How to Clean Dog Toys the Right Way (Because Yes, You Really Should)

A cute yorkiepoo puppy sitting in a bed of toys
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Perhaps you stumbled upon the National Sanitation Foundation’s list of the germiest home items and discovered that dog toys are a major source of harmful bacteria…or maybe it was just gut instinct that told you those things are seriously disgusting (the sheer volume of slobber might have been a clue, too). Either way, you’re here because you are wondering how to clean dog toys and we tapped an expert to answer all your questions. Read on for the rundown.

Meet the Expert

Jenna Carzoli is the Customer Experience Supervisor at Figo Pet Insurance and a former Veterinary Technician with experience working in both a general practice veterinary hospital and as an overnight emergency vet technician. She’s also a dog mom to two and a rescue volunteer who has fostered more than 50 puppies.

How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?

How Often Should You Clean Dog Toys

Dog toys get gross pretty quickly—they’re likely covered in slobber after a single encounter—but your dog doesn’t seem to mind, so how often do you really need to clean them? According to Carzoli, it’s best to wash all dog toys every two to four weeks, with the exception of treat stuffer toys, which should be washed after every use in order to remove any remaining food particles. Fortunately, cleaning dog toys is a relatively hassle-free affair if you use one of the following expert-approved methods.

Border collie puppy with toy in its mouth
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How to Clean Stuffed or Rope Dog Toys

Stuffed and rope dog toys can easily become a breeding ground for germs, which is why, as previously mentioned, they should be cleaned every two to four weeks. When it comes to how you wash them, you have a couple of options. Read on for step-by-step guides to washing stuffed and rope dog toys in the washing machine (Carzoli’s preferred method) and by hand.

In the washing machine

The washing machine wins points for convenience and is a safe option for most fabric dog toys, including stuffed toys and ropes. That said, the experts at appliance company Maytag recommend you avoid this method for squeaky toys unless the squeaker can be removed, as the squeaker could get damaged. With that in mind, here’s how you clean dog toys in the washing machine.

  1. Gather the filthy fabric dog toys and dump them in the washing machine.
  1. Add a pet-safe detergent. You can also use either a ½ cup of vinegar or baking soda. Per Carzoli, it’s best to use one of these two fragrance-free household staples if you don’t have a detergent that’s specially formulated for pets, since the fragrances and chemicals found in regular laundry detergent are not healthy for dogs.
  1. Run your washing machine on a normal cycle with the water at the highest possible temperature setting and add an extra rinse for good measure.
  1. Let the washing machine work its magic and toss the toys in the dryer on the air cycle with little to no heat or simply line dry when the cycle is complete.

By hand

If you don’t have easy access to a washing machine or are dealing with stuffed squeak toys that don’t have a removable squeaker, hand washing is your best bet. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Fill a wash basin with water. For regular plush toys, the hotter the water, the better; for squeak toys, cold water is required if you want to preserve their primary function, since hot water can melt the rubber bit responsible for the squeak.
  1. Add pet-safe detergent to the water according to the instructions on the label; alternatively, you can add enough distilled white vinegar to make a solution of 5 percent vinegar to 95 percent water.
  1. Submerge the toys in the water and let soak for 30 minutes. (Note: Prolonged soaking is liable to damage squeak toys.)
  1. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the surface of the toy.
  1. Rinse the toys by holding them under cold running water and squeezing gently to wring out any lingering detergent.
  1. Roll the toys in a clean dry towel to remove any excess water and leave them to air dry.
Cute Chocolate Labrador Retriever with rubber duckie
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How to Clean Rubber, Plastic and Nylon Dog Toys

Toys made of rubber, plastic or nylon, including treat stuffers, are a whole different story and should not go in the washing machine or the dishwasher—namely because “they can be made of material that’s porous and/or not made to withstand such high temperatures,” explains Carzoli. Instead, she recommends you clean them by hand—and preferably all at once for the sake of efficiency—according to the steps below.

  1. Fill the sink or a wash basin with warm water and submerge the toys.
  1. Add a squirt of dish soap, such as Original Dawn Ultra. You can also use a pure castile soap if you prefer.
  1. Use a soft bristled brush to gently scrub the toys. Carzoli recommends following up with a toothbrush for any hard-to-reach areas.
  1. Rinse the toys in fresh, cold water to remove any residual soap and leave them to air dry.

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Emma Singer

Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...
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