Can You Wash Dog Toys? 

There are few things better in life than plopping down on the couch at the end of a long day and sinking in the soft cushions while watching your adorable dog go to town on their favorite toy.

But what was your dog doing before then? Did you let them outside? Do they enjoy unsanitary activities such as eating poop, drinking from stagnant water, and sticking their nose in a number of other sketchy places?

can you wash dog toys
Can you wash dog toys? (Toy Cleaning Guide)

Assuming you don’t brush their teeth and sanitize their snouts the second they come in, chances are that your favorite toy is getting a new layer of not-so-fun bacteria. Multiply that by multiple trips outside, and now that cute image of your dog playing becomes one of them spreading all kinds of nasty on your couch.

We all enjoy watching our dogs play, so don’t feel like you’re the only one who hasn’t thought about this enough. The good news is there are two great ways you can keep the ick factor to a minimum – regularly brushing your dog’s teeth and cleaning their toys.

We already have a great article on brushing your dog’s teeth, so let’s discuss how to wash your dog’s toys. We’ll start with the basics of cleaning dog toys, followed by a breakdown of how to clean different toy types.

Cleaning 101

If you ask five different people about the best way to clean dog toys, you’ll probably get five different answers. Some prefer a more natural approach, while some waste no time bringing out the bleach.

different dog toys on the grass
Dog toys should be cleaned and sanitized.

It’s difficult giving a definitive answer as there are benefits and risks to both approaches, but at the end of the day, a lot of how you clean comes down to the type of toy you’re cleaning and how dirty it is. Vinegar may be all you need for some toys, while ones that come in contact with feces should probably be cleaned with diluted bleach. But even then, there are some toys that you can’t use bleach on, no matter how dirty they are.

It can get complicated, so let’s break down the best ways to clean some of the more popular toy types.

Hard, Non-Porous

The National Sanitary Foundation lists pet toys in their ten most germy items in the home list. Dogs regularly take hard toys such as nylon bones outside and drop them on the ground, in water, and anywhere else you can think. Teeth indents make perfect breeding grounds for bacteria, so properly disinfecting these toys is important for your dog’s health.

Best Dog Bones for Aggressive Chewers
Aggressive chewing dogs need strong chew toys (and hopefully not furniture)

The NSF recommends cleaning hard toys with hot soapy water, rinsing, and then disinfecting in a mild bleach solution of half a tablespoon per gallon of water. Let the toy sit in the bleach water for about two minutes before taking it out, rinsing in water, and then air drying.

Soft Toys and Stuffed Animals

Soft toys and stuffed animals are probably the easiest dog toys to clean – you simply throw them in the washing machine. That said, it’s necessary to pay attention to what detergent you’re using. Fabric can hang on to trace amounts of chemicals, so it’s recommended to avoid bleach and use detergents free of dyes and fragrances.

dog plays with toy
The dog plays with his toy.

Many modern washers clean just as well with cold water as warm, but disinfection is even more important than cleanliness with dog toys, so crank up the heat for this load.

Double-check the tag of each toy, but most stuffed animals can handle a high-temp round in the dryer after washing. It’s important to ensure soft toys and stuffed animals are thoroughly rinsed and dried before your dog sinks their teeth into them.

Rope Toys

Rope toys fall into a middle ground category. They aren’t exactly soft, but they aren’t hard and non-porous. You’ll find varying opinions on the best way to clean these neither soft nor hard toys, but one of the easiest ways is to soak the toy in warm water, shake it around to remove any dirt, and pop it in the microwave for a minute.

a puppy sitting on a deck with a tug toy
This puppy LOVES his tug toy!

Only use this method if the rope is free of non-microwave-safe additions.

You can also throw most rope toys in the wash with soft toys and stuffed animals, but be extra careful to use scent, and dye-free detergents as ropes can easily capture those chemicals and become unsafe and unappealing to your dog.

Avoiding harsh chemicals is another reason not to use bleach for this type of toy, but if the rope is extra soiled and you want to try properly disinfecting it instead of throwing it in the trash, you can soak it in bleach water, then soak it in regular water before swishing it around, wringing it out thoroughly, and allowing to air dry.


Dog ball toys can be hard or soft. You can treat the solid hard ones just like any other hard toy, but the soft ones can quickly become germ and bacteria-filled dangers if not cleaned properly and often.

Goldendoodle with a ball
Goldendoodle plays with a ball.

Soft dog balls and other toys constructed of soft plastic to allow the dog to sink their teeth into generally have a small hole that allows air to enter and escape. It also lets in saliva, water, and a variety of things that can grow and make your dog sick. Soak these toys in a bleach water solution, and ensure you get the water inside the toy.

Rinse well when finished.

It’s important to do this regularly, especially for darker-colored toys that you can’t see the inside of. If the toy is lightly colored, try putting it in front of a light to see if you notice any discoloration on the inside that could be mold growth.


Keeping your dog’s toys properly cleaned doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be time-consuming if you have all different types of toys, but it’s easy once you get into the habit and establish your routine.

Paying close attention to toy construction and any instructions that come with the toys will go a long way in keeping your pet safe and healthy and ensuring their toys last as long as possible.

Knowing how to wash dog toys is only half the battle. You also have to remember to do it. I recommend setting a schedule and sticking to it.

Don’t wait until toys are obviously dirty, or just assume they are clean. You never know what germs and bacteria are present, so it’s best to be sure.

So, the key takeaway from this article is to clean those dog toys, sit back, and watch your companion play away, knowing you’ve done what you needed to keep them healthy and happy!