How To Disinfect Dog Toys? Tips And Precautions


If your dog is anything like mine then they probably have a favorite toy that they constantly chew and carry around.

As a dog parent, knowing exactly how to disinfect dog toys and clean them properly is important to keep your pup safe.

Our dogs toys have been through mud, dirt, dragged along the floor, grabbed by multiple human hands, and of course slobbered on. They definitely get to a point where they emit a funky odor…

Read on to discover:

  • Effective and simple steps to disinfect & clean dog toys
  • Tips for specific toys like tennis balls, rubber toys, rope toys and plush toys
  • Safety precautions with cleaning products
  • Knowing when and how often to clean your dogs toys
  • And more…
How to disinfect dog toys

How to Disinfect Dog Toys

To disinfect and clean dog toys look to the cleaning instructions on the label or packaging of the toy. Wherever possible, follow the manufacturers recommendations for disinfecting the toys. If the tag has been removed, then search for instructions on the brands website or follow toy cleaning guidelines.

Here are 5 general steps you can take to disinfect and clean most dog toys:

  1. Soak the toy in a 5% vinegar and warm water solution for 15 minutes
  2. Use a brush or sponged to remove built up dirt (old tooth brushes work great here)
  3. Rinse thoroughly with water.
  4. Optional – If the toy is machine washable you can opt to throw it in the top-rack of your dishwasher (use anti-bacterial dish soap or 1/4 cup of vinegar in replacement of your detergent)
  5. Let the toy fully dry before adding it back to your dogs toy bin.

Experts from PetMD say leaving any toy for a long period of time without a good cleaning can build up germs and can become a household hazard. Not just for your pup but for everyone else in the house.

That is why it’s important to know how to disinfect dog toys to make sure they are clean.

Here are some more specific guidelines to follow when it comes to disinfecting specific types of dog toys (plush, rubber, rope etc.):

How To Disinfect Rubber, Plastic, or Nylon Dog Toys

Most rubber, plastic, and nylon dog toys are machine washable and can be placed in the top-rack of dishwashers. Alternative methods for disinfecting these types of toys would be by hand. Use 1 ounce of vinegar mixed with warm water, let the toy soak for 10-15 minutes, scrub it clean , rinse, and then let it dry.

It’s definitely tempting to just throw all your dog toys in the dishwasher or laundry machine. Make sure to ONLY use this method if the manufacturer has specifically stated the toy is machine washable.

Machines can destroy toys when not properly suited for them. They can also cause toys to release potentially dangerous chemicals.

PetMD says to prevent mold, it is important to make sure your toy is cleaned and thoroughly dried before you put the toy away.

Read Further Here: How To Clean A Kong Dog Toy

How To Disinfect Rope Dog Toys

This category of toys can be one of the worse for building up bacteria, germs, mold, moisture, and drool. Due to the absorbing nature of some rope fibers we need a different cleaning strategy for these toys.

To fully disinfect rope toys make sure you first soak the rope toy in water for a minute or so, then microwave the rope for about 1 minute to kill all the living bacteria inside the toy. This only applies to toys that are 100% rope.

Furthermore, the microwave will only disinfect the toy, it won’t remove all the grime and dirt still on the toy. So, simply toss it in the laundry! Rope toys can be used in both washers and dryers!

How To Disinfect Plush Dog Toys (with stuffing, squeakers, or crinkle filling):

Similar to rope toys, plush toys can build up all sorts of bacteria, even more so than rope toys… Plush toys need to be cleaned more than any other type of toy because of this.

However, the good news is the best way to disinfect and clean them is to throw them in the washing machine!

In addition, make sure to select the appropriate wash cycle based on the material of the toy. Stronger, durable, plush toys will hold up against normal wash cycles.

How to clean and disinfect dog toys containing stuffing, squeakers, or crinkle filling Is to stick them in the washing machine with warm and cold water (instead of hot) to avoid any damage to the plush toy. If you think the toy might won’t withstand the washer, consider using a mesh bag to prevent them from taking too much of a beating.

Warning: Damaged and torn plush toys will further deteriorate in the washing machine and should be hand washed to preserve them.  Fill the sink with warm water then add an ounce of vinegar. Gently scrub the toy to loosen dirt, and rinse thoroughly to get rid of the sharp vinegar smell. 

How To Clean Dog Tennis Balls

The next thing you might be wondering is how to disinfect dog toys like the classic tennis ball. It’s a fairly simple process, you soak them, scrub them, rinse them off, and then dry them.

To clean a tennis ball dog toy fill a sink, tub, or bucket with warm water. Then let the tennis balls soak in the water for 30 minutes. If they are really dirty it might be good to add a tiny bit of vinegar as your detergent. Then scrub each ball with a soft sponge or brush, rinse them, and then them out to dry!

Knowing When To Clean Your Dog Toys & How Often

It’s a good idea to constantly keep an eye on your dogs toys and belongings.

Inspect and evaluate your dog’s toys regularly to determine when you need to take action and get your dogs toys cleaned or tossed.

A good rule of thumb for how often you should clean a dog toy is based on the frequency in which they play with the toy. If your dog has a toy they are always playing with and they constantly bring it outside and drag it through the mud, it’s likely it will need cleaning more frequently then other toys.

Knowing when a toy needs cleaning is done by analyzing the smell of the toy and dirt and grim on the toy. If you are grossed out by touching the toy, or by the smell of the toy, or your hands after touching the toy, it’s time to clean it.

4 Tips For Cleaning Dog Toys

Using Natural Sanitizing Agents Like Vinegar

When we first learned how to disinfect dog toys we learned to use vinegar to clean our dogs toys instead of bleach. This is a natural cleaning product so it’s better for the environment, and better for our overall health.

Simply create a solution with vinegar and water to clean your dog’s toys!

Clean Your Dogs Toy Bin

It’s no surprise that bacteria from the dog toys can spread into your dog toy bin. If you store their toys in a bin or basket make sure your cleaning their storage container!

With how dirty the toys can get the last thing we want is to clean a toy just to throw it back into a disgusting container. Not only will it help keep their toys cleaner for longer, but it will also help reduce germs in your home.

Outdoor Toys Need More Attention

If your dog loves playing with their toys outside, it’s likely those toys contain much more bacteria then their indoor toys.

Getting in the habit of cleaning these toys more often can make a big difference with reducing the overall bacteria that sneaks it’s way into your home.

With these outdoor toys they might need a longer soaking period in order for you to maximize there cleaning.

Set up a toy rotation

One of the best ways to make cleaning easier for your dog is to have a rotation system in place.

This allows you to have a select group of toys for playing while another set of toys are being cleaned. That way your dog still gets to play with toys even when you are cleaning others.

Not only that but it will prevent your dog from getting bored of toys. Cleaning toys, and having them gone for a few weeks can bring back excitement to them.

After a good cleaning the smell has changed and thus when you re introduce it, it’s like a brand new toy!

Further Readings: Do Dogs Get Bored Of Toys?

Safety Precautions When Disinfecting Toys

Detergents and soaps do a great job at cleaning materials, surfaces, and more! However, they leave behind chemical residue that could be harmful to your pet.

Its advised to stay away from using cleaning products that use some of these chemical since they can become ingested by your beloved pup.

Bleach, peroxide, Lysol-type products are all things to avoid using.

According to the American Kennel Club, “bleach, phenols, products with high chemical concentrations and some detergents can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and severe chemical burns.”

There is an exception I found when it comes to using bleach that comes from the ASPCA.

Is It Safe To Bleach Dog Toys?

Normally when we want to disinfect something, it’s natural to think of bleach.

However, this is where many pet owners have a lot of concerns about the dangers towards their pets’ health.

Here is what we know about using bleach for disinfecting dog toys. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) claims that cleaning toys in bleach is fine, so long as it’s DILUTED and the toys are FULLY rinsed after cleaning.

The ASPCA even gives us a diluting bleach calculator for making sure the bleach we use is diluted enough for use on dog toys.

Even with these calculations is still recommended to avoid using bleach and stick with natural sanitizing agents as mentioned above.

Other posts you might find interesting:

12 Best Moving Dog Toys – Interactive Dog Toys

15 Best Dog Toys for Cleaning Teeth: Which Are Most Effective?

How To Train A Dog To Pick Up Toys And Put Them Away

Alec Littlejohn

Founder and Reviewer at Pawscessories. He is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! He grew up in a family of vets and to this day he helps out around the family clinic and shares his learnings on Pawscessories. Learn more about Alec's story here

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