Is it OK to use household cleaners on my horse? NO.
Every now and again, I get a question or tip about using a household detergent or cleaner on a horse. Either for spot removal, or general cleaning, or whitening of the legs, folks want to know if it’s OK to use these products. It is NEVER OK to use household cleaners and detergents on horses. Sure, there are some things that we “borrow” to use on our horses, such as baby oil. Which goes on babies, also. Would you put glass cleaner on your baby? Likely not.
If you feel the need to use household cleaners on your horse, you're doing it wrong.
Also understand that your horse's natural oils act as a barrier to stains and dirt, and create shine. Anything harsh - if it's designed for horses or removing laundry stains - will strip those oils and leave the skin and hair unprotected. That's not the point of grooming - and will just allow stains to set in easier as the hair is now brittle and the skin dry.
I thought you might like some back up info, so I spent some time digging into what goes into household cleaners and gathering reasons to keep them at home, not the barn.
-Glass cleaners do not have their ingredients listed. Anywhere. (They are not required to - for some weirdo reason!). Oh wait, let me clarify. The ingredients are listed as “cleaners, solvents, detergents” and other vague words. If I don’t know what’s in it, I’m not going to use it. Also, they are not tested on horses, they are tested on windows and counters and maybe even tiles.
This label actually states "Do not spray in eyes, on skin, or on clothing".
-Let’s talk about warnings. It’s often suggested that laundry detergents can be used directly on horse legs to whiten the chrome. Please don’t. The warning on my personal laundry detergent says to avoid contact with eyes, it may irritate skin, and call a physician. We have all witnessed our horses rubbing their noses and eyes on their legs, even a trace of detergent can be ultra irritating and potentially dangerous. Same goes for window cleaners and their warnings.
-Bleach. This may require a whole other discussion, but I’ll break it down for you. The bottle and website for major bleach manufacturers stress one major point: “use gloves”. If it can’t touch you, it can’t touch your horse.
A lot of us like to use bleach to clean, which is great!! For cleaning buckets, stall walls, etc. Make sure your dilution is 100 to 1 for cleaning. This is OK, because when bleach mixes with water, it breaks down. Move horses far away from the area due to the fumes. Also, only use the REGULAR formula for cleaning and disinfection, other fancy bleaches are not approved or appropriate for disinfection use.
Some of us have also used bleach on hooves to prevent and/or treat thrush. Please consider this: thrush is an infection which creates a wound, and therefore using bleach as a treatment is like pouring it into a sore on his side or neck. (Which we shouldn’t do either….) There are LOADS of alternatives to bleach.
-What about those “green” or “natural” or “non-toxic” cleaners out there? Well, on paper it sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately, the ingredients of these cleaners are not required to be listed, so you have a lot of vague ingredients. At any rate, as far as I’m concerned, you should still wear gloves, heed the warnings (rinse eyes for 20 minutes), and not let them touch your horse.
This label advises you to rinse your skin for 15-20 minutes to remove the spray!
Good grooming comes from the inside out, with a good diet, elbow grease, and products designed for horses, specific to them and their skin’s pH.