Have you ever noticed how gross your dog's toys get? If your canine companion is hard on toys, they may not last long enough to worry about cleaning. But for everyone else and those rare, seemingly indestructible toys, cleanliness is important for your dog's health.
Dirty toys don't just look bad; they smell bad--harboring tons of bacteria thanks to the saliva-drenching style dogs like to use. Not only does your dog's mouth introduce new bacteria to toys, but they continue to ingest more bacteria as they play with dirty toys.
How Often Should You Clean Dog Toys?
How often your dog's toys need a wash depends on a few things. For one, the material will make it more or less susceptible to bacterial growth. Hard, non-porous rubber toys tend to stay cleaner than fibrous rope toys. Does that mean that you shouldn't buy soft toys? No, any toy that is suitable for dogs is probably safe with supervision. But you will need to clean soft toys more often.
At a minimum, try to clean and disinfect your dog toys at a minimum of once, every two weeks. Develop a routine to collect the toys for inspection and cleaning, getting rid of any worn-out toys.
When Should You Get Rid of Toys
Dogs vary quite a bit in the ferocity with which they use their toys. Some dogs are super-chewers and can chomp through otherwise durable toys in a matter of days--or hours! Others, despite regular playing, seem to keep their toys in pristine condition.
When a dog toy becomes heavily chewed, the risk of choking or intestinal blockage increases significantly. For your pet's safety, always discard toys that are losing stuffing or have a visible breakdown in the material that may chunk or flake off.
Tips for Cleaning Your Dog's Toys
Most toys come with manufacturer care guidelines. Always stick to the care instructions if they are available. But, it is not always practical to keep packaging around for months after buying a toy, so what do you do when you don't have those care instructions anymore? Assuming the toy or brand is still on the market, and you can identify it, care instructions may be available online or by contacting the manufacturer. But even then, it isn't too difficult to figure out what methods might work for different types of toys. Here are some guidelines to get you started:
Rubber, Plastic, and Nylon
Always wash hard toys by hand in warm, soapy water. There is a lot of advice out there stating that the dishwasher is the best place to put these toys. However, not all materials are dishwasher safe. Unless you have checked with the manufacturer's care instructions, try to avoid using the dishwasher.
High temperatures, steam, and chemicals in the dishwasher can affect the structural integrity of some rubber, plastic, or nylon materials. The best-case scenario would be that the dishwasher shortens the useable life of the toy. However, in some cases, the damage is severe enough to cause the plastic to release harmful chemicals to your animal.
For heavy-duty cleaning, pre-soak toys in a vinegar and water solution. Vinegar, while pungent, is naturally non-toxic. Use a toothbrush or small scrub brush to clean the curves and crevices where bacteria can hide. Thoroughly rinse and towel dry all toys before returning them to your toy bin.
Rope toys are a soft, fibrous rope material, which is difficult to clean by hand. Rope toys are more prone to dirt, grime, and various types of bacteria than hard plastic or nylon toys. But, they make for the best tug toys.
If the toy is only rope with no metal or plastic pieces, it is safe to toss in your laundry for a good cleaning. Keep in mind that you will want to disinfect the toy in addition to washing it. Some people add bleach to their laundry for disinfection; however, since the toy goes in your dog's mouth, toxic chemicals like bleach are not preferred.
Instead, zap the rope toy in the microwave for at least one minute to kill the germs that survived the wash and dry cycles.
Like rope toys, stuffed toys are made from a lot of soft materials that harbor a lot of bacteria. The best way to wash stuffed toys is in the laundry. Remember, they are dog toys, and they are built to be a little sturdy, so the regular wash cycle should treat them fine.
For small-breed dog toys, you may want to place items inside a mesh laundry bag to keep them corralled in the washer. And, for toys that have crinkles or squeakers, hang drying is a good idea to protect them from the heat of the dryer. Regular stuffed toys without extra parts should be fine in the dryer.
If you are looking for heavy-duty fetch, run, and tug toys, Runball has you covered. Our proprietary dog toys and accessories are fun and safe for your pet. Shop our products now.
How Dangerous Are Dirty Dog Toys for Your Animal?
A buildup of dirt, bacteria, yeast, and mold are the culprits behind the funky smell in your dog toy bin! It is gross and probably at least somewhat unhealthy for your pup to play with dirty dog toys all of the time. However, while we recommend good toy hygiene, the risk to your dog's health may not be as significant as you think! Dog's are made for high exposure to these things that usually make humans sick.
That doesn't mean that it is good for them or encourages them to ingest these contaminants. But it does mean that they are less likely than people to get sick from it. However, frequent bacteria exposure can cause conditions like puppy acne. And, a buildup of bacteria will make your toys break down faster.
What Cleaning Products Are Safe for Pet Toys?
For hard toys, soaking in a water and white vinegar solution is the most natural way to clean toys. Follow up by washing in soapy water using an antibacterial dish soap. For soft toys, use your washing machine with a non-toxic laundry soap. You can add a pet-safe laundry booster or vinegar if you wish. However, skip the toxic chemicals in fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
Some of our favorite products include:
Vinegar is a truly natural, multipurpose cleaning product that is safe and suitable for all areas of the home--including your pets. In the laundry, vinegar can replace your detergent booster and help eliminate some of the grime your washer leaves behind. It can also replace your fabric softener, effective at both softening fabrics and reducing static. Vinegar is also good for cleaning and removing bacteria from hard surfaces, including toys. And vinegar is 100% digestible, so it is the safest thing you can use on a dog toy.
Antibacterial Dish Soaps
Antibacterial soaps go by a few different names. They are also sometimes called antimicrobial or antiseptic soaps. These products have active ingredients that aid in killing germs. These extra ingredients are not commonly found in most dish soap products, so make sure you choose a product with antibacterial properties.
Is there an all-purpose cleaner that is safe for pets? That is right; it is made from natural ingredients like plant oils. An all-purpose cleaner is good for toys that have multiple different parts or for cleaning stains on dog bedding or anywhere in your home. Dr. Bronners Sal Suds gets the job without being toxic to your pet.
Free & Clear Laundry Detergents
Most commercial laundry detergents are full of unnecessary chemical additives for fragrance, color, and cleaning power. However, the best choice for your dog toys is a limited ingredient detergent that doesn't have any unnecessary additives. Most major brands carry a free & clear formula that fits the bill.
Pet-Safe Laundry Boosters
If you are looking for a little extra-cleaning action for soft toys in the laundry, there are some pet-friendly options. For example, Nature's Miracle makes a booster product specifically for pet-friendly households.
Tips for Taking Care of Dog Toys
We said it before; there are two types of dogs--those who destroy their toys and those who don't. If your pup is the type to take the challenge to destroy the newest toy, most of this post probably sounds like nonsense to you because the toy won't even last long enough to make it to the wash.
For the rest of us, washing and caring for dog toys might not have crossed our minds. Some surveys of pet owners found that as much as 20% of us have never thought about cleaning the dog's toys. And, many more of us don't make the habit frequent enough.
Choose Good Quality Toys
Like any other product being peddled in the retail market, the quality of one toy to the next can be very different. Dog toys should be interesting and challenging but safe for your pet. This means that the product should be fairly indestructible with no small pieces that can present a choking hazard.
Rubber, plastic, and nylon are popular toy materials. These materials are different in composition, but there are different types of rubbers and plastics within each category. While there is not a regulatory body governing the production of safe pet toys, you can do your own research.
Start by buying from reputable manufacturers who commit to making healthy pet toys and not making money from easily encouraged pet owners. If you have any concerns, check out this database of information on healthy stuff. Did you know that they found up to 45% of dog toys contain hazardous toxins, and more than half had lead concentrations higher than allowable limits for children's toys?
Choose Suitable Toys Based on Your Dog's Personality (and Size)
No two dogs are the same! Toys come in different sizes and durability ratings for a reason, and it is important to find the right pairing for your animal. Does your dog chew toys? Most dogs do, but it is not really chewing as much as it is destroying. Similar to how a wild dog would tear apart prey, your pup is exercising his instincts to work at the toy until it is dismantled. Your wallet probably doesn't appreciate this type of play, but your pooch loves it.
Dogs that are inclined to chomp and destroy are typically not compatible with plush toys. Some brands on the market are built a little more sturdily, but even those should be reserved for supervised play times.
Similarly, if you choose too small toys for your larger dog, they will easily get them in the back of their mouth, close to their throat. And, I am sure you can see how that will go poorly for your pup. Likewise, miniature breeds that are allowed to play with toys that are too large for their jowls can hurt themselves or even get the toy lodged in their mouth.
Stick to a Regular Cleaning Routine
Depending on your dog's toy habits, try to inspect and clean all of the toys on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Take time to look through all of the toys and discard any items that are not in good condition. If you can make a simple repair, do this now. However, most toys are better discarded. Wash, dry, and disinfect all of the toys using pet-safe or natural products before returning them to the toy bin.
Know When It Is Time to Toss
Compromised squeak toys, shredded nylon ropes, and hard nylon bones with sharp, jagged edges are all good candidates for the trash bin. The main concern of dog toy safety is accidental ingestion which often leads to concerning intestinal blockages. If your dog accidentally swallows a piece of toy and cannot pass it naturally, veterinary attention is required, and many times the animal ends up in surgery. Not only does this put your pet's life in danger, but it is a very expensive outcome for the pet owner.
Runball knows a thing or two about quality dog toys. We are dog owners and lovers first and a toy company second, so you can trust that we have developed our toys with your pet's health and safety in mind. Shop our toys now.