Do you know what the germiest place in the average home is? You might be thinking, because of the post title, that it’s your pet’s toy box…

And while those toys aren’t technically the germiest, they’re close!

In 2011, the National Safety Federation conducted a germ study. To do this, they asked 22 families to swab 30 everyday household items to measure contamination levels of yeast, mold and coliform bacteria (a family of bacteria that includes Salmonella and E. coli).

Kitchen sponges topped the list, followed by things like your toothbrush holder and your faucet handles… but pet toys were in the top 10! Number 7 in fact.

Pet toys were a source of coliform bacteria (including Staph bacteria), yeast and mold in many homes. Yuck!

So, it’s time to give them a wash! Here’s how to clean dog toys safely!

How to Clean Dog Toys

There are a few different ways to clean dog toys. The method you pick is going to depend on a few things – the type of toy and the cleaning equipment you have at home.

Plus, we want to go the natural route, so we don’t want to be using hard chemicals – your dog chews on these, so you definitely don’t want that.

Rubber and Plastic Toys

Our favorite method of cleaning dog toys is the dishwasher! Yes, lots of dog toys can go in the dishwasher. Be sure to check the label first (either the packaging or some will even say right on the toy if they’re dishwasher safe). if they’re good to go, toss ’em in. The heat in the dishwasher will kill any germs hiding in the cracks and crevices. Use the top shelf and don’t use any detergent. Just remember, some plastic toys will break down in the high temps, so this isn’t the method for everything in the toy box.

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If the toys are not dishwasher safe (or you don’t have a dishwasher), don’t worry. To hand clean dog toys, find a natural dishwashing liquid and give them a good scrub with hot water. You can also soak the toys in hot water with vinegar for a while to kill the germs. Whichever option you choose, make sure you rinse them well with clean water before giving them back to your pup.

Fluffies and Rope Toys

For many dogs, fluffies are sacred. They sleep with them, carrying them around, take them in and out of the house… and that means tons of germs sinking into the fabric! These are easy to wash. Just as you’d wash your dog’s bed or blanket, these toys will do well in the washing machine. That said, you don’t want to just throw them in with your regular laundry because you don’t want to use detergent. Again, like the dishwasher, the sanitize cycle will do a great job, or you can use a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in there too.

Note, though, that if those fluffies are delicate, have squeakers, or stuffing that could break down, you’re going to want to wash them in cold water. Here, vinegar is great to help get rid of the germs.

Use the washing machine too to clean dog toys made of rope. Toss them in a laundry bag because they can sometimes be a bit more gentle. Make sure to use the vinegar with these guys are they tend to get super grimy, super quick.

To dry the toys, use the drier, which will help to kill more germs or hang them on the line to dry in the sun.

Related: You can actually clean your whole home with natural, dog safe cleaners – here’s how to make them!

When is it Time to Toss a Toy?

Our dogs all have that one toy that they’ve had forever or that they play with every day. Some of these will stand the test of time, but others, well, won’t. And as heartbroken as your pup might be to see the toy go, their safety needs to come first.

So, how do you know when it’s time to toss a toy? Look for these signs:

  • If the toy is super chewed up to the point that it can’t be cleaned very well
  • When it’s torn up to the point that stuffing is falling out and the holes can’t be sewn
  • For rope toys, when the rope is really frayed and pieces of the string are separating and falling off with ease
  • If pieces are starting to fall or break off that can easily become a choking hazard or intestinal blockage if swallowed

Caring for Your Dog’s Toys

It’s important to pay attention to your dog’s toys. And while you may not be washing them every week, it’s always a good idea to inspect the contents of that toy bin. Lots of dog toys are designed to be tough – they’re built to be chewed, tugged, tossed, buried, and loved. That said, if they’ve been around a long time or your dog’s a power chewer, don’t forget they don’t last forever.

Even if your pup loves to be outside, try not to leave toys outside for playtime. The moisture builds up and creates a breeding ground for mold. If your dog takes toys outside, try to bring them in every night. And a good rinse is never a bad idea either.

Whether it’s time to toss or clean dog toys remember, it’s always better to be safe!