How to Wash or Clean Dog Toys

Picture of a dog and its toy

Dogs love toys. Often, your dog will claim a toy as his favorite and drag it with him everywhere! Though finding a toy your dog really likes is a definite positive; over time, the toy will become laden with dirt, debris, and even bacteria. Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to freshen up your dog’s toys, so they look and smell better.

Why Do Dog Toys Need to Be Cleaned?

Dogs need to use their mouths to play with the toys that you give them. Since a dog’s mouth is filled with germs, their toys require disinfecting now and again to remove any bacteria that accumulates on the surface. However, it’s not just the bacteria in your dog’s mouth that causes concern when it comes to dog toys. Dog toys are often pulled along floors, outside in the grass, in your dog’s bed, and all kinds of other places, picking up dirt and debris along the way. A good cleaning ensures that your dog doesn’t become ill from dirty toys.

How Will I Know if a Toy Should Be Thrown Away?

Some toys reach a point where cleaning just isn’t possible anymore. Too much damage has been done. What is the tipping point that marks the difference between salvageable and time to toss? When toys are regularly chewed, they will begin to show signs of serious wear. If a toy is torn or has stuffing sticking out of it or even if parts and pieces are missing or starting to fall off, the toy is sadly beyond cleaning or repair and should be thrown away.

What is the Best Way to Clean Dog Toys?

The cleaning method for dog toys depends on the type of toy itself. Some toys come with manufacturers’ instructions that indicate what the toy’s purpose is and how to clean it should it become dirty. It is always best to adhere to these recommendations carefully to ensure the toy is properly cleaned and remains safe for your dog to enjoy.

In some cases, some dog toys don’t come with any instructions as to their cleaning and proper care. When this occurs, common sense is your best course of action when it comes to washing your dog’s toys.

We recommend the following cleaning processes for the following types of toys:

  • Toys made from rubber, nylon, or plastic

Though many people feel that nylon, rubber, or plastic toys can simply tag along on a cycle through your dishwasher, this should only be done if the manufacturer’s instructions indicate that the toy is dishwasher safe. Dishwashers reach extremely high temperatures both in the washing and drying processes that may lead to the premature breaking down of the toy. When subjected to high heat, some toys will lose their shape and may also expel chemicals that are harmful for your health and your pet’s.

The best way to clean rubber, plastic, or nylon toys is by immersing them in a tub filled with warm water and an antibacterial soap. You can then gently scrub the surface of the toy clean using a toothbrush to allow you to get inside even the tightest spots to remove all traces of drool, dirt, debris, and germs.

If your dog’s toy is particularly dirty, experts recommend pre-soaking the toy in a mixture of one part of vinegar to two parts of water. Allow the toy to soak in this solution for approximately 15-20 minutes then continue the cleaning process with warm water, soap, and a scrub brush.

All toys should be carefully rinsed and allowed to air dry before being given back to your dog to play with.

  • Toys made from rope:

Rope toys are one of the worst materials for accumulating such potentially harmful agents as mold, mildew, bacteria, slobber, dirt, and debris. They are the ideal place for moisture to accrue, making the fabric prone to retaining germs and molds.

It has been suggested that one of the most effective ways of killing things such as yeast, mold, bacteria, and other harmful germs that thrive in moist and humid environments is by microwaving them after cleaning as a means of disinfecting them. This can only be done to toys that are comprised entirely of rope. If the toy has any metal or plastic on it, it should not be microwaved for safety reasons.

Rope toys should be soaked in water before being disinfected in the microwave. The toy should be microwaved for a period of one minute.

It is important to note that microwaving toys only kills germs and bacteria. This process does nothing to improve the appearance of the toy or remove dirt and debris. The most effective means to do this is to run the toy through the washer and dryer. Rope toys are extremely durable, and thus, can easily withstand a run through the laundry.

  • Plush toys

Plush toys face all of the same challenges as rope toys, meaning they too need to be regularly cleaned and disinfected. The ideal cleaning method for plush toys is running them through the washer and dryer.

Since some toys are more delicate than others, you will need to decide which cycle is best suited to the toy you need to clean. Tougher dog toys do well in a normal laundry cycle but should be washed in cold or warm water to prevent any damage to the toy. This is particularly important if the toy contains things like stuffing, crinkle material, or squeakers. If a toy is getting advanced in age or starting to show signs of wear, the delicate cycle is a better choice.

For best results, dry all dog toys on low heat.

What Can I Do Between Washes to Ensure My Dog’s Toys are Safe for Him to Enjoy?

There are a few different things that you can do to be certain your dog’s toys continue to be safe for his use. These include:

  • Repairing toys that are torn or broken
  • Throwing out toys with loose or missing parts
  • Ensuring toys are not left outside to break down in inclement weather

Can Dirty Dog Toys Hurt My Dog?

The risk of your dog becoming ill from dirty dog toys is quite low. Dogs are better able to handle a higher bacterial load than we ourselves are. However, this doesn’t mean that your dog can’t become sick if allowed to play with dirty toys. Thankfully, most of the problems your dog could encounter from grimy toys are entirely cosmetic and include issues like puppy acne. Puppy acne is often attributed to things like:

  • Chewing dirty toys
  • Drinking from dirty dog bowls
  • Placing their heads in areas riddled with germs

Dirty dog toys rarely pose a serious threat to dogs. However, leaving dirty toys around the house can negatively impact your own health if you come in contact with rapidly growing bacteria, yeast, or mold taking root inside or on the surface of your dog’s favorite toy.

Are There Some Cleaners You Should Avoid When Cleaning Your Dog’s Toys?

There are some cleaners that are not safe for washing toys since your dog plays with his toys using his mouth and paws. These include:

  • Bleach
  • Lysol
  • Peroxide

How do I clean my dog’s toys? Follow our top tips to learn how to get Fido’s toys sparkling clean and sanitized for him to continue to enjoy. If you’re unsure if a toy can be cleaned or salvaged, it is best to follow the old adage – when in doubt, throw it out!



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