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5 Steps on How to Clean Dog Toys: Disinfect & Protect

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If your dog loves to play with dog toys, it’s important to keep them clean and free of harmful bacteria. Toys can pick up all sorts of germs and dirt when your dog plays with them, which can lead to infection and illness.

Sometimes you can get rid of those bacteria and keep your home (and dog) safe from illness while saving the toys from the trash bin. However, at other times you may need to go ahead and splurge on a new dog toy subscription to give your fur baby some new stuff to chew on, tear up, or bury in the yard.

In this blog post, we will cover how to clean different types of dog toys using disinfectants that will kill many dangerous bacteria or viruses. Follow our simple steps to protect your home and pet from harm and ickiness while making your dog’s toys look brand new again.

How often should I clean my dog’s toys?

You should clean your dog’s toys when you can see (or smell) that they are dirty. If you regularly take your dog outside for a fun game of fetch, then you may need to clean their outside toys weekly to keep them from becoming smelly and grimy.

If your dog has multiple indoor toys and rotates them throughout the week, you can probably get away with cleaning these toys every other week or once a month.

Every six months you may want to go through your dog’s toy box and make sure everything in it is still in good condition. If you find that a majority of your dog’s toys are torn up and chewed on then consider tossing out the ratty ones and purchasing some new fun toys to play with.

According to reviewed.com pet toys are one of the dirtiest items in our homes, and should be cleaned as often as possible. So keep reading to find out exactly how to do this below.

5 steps on how to clean dog toys and keep your pup safe.

Below is our step-by-step guide on how to clean your dog’s toys easily and effectively.

Step 1: Empty out your dog’s toy bin

The first step is to go through your dog’s toy box and empty it out completely. You may find there are some toys your dog never plays with that are in good condition that you could donate to a local shelter or rescue.

Once you have everything out you can disinfect the bottom of the toy bin with a cleaning wipe to kill bacteria. If you have a plastic toy bin you may want to go ahead and rinse it out with mild dish soap and hot water and dry it with a clean cloth.

Step 2: Separate the toys into piles

Next, you can separate the toys into different categories. This will help you as you will need to use different cleaning methods for different material toys. The categories I like to use when sorting my dog’s toys include:

  • Soft dog toys (Blankets, clothing, ext.)
  • Plush dog toys (these are the stuffed toys)
  • Rope toys and tennis balls
  • Plastic toys (or nylon chew toys)
  • Rubber toys (Kong toys and other slow-feeder toys)

Once you have the toys separated into different cleaning categories you can move on to the next steps and start to clean your pup’s toys.

Step 3: How to clean plush toys, rope dog toys, and stuffed toys

In the washing machine

This may be surprising, but many soft dog toys and stuffed animals can be washed in the washing machine.

Be sure to check the toy tags for cleaning instructions (or just visit the brand’s website for care instructions) if you are worried about whether the toy will hold up in the washing machine.

The general recommended setting to wash dog toys in a washer is just a cold, gentle cycle. However, if the soft toys will hold up to a warmer cycle you may get rid of more bacteria this way and the toys will come out looking much better.

You can use a pet-safe laundry detergent, or a natural cleaning solution such as white vinegar and baking soda to kill the bacteria without the use of any dangerous chemicals. Don’t worry by the time the rinse cycle is done you shouldn’t have a vinegar smell left on your dog’s toys.

The point is to disinfect the dog toys without leaving behind any harmful chemicals that can make your dog sick. Pet toys are chewed on and soak up a lot of drool so we don’t want to leave any residue on your pup’s favorite toy.

Hand wash in the sink

If you are going to hand wash your dog’s stuffed animals you can fill a large sink with cold or warm water and let the toys soak in a natural cleaning solution (white vinegar & baking soda) or pet-safe detergent.

For handwashing, you may want a soft-bristled scrub brush to help you gently clean the surface of the rope or chew toy. This will help remove stains and kill germs more easily.

What to do about products with squeakers

If your dog’s stuffed toys have squeakers don’t fear using these methods of soaking. Yes, there will be water inside the squeaker when you remove it from the water, however, you should be able to give it a good few squeezes and release the water inside.

Squeakers will return to their normal squeakiness once they are completely dried out. Just be sure not to use super hot water when you soak the toys as this can deform or damage the squeaker, it’s best to play it safe with a cold cycle for these toys.

Step 4: How to clean plastic, rubber, or nylon dog toys

For rubber-feeding toys

Personally, I have always washed my pup’s Kong feeders in the dishwasher, and I believe the instructions label them as dishwasher safe.

I run them with his other stainless steel bowls on an extremely hot sanitizing cycle. This has never ruined any of my dog’s Kong toys, and it gets them super clean for their next feeding.

For plastic or nylon chew toys

Hard dog toys usually see the worst of what our canine companions can give. They are chewed up and drooled on and sometimes buried in the yard for weeks.

For these durable hard toys, you can fill a sink with very hot water and mild dish soap. (If you don’t want to use soap you can again use a homemade solution of one around 5% white vinegar in hot with baking soda sprinkled on the toys).

To help disinfect dog toys, give the solution a chance to soak in the cleaning solution for at least 15 minutes. Once ready give those dirty toys a good scrubbing and use a soft-bristled cleaning brush to get inside all of the cracks and crevices on the surface of the toys.

Step 5: Let all your dog’s toys dry completely

For drying in the dryer

Many soft dog toys, rope toys, and tennis balls can be thrown into the dryer on a gentle cycle to help speed up the drying process. However, if the toy has a squeaker, you may want to avoid using the dryer.

Be sure not to accidentally throw in any dryer sheets out of habit as this isn’t recommended for drying dog toys. You don’t need to add any unnecessary harsh chemicals or cleaning products to your dog’s toys.

For a natural air dry

If you are cleaning on a nice sunny day then set your pet’s toys outside in the sun and let them air dry naturally. This will give your dog’s toys a good try and make them smell like outside which your dog will love.

When should I toss my pup’s toys instead of cleaning them?

It is recommended to throw out toys exposed to viruses, staph bacteria, and dust mites, or if the plastic parts and internal stuffing are exposed.

These issues can cause concerns and risks to your pet’s health as ripped and dirty dog toys can cause accidental ingestion and illnesses that can be quite serious to your dog’s health.

Pro Cleaning Tip**

Disinfecting dog toys naturally with a steamer

If you are very germ conscious and hate the idea of possibly missing some bacteria while cleaning you can use a handheld steamer to disinfect your dog’s toys 100% naturally.

Just give them quick steam after using the cleaning methods above to give those dirty dog toys an extra layer of natural disinfecting.

I personally use the Bissell Steam Shot Deluxe to blast any remaining dirty spots left on both hard and soft toys. This requires no chemicals just water and kills up to 99.9% of bacteria on the surface of the products.


Are you supposed to clean dog toys?

Yes. Dog toys are a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, and illnesses. Dog toys should be cleaned regularly to prevent these harmful bacteria from getting into your dog’s mouth.

What can I use to wash dog toys?

You can use the methods mentioned above by using the machine wash when allowed or soaking in a natural pet-safe cleaning solution for 15 minutes and scrubbing away dirt and bacteria.

How do I disinfect my dog’s toys?

You should not use a normal household disinfectant for cleaning dog toys as these cleaning products can contain harmful chemicals like bleach, phenols, and other highly concentrated chemicals that can harm your dog’s health.

Instead, use hot water and some pet-safe cleaning products or a natural homemade cleaning solution like water and distilled white vinegar to keep dog toy products clean.

Is it safe to wash dog toys in the washing machine?

Most soft dog toys will be fine in the washing machine on a gentle, cold cycle. However, you should use your best judgment or visit the manufactures website to confirm this.

Wrapping up

Cleaning your dog’s favorite toy is important to not only extend the life of their favorite playthings but also to prevent harmful bacteria and viruses from making your pup sick.

By following these simple tips, you can easily clean and disinfect all of your pet’s toys without having to worry about harming them in the process.

Once all the cleaning is finished, you can make a fun family activity out of taking your pup to the pet store to pick out some new fun toys for their toy box.

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