How a Wirecutter Vacuum Expert With Two Rabbits and Three Cats Handles All That Fur
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How a Wirecutter Vacuum Expert With Two Rabbits and Three Cats Handles All That Fur

Jun 28, 2023

At our house, shedding season never ends. My (thankfully hairless) husband and I own five animals, and sometimes we foster a bunny or a litter of kittens. Managing stray fur can seem like a Sisyphean task, but as Wirecutter's resident floor-care expert (and cat wrangler), I’ve found easy ways to de-fur my home. All it takes is a little maintenance each day with some ingenious tools and a weekly run through the house with a hefty canister vacuum.

Diligent grooming drastically reduces the amount of fur that clings to your furniture and clothing and ultimately turns into hairy tumbleweeds under your couch. The more you groom the less you have to vacuum, and your pet will reward you with an extra-shiny coat.

Many grooming tools are available, but the trick is to find one that you enjoy using and that your pet enjoys, too. Some pets were abused or have never been properly socialized, which means you might have to put all tools and aspirations aside and just use your hands. (Most bunnies don't mind being plucked as long as you’re gentle.)

The more you groom the less you have to vacuum, and your pet will reward you with an extra-shiny coat.

If you have multiple pets it may be hard to groom all of them the same day, but you should aim for grooming them at least once a week on average. Not a day goes by in our household without grooming, even if it's just for a minute or two.

Here are a few of my go-to items.

This brush's soft boar bristles are great for getting pets used to being groomed.

May be out of stock

When we rescued our cat Tula from the street in 2020 she was so sick, emaciated, and scared that we needed something gentle. After carefully cutting off the long, matted fur around her neck, I used the Mars Coat King brush with extra-soft boar bristles to loosen up tangles and get our scrawny new friend used to being brushed. This was a great bonding experience during Tula's long recovery.

A silicone-tipped glove that lets pets forget that you’re trying to groom them.

Once Tula had doubled her weight, shed her parasites, and learned to trust us, we tried out a silicone brushing glove that has been well tolerated by our cats Gilbert and Barnaby (as long as I whisper sweet nothings into their ears and keep the treat jar nearby).

The brushing glove has done so much brushin’ and lovin’ over the years that it is falling apart at the seams and losing its silicone tips. Yet it continues to extract and hold on to an enormous amount of fur that, at the end of each session, can be peeled off the glove like a hand-shaped carpet. Our old glove isn't available anymore, but I tested five silicone brushing gloves to find a comparable pick, and the Delomo glove grabbed onto hair best.

A brush with long, soft silicone bristles for gentle grooming.

Not all of my cats took to the glove brush; Tula was less than thrilled by the giant pink rubber hand reaching for her neck, so I wanted to try something less intimidating: a palm-size massage brush with large, soft silicone bristles. I tried out options from four brands and let Tula pick her favorite. The easy-to-hold CeleMoon Silicone Cat Brush is the clear winner.

Another great way to get animals accustomed to brushes is to allow them to brush themselves. Hold a brush to a cat's face and the cat will likely rub his cheeks on it. Our cat Gilbert is a huge fan of the Catit Senses 2.0 Self Groomer, which you can screw to the wall or attach using the included adhesive strips.

I placed mine by the kitchen doorway, where Gilbert primps his whiskers before breakfast. (The brush also conveniently covers a dirty gray streak where he used to rub his mouth and chin.)

This wall-mounted brush allows cats to groom themselves by rubbing against it.

The next step to managing fur in your home is to clean your upholstery on a regular basis. Many cat enthusiasts have been in this situation: You buy your cat a beautiful cat bed hoping to contain loose fur. But they couldn't care less, because your own bed and sofa are so much more comfortable.

I’m not your mother, but: Make. Your. Bed. Your cat may actually prefer a cat bed if yours doesn't look like a larger, furrier version of it. It's not a foolproof plan; even if you do make your bed, you may find that your cats will sometimes choose the comforter over their own beds (as mine do).

Each night, I spend a few minutes vigorously rolling the Black+Decker Pet Hair Remover over my comforter. Unlike traditional lint rollers, this one doesn't use sticky tape. The brush is made of velvet and silicone that grip the fur and trap it in a bin behind the roller. All you need to do is roll it back and forth on your bedding, couch, or clothing and press the button to empty it once the bin is full.

This lint roller is reusable and tape free, and it effectively catches stray fur on fabric surfaces.

And though experts recommend you change your sheets weekly, many folks, including myself, think that is an admirable but far too ambitious pursuit. Let's compromise! Bi-weekly will do. To keep things as clean as possible between laundry cycles, change the pillowcases and vacuum the fitted sheet weekly. Shake out your comforter regularly, and most importantly, keep rolling that lint roller over your bedding.

Before vacuuming you must dust, because remember gravity? Dust settles, and that's just physics, my fur-addled friends. This is why before I embark on my big weekend vacuuming session, I dust the whole house. This includes side tables, bookshelves, window sills, and dressers.

I also make sure to dust the ceiling fan once in the spring and once in the summer. Nothing is worse than turning it on and having the accumulated dust launch into the air to then settle on your bed and floors so you have to vacuum all over again.

I use a microfiber hand duster that's designed to hold on to fur. I particularly like the OXO Good Grips Microfiber Extendable Duster because it helps me reach even the highest bookshelves and ceiling fans.

This duster extends up to 53 inches long and has a machine-washable microfiber head.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $18.

When it comes to pet hair, I’ve found you can't get by with one vacuum alone. You’ll need an arsenal of gear to help tackle the shed from every angle: I recommend a canister or upright for deep cleaning once or twice a week, and a robot, stick, or handheld vac for supplemental tidying. I like a couple of other tools, too, including the hair-removing Uproot mini rake and one of our top-pick mops.

Here's the breakdown.

If you have a cordless stick vacuum cleaner, chances are you don't need to buy an extra handheld one to get into nooks and crannies. Most cordless sticks easily convert into a handheld and many, such as the Dyson V12, come with a motorized tool designed particularly for pet fur.

If you don't own a stick vacuum and you don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on one just for fur maintenance, I recommend the Black+Decker 20V Max Dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet Hand Vacuum, a pick in our guide to best handheld vacuum cleaners. We tested it against other handheld vacuum cleaners, and it was the mightiest when it came to the removal of pet hair.

I have owned this model for almost four years now, and its motorized brush still removes fur like it did on day one. In addition, its extendable crevice tool easily reaches between cushions to suck up anything that's escaped down there.

The best and most powerful handheld vacuum for collecting pet fur and debris from every kind of surface.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $85.

The Black+Decker 20V Max Dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet Hand Vacuum—and every other hand vac we tested—falters in one spot in particular: The clingy upholstery on the floors and trunk of your car. But where there is a will, there is a tool.

Although I find the Uproot Cleaner Pro too rough on clothes and bedding, it was the only tool that worked when I recently tried to rid my neighbor's car trunk of dog fur.

This hair-removing mini rake gets hair off even the most-stubborn upholstery fabrics.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $23.

Robot vacuums are great surface cleaners that help you keep up with the constant deluge of fur, but their suction is too weak to really reach the depths of most rug and carpet piles, leaving behind embedded dust and dandruff. Our pick, the Roomba i4 EVO, performs the best when it comes to fur, but my animals and I are perfectly fine with our budget pick, the Eufy Robovac 11S. It's inexpensive and reliable, and I have had it for years.

Our budget-pick robot vac is quieter and fits under more furniture than most models we’ve tested. It rarely gets stuck, and it does a good job on bare floors and short-pile rugs. It's not as durable as the Roomba 694, though.

Uprights and canister vacs have several significant advantages over cordless stick vacs: Aside from their suction being far more powerful, they are, generally speaking, more durable. Their HEPA filters can help allergy sufferers keep their symptoms at bay. Most uprights and canisters are bagged, which means you don't have to manually empty a bin, reexposing yourself to pet fur and dander.

In our tests this nimble and quiet yet powerful canister vacuum excelled on all types of flooring. It requires bags but is a great choice for asthma and allergies sufferers.

When it comes to fur, nothing beats a Miele canister vacuum cleaner. I’ve had a Miele Classic C1 vacuum for many years, and it's the machine in the house that, once a week, does all the heaviest fur lifting. In our guide on upright and canister vacuums, we recommend the Miele Complete C3 Calima, which is powerful, versatile, and handles fur well. If you can spend a bit more, Miele's Cat & Dog models are your best bet.

A cordless stick vac is great for reigning in and picking up stray litter and fur without having to wheel out and plug in a heavy machine, but so is this Wirecutter-tested microfiber mop.

It has an almost magnetic attraction to dust.

Oh hello, hairball! If the mess is still fresh and on bare floors, you need just a wad of kitchen towels to remove the solids and a wet rag with a tiny bit of dish soap. If the vomit or hairball has dried up and penetrated your beautiful Persian rug, I recommend you first vacuum the spot to remove any dry solids. If, after that, you find that vacuuming and a wet rag didn't do the trick, use the Rocco & Roxie Pro Strength Stain & Odor Eliminator. (Check your rug's care instructions to make sure enzymatic cleaners are safe, and pretest for colorfastness on a hidden area before use.)

This is a powerful enzymatic pet-stain cleaner with a relatively pleasant scent.

I initially bought the spray two and a half years ago when our quarantined foundling Tula protest-peed on the bed. I’d seen reviews that claim the spray even prevents cats from peeing in the same spot more than once and thought I’d give it a try. Though I can't verify that claim, no further accidents have occurred.

I still occasionally use the spray on dried-on hairballs or when one of the rabbits has an accident. It never disappoints, and its smell is, compared with that of other pet cleaners, bearable.

You might think you’re done, but there are still some sneaky crevices in your appliances that fur can make its way into.

Dryers excel at separating fur and lint from clothes and bedding—and they collect cat hair. Most of it ends up in the lint filter (also known as trap or screen), but the dryer vent and the space underneath the trap can get clogged up, too, and needs to be cleaned regularly. The accumulation of fuzz can hamper the performance of your machine and, worst-case scenario, lead to dryer fires.

I love the Sealegend Dryer Vent Cleaner Kit because its adapter fits most vacuum hoses, and its 2.6-foot length and narrow shape allow for deep access to difficult places. The kit includes a lint brush to loosen up caked-on lint and hair. Both tools also come in handy when cleaning old-fashioned radiators—and anything that is too narrow for your regular vacuum tools to access.

An affordable and easy-to-use dryer cleaner to keep your appliance in working order.

But don't stop with your dryer's lint trap. Maintaining the filters in your house can save you a lot of money in the long run. So if you have an air purifier, clean the filter. If you have a mini split system, clean the filter. If you have a vacuum, clean the filter. If you have a window AC unit, clean the filter. You get the gist.

Now I have to excuse myself, I have to pluck my rabbits and wrangle some dust bunnies.

This article was edited by Alex Aciman and Catherine Kast.

Sabine Heinlein

Sabine Heinlein is a staff writer at Wirecutter. Her work has previously been published by The New York Times, The Guardian, Psychology Today, and many other publications. When she is not following her dream of an immaculate home and a flood-proof basement, she is taking care of her menagerie and creating magical animal quilts.

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