How Do I Clean My Dog’s Toys?

Most dogs will have a favourite toy. This toy will be in their mouth for days, being chewed on and squeezed to squeak.

They may take it outside. Sometimes, a dog can even carry a toy on a walk to keep them occupied and distracted from other dogs. Despite dog saliva being a bit of a wonder product when it comes to its antibacterial properties, this toy isn’t going to be very clean.

If there is dirt, dust and other pollutants on there, this going into their mouth every day isn’t going to help their dental and mouth hygiene. Toys can also become smelly. Therefore, their toys will need washing every so often.

Soft toys are the easiest to keep clean using a washing machine, but if your dog is the type to tear up soft toys within moments of owning them, you’ve probably got some rubber indestructible toys or interactive options. Not to worry; we will go through all of the toy types below.

Why do dog toys need to be cleaned?

Dog toys carry everything from mould to bacteria and general dirt. Not great for your home or your dog’s mouth.

In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that they are amongst the top 10 germiest items in our homes, alongside the toilet seat, our phones and our kitchen cleaning cloths. Not only are the toys in our dog’s mouths, but we also pick them up when playing with them.

Not to mention the fact that any bacteria your dog picks up in their mouth is shared with you in the form of kisses…

Don’t forget to clean their dog toy basket too – there is no use cleaning the contents if they get dirty through contact with a dirty basket again!

Cleaning dog toys guide

How to clean dog toys

Unfortunately, cleaning dog toys can actually be hazardous. While you may think you’re doing the right thing, some of the detergents and cleaning products we use to clean our clothes, bedding and blankets can actually cause illness in dogs if ingested.

So while Perry the Pig may smell lovely after a run in the washing machine, your dog’s mouth ingesting the cleaning detergent could cause sickness, diarrhoea and even burns in their mouth and throat.

You really need to use pet-safe detergents. Plenty is available now – usually, eco-friendly, non-toxic products are naturally pet-safe, but you need to double-check.

This applies to everything you clean, from their jumpers to blankets and bedding. You may need to also be careful when washing your own clothes.

The next thing to think about is what your dog’s toy actually is. This will dictate how the toy is washed.

Cleaning plush toys

This can be done either by hand or in the washing machine. The latter is the easiest, as you can use a gentle cycle and then spin the toys before air-drying them. But as plush toys are often fragile with plastic squeak parts, sewing and stuffing, they can’t be washed on too high a heat.

Many toys will feature instructions on how to wash the toy. It is a good idea to follow these, so the toy comes out of its bath in good shape. We don’t want your dog becoming upset that they have gone to toy heaven.

In the washing machine, instead of using detergent or washing powder, you can use distilled white vinegar or nothing at all. The heat will fight the bacteria alone. It is good to do this on a sunny day so they can dry faster.

Opt for the most gentle cycle so the toys aren’t thrown around too much. Most modern machines have a setting for this. Most will use cold water so you may need to use pet-safe detergent if this is the case.

If hand washing, ensure you use hot water. Allow the toys to soak for around 30 minutes before air-drying. Then, ensure they are fully dry before giving them back to your dog.

Unfortunately, if your dog chews a damp toy, it is just a recipe for a build-up of bacteria and mould.

Cleaning hard toys

Hard, indestructible toys are trickier but just as important to keep clean. You can’t wipe them with a disinfectant cloth, because this is dangerous for dogs.

Some rubber or plastic toys that are indestructible can actually be cleaned in the dishwasher. However, only do this if the manufacturer says it is possible. In some cases, internal parts and the material may be damaged by the high heat. Some can also lose structure, resulting in parts breaking off or becoming fragile.

Dry them thoroughly before returning to your dog, checking no water has been retained in the toy. If you don’t have a dishwasher or are concerned it may not go well, simply soaking the toy in hot or boiling water should help.

Cleaning dog rope toys

The shape of a rope toy makes this trickier. You need to make sure all little areas are clean. Some rope toys can actually be soaked in water before being microwaved on high heat to kill the bacteria. But we think it is easier and safer to put them in a hot wash in the washing machine, with no detergent.

It could be a good idea to wash rope toys at the same time as towels, as these are often also washed at high temperatures with no softener. You may also wash your dog’s towels and blankets in these settings. If so, this means you’re cleaning everything at once which saves on bills and also ensures you don’t forget about anything.

Jack russell dog chewing a soft toy
Some toys may not last long enough to require a wash. If they do, think about cleaning them at least once per month

How do I keep my dog’s toys in good condition?

Always check your dog’s toy over every day to ensure there are no loose threads, rips and tears or broken parts. If so, throw the toy away and replace it with another.

While your dog may be upset initially, a new toy will make them forget all about it. If their toy is past its best, don’t risk it. Also, throw it away if it didn’t survive the washing machine.

Some other tips to think about are:

  • Never leave a dog’s toy outside. Rain can cause bacteria and mould build-up, and the sun causes toys to become brittle and faded
  • Pack toys away at the end of the night if your dog helps themselves. This will keep them free of dust and other pollutants
  • Be careful when spraying room fresheners, too
  • If they have a particular favourite toy, consider buying a like-for-like replacement while you can in case the worst happens
  • Keep their teeth and mouth clean, too. No use cleaning toys if they spread bacteria again thanks to eating something rotten on their walk

How often do I have to clean my dog’s toys?

Opt for around once per month at the least, especially if we are talking about their favourite toys. You may think that any toys which are only played with periodically don’t need to be cleaned, but if they are in contact with freshly cleaned toys, it is just going to spread existing bacteria quicker.

So, try and wash all toys in a toy box at the same time. If it is done with other items, like blankets and bedding, this should mean your washing machine is nice and full for the most energy efficiency anyway.

Can I clean an interactive dog toy?

An interactive dog toy may have electrical components, so it depends. If not, follow the instructions on the manufacturer’s guide. Most won’t if they are for dogs, but cat interactive toys commonly are electrical for independent playing so be aware.

But if there are electricals and batteries involved, it is safe to say you should avoid washing machines, microwaves and dishwashers. Wipe with a damp cloth and allow to air dry before giving back to your dog, avoiding anything electrical.