One caveat: As you can see, Wilbur, our amiable model, has short hair, and is therefore a relatively low-maintenance pet. We fully understand that cats and long-haired dogs present their own unique housekeeping challenges. If you've got a more high-maintenance pet, feel free to share your miracle products in the comments section.
Our five favorites:
• 1 The Nature's Miracle line of enzymatic cleaners is aptly named. Their Stain and Odor Remover is the most effective stain remover we've ever used; it doesn't damage carpets and fabrics, and it's non-toxic, so it's safe around both furry and fur-less friends (not to mention eco-friendly). Fabulous for house-training puppies, it's also great for miscellaneous vomit and the like when your pet grows up. Wilbur hasn't quite learned to stay away from skunks, despite a few unfortunate run-ins; Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover is the only thing that actually seems to get rid of the smell (forget tomato juice).
• 2 The Love Glove, inspired by the rubber mitts that horse groomers use, is great for keeping the coat healthy and limiting shedding inside the house. A couple of times a week, we take Wilbur outside and give him a nice little massage with the glove to get rid of fur that would otherwise end up on our dark wood floors. You can also use it to remove said fur from upholstery.
• 3 We love Earthbath Grooming Wipes for cleaning up messy paws and removing mysterious stinks between baths. They are surprisingly powerful, great if your pet has rolled in something gross. They come in a variety of scents (though we like the unscented hypoallergenic kind). At $12 a box, they're a little bit pricey; some people swear by regular old baby wipes, but we've found these work better for pet-specific smells.
• 4 Wilbur might look gentle (and lazy), but out on the beach or at the park, he's a rough and tumble guy who loves to play. Sometimes he comes home with tiny scrapes, especially on his paws, so we use 3M Pet Care Liquid Bandage Spray to help him heal and keep our furniture and carpet blood-stain-free. It doesn't seem to sting; Wilbur hardly notices when we spray it on. (Obviously, you only want to use this for little superficial lacerations.)
• 5 For some reason, Wilbur has decided that the Shark Cordless Handvac is his mortal enemy. Whenever we turn it on, he attacks it (you can see how he regards it with suspicion even as it rests benignly at his side). Nevertheless it's a great tool for removing pet hair and dirt from the car and the sofa. We've had a few dustbusters in our time, and this is the only one that really seems to suck up the fur.
Of course, as an alternative, you can always choose a matching sofa for pet camouflage... the fur just disappears!
You'll find most of these products at any pet supply (except the Shark Vac, which is available at electronics and appliance stores). Our favorite local mom-and-pops in San Francisco are B & B Pet Supplies and Noe Valley Pet Company, both of which have better prices than the big chains.