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best way to clean dog toys

What’s the Best Way to Wash Dog Toys So They’re Actually Clean?

You should wash dog toys regularly to prevent bacteria growth. Dog toys should be washed every 2-4 weeks, or more often depending on how much your dog plays with them. Plush toys can typically be washed in the washing machine with a bio-enzymatic cleaner, like Kinderbean’s™ No Stress Mess Eraser. Other toys may be hand washed or put in the dishwasher, per the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Read time: 4 1/2 minutes

Like you, I’ve picked up my fair share of slobbery dog toys from the living room floor, not to mention balls and outdoor toys we bring to the park. My dog’s favorite toys can get quite smelly and ragged!

It’s so important to keep our dog’s toys in good shape. Not just because they look and feel gross otherwise, but because it impacts our dogs’ safety and health. 

Why It’s Important to Keep Your Dog’s Toys Clean

Not all dog toys are indestructible. As your dog gnaws on their favorite plushy, ball, or puzzle, it becomes worn and may eventually become a hazard to your dog’s digestive system. Depending on the quality of the toy, this can happen within minutes, or sometimes months. 

Washing your dog’s toys regularly gives you an opportunity to physically inspect frayed fabric or rope, loose parts, or torn-out squeakers. If you can make repairs, great. But if you can’t, it’s time to toss it!

The second reason I advocate for regular toy washing is that, according to the National Safety Federation (NSF), pet toys are among the top 10 germ-filled spots in our homes. They are known to contain coliform bacteria (including staph bacteria), yeast, and mold. It’s not only dangerous for your pet to be ingesting those toxic forms of bacteria, but it’s unsafe for you and your family to handle. 

So let’s talk about how to properly clean dog toys so they’re actually clean!

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How to Clean Plush Dog Toys and Stuffed Animals

First, go through your inspection process and make sure they don’t need to be repaired or tossed. If all is well except for some matted nasty fur, go ahead and put them in a mesh bag and toss them in the washing machine.

how to clean your dog's toys

I recommend using a bio-enzymatic cleaner like Kinderbean’s No Stress Mess Eraser to get your dog’s toys clean without using harsh or toxic chemicals or perfumes. It has a gentle citrus scent from essential oils that are not toxic to dogs. 

An enzyme cleaner works best because it actually eats the bacteria left on the toy from your dog’s mouth. It’s a natural way to remove any organic matter on your dog’s toys, like saliva, which can contain bacteria that will cause the toy to really stink, and in rare cases, can cause illness in humans!

For up to 3 plush toys, simply add 1 cup of No Stress Mess Eraser to your laundry detergent dispenser and wash as usual with warm water. If dirt is deeply embedded in the toy, you may need to soak the toy in No Stress Mess Eraser and then wash it with a mild detergent, such as Woolite. Once the wash cycle is done, you can either squeeze out any extra water from the toys and air dry them or throw them in the dryer on low.

Lastly, be sure to make one final inspection before throwing them back in your dog’s toy bin. You want to be sure the laundering process didn’t loosen any parts that might be swallowed by your dog.

How to Clean Plastic or Rubber Dog Toys 

If the manufacturer’s directions say you can put the toy in the dishwasher, go ahead and do so, washing separately from other household items. However, I don’t advise using regular dishwasher detergent as this is very caustic and toxic to dogs. Yes, it’s true we eat off of dishes cleaned with dishwasher detergent, but our dogs are only with us for a bit more than a decade, so I prefer not to take any chances when it comes to toxic substances!

kinderbean enzymatic cleaner can clean your dog's toys

First, soak the toys in Kinderbean’s No Stress Mess Eraser. Fill your sink with warm water, add one cup of Mess Eraser, and let the toys soak in the solution for up to an hour. This step is especially important for toys that hold sticky peanut butter or treats, like a Kong toy. Then you can proceed to put the toy in the dishwasher and run with it without detergent. 

If your dog’s plastic toys can’t go in the dishwasher, simply fill a sink or plastic tub with warm water and add 1 cup per half-gallon of water of No Stress Mess Eraser to the water. Let the toys soak for at least one hour and then gently scrub them with a vegetable brush. Rinse them thoroughly and inspect for any wear and tear that might be dangerous to your pup. 

Plastic toys can develop hard edges that can cut your dog’s gums and they may also deteriorate, causing chunks of plastic or rubber to tear off (check this post out for my list of recommended indestructible dog toys). If you see any of these tell-tale signs of wear, be sure to toss the toy and replace it with a new one!

How Often to Wash Dog Toys

I recommend washing your dog’s favorite toys at least every two weeks, sometimes more frequently if your dog is particularly slobbery. Other toys your dog doesn’t favor as much may be able to last four weeks without a wash. 

It’s easy to forget to do, so you might consider adding a reminder to your calendar or even your Alexa device. 

The Tail End

Washing your dog’s toys regularly is important for their health and well-being and even your own! Avoid using harsh chemicals and instead, use an enzymatic cleaner to combat the bacteria that is inevitably growing on your dog’s toys. Always inspect your dog’s toys for damage before returning them back to the toy bin. 

Playing with your dog is one of the best ways to bond. Playtime allows you to connect and destress together. Looking for more ways to bond with your dog? Download my free ebook, How to Bond with Your Dog.

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Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She's helped millions of pet parents provide the best care at every stage of their pet’s life.

Her blog, Pet Living with Kristen Levine has been featured in Pop Sugar, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, USA Today, and more.

She's also the founder of FWV Fetching, the first marketing agency exclusively serving pet and animal health companies.

Her early work with the SPCA led her to a lifelong career in the pet industry, advocating for pet adoption and rescue as well as for pets and their parents here on her blog and in the media.

She’s frequently booked on satellite media tours and national shows, like FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, and Daytime, to talk about pet trends and new products.

Insanely passionate about pets since she was a little girl, Kristen has had more than 30 pets in her lifetime — including dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, a horse, a gerbil, mice, and chickens!

In 2022, she launched to help pet parents keep pet homes clean -- to love more, stress less.

Kristen is married and lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her dog Tulip.

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