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If your dog is like most canine friends, they probably have a favorite toy that they constantly chew on. Maybe they carry it outside on walks or runs in the yard, rubbing it in dirt and whatever else is on the ground. Perhaps it's starting to emit a funky odor.
Sound familiar? Read on to learn how to clean dog toys so that they look (and smell) like new again.
Cleaning Dog Toys: Why It's Important
If you aren't feeling inspired to clean your dog's toys, get this: Dog toys carry everything from yeast to mold to staph bacteria. They're among the top 10 "germiest" home items, according to NSF International. And, because dogs primarily use their mouths to play with toys, they ingest any bacteria their toys collect. If your dog is a big smoocher, they could be sharing that bacteria with you.
How to Clean Dog Toys
There's no question that leaving your dog's germy toys to fester can be a household hazard. But if you aren't careful, cleaning dog toys can actually bring more hazards into the mix. According to the American Kennel Club, "bleach, phenols, products with high chemical concentrations and some detergents can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and severe chemical burns."
Fortunately, there are many pet-safe cleaning solutions out there. Your best bet is to check with your veterinarian or a pet supply expert to confirm that a cleaner is safe before using it. However, if you're feeling crafty, you can also whip up a do-it-yourself, all-natural solution of one-half water, one-half white vinegar. You can use this mixture, or any dog-safe cleaning product, to scrub your dog's toys by hand or to wash them in a dishwasher or laundry machine.
Cleaning Plush Toys
When cleaning plush toys, be sure to either use a pet-safe detergent or avoid using detergent entirely. You can also wash soft toys by hand using the half-water, half-vinegar solution. Afterward, either air-dry the toys or pop them into the dryer (but don't use dryer sheets).
To avoid the possibility of mold, make sure plush toys are completely dry before either returning them to your pet or storing them.
Cleaning Chew Toys
When cleaning chew toys, be sure to tape over any holes to prevent cleaning products from getting inside them. Note that, with certain chew toys, there may come a point when the object is simply too worn for your dog to safely use it. To prevent your dog from accidentally ingesting plastic or fabric, get rid of a toy as soon as it starts to tear or develop holes.
Consider dividing your dog's favorite toys into two groups and washing each group on a regular basis. For example, you could wash the toys in group No. 1 on the first and third weeks of the month and toys in group No. 2 on the second and fourth weeks. This way, your dog always has a fresh, beloved toy to play with.
Cleaning dog toys is critical to your and your dog's health. After playing the day away, just make sure you devote a little time to cleaning up your pup's mess. You'll both be better off.
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.