and food mats go into the washing machine. The litter genie is doused with Rescue Disinfectant, then hosed off outside or in the bathtub. I use disposable litter boxes, so I don’t ever have to sanitize them between litters (I compost them and put out fresh ones each Saturday).


The Tools

The hand-held vacuum I use is specifically for picking up pet hair. I use it all over the house, both on soft and hard surfaces. It has a grippy pink thing that helps grab the hair, and the nose part is perfect for getting into tight places. And honestly, ‘grippy pink thing’ and ‘nose part’ are such good phrases and they should definitely hire me to write their descriptions.

Here is my favorite lint roller. I like that it’s re-usable: no more sticky papers and refills to deal with. I use it on cat trees, my clothes, couch cushions, blankets, Beagles, everywhere there is pet hair. Which, in my home, is everywhere.

Here is the upright vacuum that I use. I have eleventy billion pets, and I vacuum every day. I don’t have the time or energy to replace cheap vacuums. So I don’t want to hear comments about how my diamond shoes will give me blisters while I’m using my super fancy vacuum.

The wand tools on this carpet shampooer are perfect for cleaning carpeted cat trees.

This is the steam mop  that I use to steam clean the floors. And I’ll be honest: the head swivels, and so I use it to clean the walls and cat trees, too. Because I spray Rescue on the floors, I don’t use any other cleaner for the mop; I just fill the canister with water and let the hot steam do it’s thing.

That’s it. Writing it all out makes it seem harder than it really is. Having the right tools and cleaners handy will streamline the process. I stay motivated while cleaning by listening to my Feminist Friday playlist on Spotify, and thinking of the new, tiny kittens that will soon get to play in the sparkling clean kitten room.