Colorful box of dirty dog toys that need to be washed!

Why it is Important to Wash Your Dog’s Toys Periodically

Despite the long held belief that a dog’s saliva has anti-bacterial qualities, a dog’s mouth is actually full of germs. Dogs use their mouths to play with toys and the gunk factor found on toys adds up pretty quickly! That is an important reason why you should periodically wash your dog’s toys.

If you are like me, you may have dozens of toys for your little furry friends to play with. It can feel overwhelming to keep track of which toys need washing and which ones can wait a while. But a good rule of thumb is to try to wash everything at least once a month to assure they all get cleaned.

Why It is Critical to Wash Your Dog’s Toys

“… a dog’s saliva has approximately 400 different kinds of bacteria.”

Floyd Dewhirst
My black dog Georgia sneaking around with her favorite soft rubber Chew King ball.
Georgia sneaking around with her favorite Chew King ball.

Since the time of the Egyptians, people have believed that dog’s tongues have healing powers. While it is true that a canine mother licking her pups may offer some antibacterial properities against e. coli and streptococcus, that is about it. And that is dog licking dog, not dog licking a human.

Hemopet.org offered this insight in a recent post about dog bacteria: “According to Floyd Dewhirst and his research colleagues, a dog’s saliva has approximately 400 different kinds of bacteria.” Furthermore, the CDC warns that you should wash your face and hands if your dog licks you, especially after your dog has eaten. And do not let a dog lick a human wound or even their own for that matter.

I recent was bitten by my own dog, Charlotte. I was bleeding profusely, so I rushed to the ER. It was an innocent mistake. Charlotte had accidentally bitten my finger when I was trying to feed her a carrot. (Apparently fingers and carrots look a lot alike.) As they were stitching me up, the physicians assistant informed me that I would need a tetanus shot and a round of antibiotics. All because of a dog bite!

And if that is not enough to convince you, the ick factor might. Just think about how much dogs slobber on their toys; drag them around on the floor; get them dirty outside in the back yard, and who knows what else they do with them!

Best Ways to Wash Dog Toys

Brown cattle dog chewing on her favorite stuffed rabbit.
Charlotte chewing on her favorite stuffed rabbit

Stuffed animals, plush toys, and ropes can usually be safely washed in the wash machine. But refrain from using a harsh detergent. Use vinegar and or baking soda instead. Remember, these toys go into your dog’s mouth and you don’t want him to ingest any harsh soaps that could be potential toxins. Run it on a low spin cycle using cold water. Anything too hot or rigorous could damage the toy, especially if it has a squeaker or crinkle paper inside.

Balls, chewy toys, rubber and nylon bones should probably be washed in the sink with vinegar and baking soda if needed. I will often throw them into the top rack of the dishwasher as well, but only on the rinse cycle. Anything longer could be too hot and may damage or melt the toy. The rinse cycle is just enough to help disinfect them after a good scrubbing in the sink.

Use a scrub brush if the toys are really soiled or dirty. Sometimes an old toothbrush is useful for smaller toys. Just make sure that the toys are thoroughly rinsed and dried before giving them back to your dog. Make sure you also check the label or look up the manufacturer’s instructions for washing each toy.

When drying the toys, stuffed animals and plush toys should only be left for short periods in the dryer on low heat, so they are not damaged. Then take them out and hang them on a line to finish air drying them.

Frequency of Toy Washing

Georgia my black pug/cattle dog mix is holding a huge bright yellow rubber chewy bone with a warning look that is it her bone!
My bone!

Martha Stewart wrote a post suggesting that dog toys should be washed every two weeks. If only I had the time! I barely get my own clothes and dishes washed on a timely basis! I would agree that every two weeks seems ideal. However, in reality I am lucky to get them all washed every 4-8 weeks. That is probably because I have spoiled my dogs with a huge stash of toys! So, I have a lot of toys to clean and keep track of.

I just adopted Georgia and Charlotte two years ago, and I have been trying to figure out what they like the most. And, truth be told, it has been about self preservation as well. They were both a little anxious and barked a lot (still do) when I first adopted them. So, I became as creative as possible trying to engage them in play time. (See my post about my favorite dog toys. You can also see some of the toys I have purchased below on Amazon by clicking the description on the pictures.) Long story short, I now have a lot of dog toys!

But now I have a better idea about what they like. I have already begun tossing out the ones that they never seem to touch, as well as the worn out toys. It is a good practice to throw out any toy that has become frayed, is falling apart, or has pieces broken off. Sometimes it is safer to throw them out then to try to fix or clean them.

A good rule of thumb is to wash toys at least every 30 days if possible. If you wash all of them once a month, you won’t have to keep a list of what is dirty and what is clean.

Think About Rotating Toys

Rotating toys can be handy for a couple of reasons. First, you can hold back some toys and later exchange them for the current ones they have been playing with. This keeps them interested in different toys. I recently pulled out some rubber bones from my dog’s toy box for about a month. They were not my dog’s favorites even though I liked them since they were so safe. But to my surprise, after a month when I took out their other chewy toys and returned the rubber bones, they were more than happy to chew on them. It was as if they had brand new toys they had never seen before!

I guess dogs sometimes have short memories. Anyway, this is a good way to keep them interested in their toys.

It is also a great way to keep them clean. Before I rotate them out, I give them all a good cleaning and put them in a covered box in the garage. Then I do this again for the next rotation. That way I only have half the work to do each month when I clean everything up. Works well for me and gives me time to do my own dishes!

You can find your own rhythm to clean your dog’s toys. Do what seems to make the most sense for your household. Your dog’s may not engage as much with their toys or they may simply not get them as dirty as other dogs might. But most importantly, remember that they do need to be washed periodically just like anything else that gets happily used a lot.