How To Wash Dog Toys

A Word from Dr. Joyce Ashamalla

Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.


Have you counted the number of toys you’ve accumulated for your pet? Do you think there are 50? Or 100? It can be hard to resist buying a new toy for your pet every time you take a trip to the store and many of us drop a toy or two into our baskets on the way to the checkout counter. If you’ve amassed quite a few toys, it’s time to take a look at their condition so take a moment to gather your pet’s toys into a pile. Are some of them ripped, broken, or falling apart? Are they grimy or smelly? When was the last time you cleaned them? If your answer is never, you know what you need to do! Toys that are tattered and dirty can be a risk to your pet’s safety and health. Read on for tips on how to clean dog toys (and cat toys too).

How To Disinfect Dog Toys

Your dog’s toys probably get a ton of use, especially his favorite ball or chew toy. Take an inventory of all your pet’s toys and toss any of them that are damaged, ripped or falling apart. Don’t risk the chance of your pet swallowing stuffing or pieces of the toy. For toys that are in good shape, it’s cleaning time!

Hand Washing

All toys can be washed by hand. Mild dish detergent and hot soapy water is best for hand washing since it will kill germs. If you need to scrub the toys, use a cloth or sponge instead of an abrasive tool because this could scratch the toys and open up the possibility for bacteria to grow in the tiny scrapes. After washing, make sure to rinse the toys thoroughly to remove any leftover soap and let the toys to air dry completely before allowing your pet to play with them. It’s also safe to use bleach to disinfect nonporous toys. Add two teaspoons of bleach to one gallon of water and leave the toys to soak for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.

Machine Washing

If hand washing toys seems like a daunting task, many pet toys can be machine washed. Check the label first to confirm and if there are no washing instructions, use your best judgement. If the toy is one of your pet’s favorites, it’s probably better to hand wash it to avoid catastrophe in case it gets ruined. More durable toys can go in the washing machine in a mesh laundry bag using the hot water setting. Scented detergent and fabric softener should be avoided since animals may be sensitive to the fragrance. Allow toys air dry instead of using the dryer because the heat may damage them. You may be tempted to use the dishwasher to clean your pet’s toys, but it is not a good idea. The toys are too fragile and many will not survive!

How To Clean Cat Toys

Toys for cats can be cleaned in the same manner as dog toys. Fragile toys with feathers should be hand washed and any plush toys or plastic toys can probably be machine washed in a mesh laundry bag. Be sure to hand wash catnip toys without detergent or dish soap since the chemicals may pollute the catnip.

Every pet has his favorite toy. They carry them everywhere and some even sleep with them. By cleaning the toys every few months, you can extend the life of the toy. Start by setting a recurring reminder in your calendar and take an inventory of your pet’s toys. By tossing any that are falling apart and thoroughly sanitizing the remaining toys, you will keep your dog or cat safe and healthy.