9 Easy Methods – How to Clean Dog Toys

Dog with Dog Toy

Ah, the dog toy. You bought Fido that cute little chew toy so he wouldn’t chew your slippers into something unrecognizable or only seen in a Stephen King horror movie.

Gleefully he took it in his mouth, shook it a few times, sat down on the floor, held it down and gave that sucker the good chewing that it deserved. After being thoroughly punished for whatever evil, scheming deeds that chew toys are guilty of, it lays of the floor chewed and wet. Sure, the air will dry it; who wants to pick up something slobbered on anyway, right?

Well, according to Consumer Affairs pet toys are one of the top 10 germiest spots in our homes and can actually be a source of coliform bacteria, including Staph bacteria, yeast and mold. And I bet that’s especially true of sock toys for dogs. Wait a sec… Staph bacteria? Whoa…I’ll be right back…

Okay, sorry I just took all of Fido’s toys and threw them in the washer and gave him my favorite slippers. Ah, he looks so happy now. Anyway, dogs have very strong stomachs; much stronger than ours. However, according to The Dogington Post, not only could they use a little freshening up, but it is important that their toys are “cleaned and disinfected” on a regular basis. But how often should that be?

Well, it depends on the toy. I generally go by the smell rule. If it smells, it needs washing, which is about once every two weeks. And the good part is my dog loves a clean smelling toy, so when he gets it, away he goes punishing that sucker for some unseen evil deed once again.

Now, let’s talk about how to clean those toys. Please remember that broken or damaged dog toys need to be discarded. These can be dangerous especially if swallowed. 

How to clean dog toys by hand

Bucket of soapy water with gloved hand rinsing out rag

It really depends of the type of toy. Is it a plastic, rubber or fabric toy? Most important is to follow the instruction on the chew toy label exactly as stated. If there are none then…

Hard toys (not ropes or plush toys)

  • Take a toothbrush and brush off any dirt, leaves, grass or other particles that you find.
  • Fill your sink with warm, soapy water. Dishwashing soap should be okay for your dog.
  • If you do not feel that soap is good for your dog, then try one-part vinegar and one-part water. (After drying, the vinegar smell should be gone.)
  • Take a sponge and scrub the toys.
  • Rinse the toys thoroughly.  
  • Be sure to drain any water from toys with squeakers or openings where water can get in. We don’t want them drinking that dirty water.
  • From there you have a choice. If you want to make sure they are really clean, then either stick them in the dishwasher or the laundry machine. Either will work well.

Cleaning plastic or rubber toys without washing them

Red rubber bar bell style dog toy with pay prints and bones printed on it

There is a way you can keep Fido’s toys clean if they are not made of fabric without washing them. According to the honest kitchen you can mix water and white vinegar equally in a spray bottle.

  • Spray the toys down with the mixture and then wipe them clean.
  • Let sit for a while to dry. (After drying, the vinegar smell should be gone.)

And that’s it. Personally, I like this best because I can make sure that my dog’s toys are generally clean, and it won’t destroy the integrity of the toy by washing it too much.

Cleaning dog toys with vinegar

Jar of vinegar
  • According to the hottest kitchen, try placing the toys in a bucket of warm water.
  • Mix equal parts water and white vinegar.
  • Let the toys set for a while in the bucket and then scrub. 
  • Take out and rinse.
  • Let set dry or place in the microwave for one minute.
  • After drying, the vinegar smell should be gone.

Cleaning ropes and plush toys in a laundry machine

washing machine full of stuffed animals

The first thing is to find a dog friendly detergent. This is a must. There are brands out there that will not hurt your pooch, so you better make sure before you try to use onr. Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent and Common Good Pet-Safe Laundry Detergent are both great for cleaning and safe for your dog.

Both are plant based Multi-Purpose Cleaners, made from biodegradable ingredients carefully chosen to be safe for not only dogs but kids as well. No dyes, brighteners or synthetic fragrances.

  • Throw the toys in a mesh delicates bag.
  • Put it in the laundry machine.
  • Set the cycle on gentle.
  • If you do not want to use detergent, the honest kitchen says you can sprinkle them with baking soda or add a tablespoon or two of white vinegar during the rinse cycle. 
  • Let air dry or place in the microwave for one minute. Speaking of which…

How to clean a dog toy with the microwave

a microwave on a white background

These rope toys are fun for dogs, but they’re a breeding ground for bacteria and other organisms, so cleaning them in the washing machine

and air drying them are not going to do the trick. But a microwave will. According to Healthy Pets, a study on kitchen sponges that were thrown in the microwave for one minute had bacterial levels drop by 99 percent, which means, mic away, just be careful to remove the dog.

  • Make sure the toys have no plastic or metal pieces.
  • Wet the toy.
  • Place them in the microwave for 1 ~ 2 minutes.

How to clean hard dog toys in a dishwasher (not ropes or plush toys)

open dishwasher full of clean dishes
  • Place the toys on the top drawer of your dishwasher.
  • Use a light or regular rinse.
  • Let dry

Here is nifty little video that shows how simple it is. Thank you Miss Lu Lu & Mr Chuy 2 Pugs.

How to clean Kongs

According to their site, it is very simple.

  • Rinse with warm water and dish soap
  • If stubborn treats, like dried peanut butter, don’t rinse out, try soaking the KONG in warm water and dish soap to loosen the leftovers.
  • Use a bottle brush or old toothbrush to scrub the inside of KONG.
  • Be sure to rinse thoroughly.
  • All KONG Rubber toys are top-rack dishwasher safe.

You can use a chop stick to get out any food particles that may be in the KONG.

How to clean tennis balls

a pile of yellow tennis balls

According to iFetch, the process is quite simple. Tennis balls can be washed with soap because it is possible to clean the soap off if rinsed thoroughly.

  • Fill a bucket with warm water.
  • Add either mild dishwashing soap or laundry detergent.
  • Use as much detergent as you would for a normal load of clothes or a laod of dishes.
  • Let them soak for about 30 minutes,
  • If you got some balls with lots of crust, let them soak for thirty minutes or more.
  • Once you have let them soak, scrub the tennis balls with a rag or sponge to get the extra dirty spots clean.
  • Rinse THORUGHLY with warm water. We want to make sure that Fido will not be drinking that water later on.
  • Towel dry or place them in the dryer under a low setting. Too much heat may damage to rubber.

Cleaning toys with bleach

a row of Clorox Bleach on a store shelf

Basically, this is a bad idea because bleach is such a dangerous chemical to digest, but according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, using a water-diluted bleach on your dog’s plastic or rubber toys is fine, just be sure to rinse thoroughly. But not for porous toys like ropes or plush toys.

Cleaning toys after Kennel Cough

  • Vigorously clean all chew toys with vinegar and water.
  • Place all non-plastic or rubber-based toys which contain do not contain metal in the microwave for two minutes.
  • Get a stainless-steel water and food containers and throw out your plastic ones. Plastic bowls can scratch and crack leaving bacteria there for your dog to congest.

Cleaning dog toys after Gairdia

Sick dog in bed with ice pack on head and thermometer in mouth
  • Clean and disinfect daily while your dog is being treated for Giardia infection.
  • According to the CDC “Dishwasher safe toys” can be disinfected in a dishwasher that has a dry cycle or a final rinse that exceeds one of the following:
    • 113°F for 20 minutes
    • 122°F for 5 minutes
    • 162°F for 1 minute
    • If a dishwasher is not available, submerge dishwasher-safe items in boiling water for at least 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for 3 minutes).

The bottom line: how to clean dog toys

There are many different ways to clean dog toys. The most important thing is that you do clean them. How you clean them depends on the type of toy you have and if your dog has been sick recently.

Keeping your dog toys clean also improves the “ick” factor that toys get after being in your dog’s mouth on a regular basis.

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.