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How to Clean & Sanitize Dog and Cat Toys

June 14, 2023

Toys aren’t just fun for dogs, they provide much-needed stimulation, which prevents them from being bored and getting into trouble. For example, it’s not uncommon for bored pups to dig up the garden or scratch up the walls. Over time, your pet’s toys can get gross from play time, so how do you clean and sanitize dog and cat toys?

The same goes for cats; it gives them the mental enrichment that they need to help ward off boredom.

Having suitable toys for your pet to play with will help keep them entertained, stimulated, and happy.

The Dangers of Dirty Cat and Dog Toys

While pet toys are designed to be durable, however, they can harbor some nasty bacteria, mold, and even yeast if not cleaned regularly. For dogs, this isn’t too surprising seeing as how the toys spend a lot of time in their mouths- and we all know how dirty they can be, given everything they lick.

For instance, dogs that eat raw diets can contaminate their toys with Listeria and Salmonella bacteria, both of which are harmful to people. Not only that but there’s also a risk of fecal contamination if the toys are taken on walks or to the park.

Washing cat and dog toys is important

In fact, pet toys are one of the germiest items in the home, according to a study by the National Sanitation Foundation.

That doesn’t mean you have to throw away the toys, though. For one thing, it’s not cost-effective given how expensive some of the toys can be. It’s not great for the environment either seeing as how they’ll probably end up in the landfill.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution; you can wash and clean the toys. That’ll get rid of any germs that are on the toy, which will make things much more hygienic- both for you and your pet.

How to Clean & Sanitize Cat and Dog Toys

Assuming that the toy is played with often, you want to clean it at least once a week. Those that are noticeably covered in food, mud, or dribble, however, should be wiped or rinsed immediately.

But what’s the best way to deep clean dog and cat dogs? The answer is- it depends. For example, some can be put in the washing machine on a gentle cycle while others may need to be hand-washed with a pet-friendly detergent.

It’s also important to avoid chemicals such as bleach as they can be highly toxic when consumed, even if diluted with water.

For those who are unsure what to do, be sure to keep reading- we’ll be going over how to properly and safely clean cat and dog toys in detail below.

Washing Instructions for Plush Dog and Cat Toys

Most plush toys, including those with squeakers, can be put in the washing machine. Having said that, it’s best to check the labels beforehand.

how to wash plush pet toys

Check the plush toy for any tears; the last thing that you want is for the toy to lose its stuffing during the wash cycle. It’s also a good idea to put the toy in a mesh laundry bag. That way, if the stuffing does come out, it’ll be caught by the bag.

Tip: If you’re washing just a few toys, it’s best to throw in a couple of towels to help balance the load. You can also wash them with your pet’s blankets; that’ll prevent the toys from banging around inside, which can damage the washer over time.

Measure one scoop of ACTIVE detergent and add it to your washing machine. Not only is it free of harmful chemicals but it also contains active enzymes that will break down any gunk that are on the toys.

Next, choose your wash cycle. Ideally, you want to run a cold delicate, or gentle cycle as they’re less likely to damage the toys’ stuffing, crinkle filling, or squeaker. Having said that, some heavy-duty plush toys may be able to tolerate hot water.

Take the plush toys out of the washer as soon as they’re done washing; you don’t want to leave them inside for prolonged periods as the wet environment can cause mold and bacteria to grow.

Depending on the plush toy, you may be able to put it in the dryer on low heat. Keep in mind, however, that if you do choose to tumble dry the toys, you want to avoid using dryer sheets- they contain chemicals that can potentially be toxic to your pet.

Make sure the plush toy is completely dry before giving it back to your pet.

How to Sanitize Rubber, Nylon, or Plastic Cat and Dog Toys

Check the label on the toy. If it’s dishwasher safe, you can place it on the top rack of your dishwasher.

cleaning rubber dog toys

If not, you can wash it in the sink with a bit of hand soap. To do that, fill the sink with warm water and add a bit of hand soap to create a sudsy solution. If the toy is noticeably dirty, you can use an old toothbrush or scrub brush to clean the crevices and other areas where grime and dirt might build up.

Rinse the toy under running water afterward. Continue until all of the soap residue is washed off. Make sure the toy is completely dry before returning it to your pet.

Tip: For excessively dirty toys, you can soak them in a vinegar solution. Fill the sink with warm water and add white vinegar in a one-to-one ratio. Allow the toys to soak for 30 minutes before scrubbing the surface with a brush; the vinegar’s acidic properties will help kill off any germs that are on the toy.

Rinse well with water afterward and allow it to air dry.

Best Way to Clean & Disinfect Rope Dog Toys

Rope toys are a little trickier to clean than other toys. For one thing, they tend to be tough, heavy, and chunky. They also have a high surface area, which means they are more likely to be covered in grime, saliva, bacteria, and other microbes.

dirty rope toy

Nevertheless, it is possible to clean these toys. Instead of using the washing machine, however, you want to put it in the microwave. Keep in mind, however, that this method is only suitable for toys that are 100% rope.

Start by soaking the toy in warm water. Make sure the rope material is completely saturated and microwave it on high for one to two minutes. The high temperature will kill off any germs that are present.

Let the toy cool down for a few minutes before taking it out from the microwave. You may need to wring the toy a few times to get rid of the excess water.

Wait until it’s fully dry before giving it back to your pet.

When Should You Replace Your Pet’s Toys?

Cat and dog toys should be replaced at the end of their lifespan. Here are some signs that it’s time for a new toy:

  • There are loose pieces on the toy, which are essentially choking hazards
  • The squeaker and part of the stuffing are coming out of the toy
  • Your pet is starting to eat the toy rather than play with it
  • The toy is dirty no matter how much you wash it
  • Your pet’s rubber toy is chewed to the point where there are sharp edges that can cause injuries
  • The toy has hard plastic that’s flaking or cracking
  • The toy has come into contact with urine or other bodily wastes
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