We got our first snowfall of the season on Halloween. Yep. In October. I haven’t seen snow on Halloween in years (although I do remember going trick-or-treating in a full one-piece snowsuit under my costume like an absolute baller as a child, so I know snow indeed does occur on October 31st sometimes). But it happened, and it caught us a little off guard. While we rushed to switch our summer tires for our snow tires on the cars, and get things in order, it also occurred to me that the days of going outside to let Archer expel all her pent-up energy were winding down. Our walks would soon have to be timed and planned depending on the cold and the wind.
Playing inside would be more common now, and as I looked at her array of toys (soooo many toys!), I realized half of them were dirty, tattered messes. They simply had to be cleaned. Only, I had no idea how to go about cleaning all these toys! Different textures, materials, etc… So here’s what I did, and hopefully it’ll help you sort out and clean your own pup’s toys too!
Sort the toys through type: plushies, soft toys with squeakers, soft toys with crinkle, and plastic/rubber toys. If there are toys that need repairing, sew them up safely for your pup if you can. If you can’t, and the toys are beyond repair (and may pose a choking hazard), cut your losses and throw them out.
Check for Recommended Cleaning: Some toys will include tags with recommended cleaning directions. If the toys include these, follow the direction as given. If not, the company may have cleaning suggestions on their website for you to try. Short of all that, proceed with through our list below for the best cleaning method based on the toy type.
Bleach + Warm Soapy Water: Bleach is tricky to use, because these are toys your dog will be putting in its mouth to chew and play with. When using bleach, use in small but effective amounts (1 cup/250mL of bleach to 2 gallons/8L of water) and always rinse thoroughly (or let soak in warm soapy water afterward, then rinse) before letting stand to dry. You can let the toys soak in the bleach/water bath for about 2–5 minutes before getting in there and scrubbing. You don’t want to leave them soak for too long because it may discolour the toys.
If you can still smell bleach on the toy after drying, rinse thoroughly again and let dry. Bleach has an almost soapy feeling when used on rubber/plastic, so you should be able to feel if there is any bleach left over on the toy before rinsing it, but to be sure just rinse thoroughly.
Vinegar + Warm Water: For a natural but more heavy-duty method of cleaning, try a 1:2 vinegar/water solution in your kitchen sink and let the toys soak there for 15 minutes before scrubbing them with a brush, cloth, or bottle brush (for holes in the toys, like a Kong), then rinsing thoroughly. I would recommend following this up with another dunk and soak in a sink of soapy water (below), before the final rinse. Let stand dry until toys are completely dry before offering it to your pup again.
Warm Soapy Water: Regular dish soap and water in the kitchen sink is still a great option for most toys that don’t have grime and drool caked on them.
In all of these options, use only warm water (nothing too hot to touch; the water should be warm enough that you can put your hand in the water without getting burned!) to avoid damaging the plastic/rubber of the toy. You don’t want to use scalding hot water because it may affect the structural integrity of the plastic/rubber.
I classify “plushy toys” as, basically, stuffed toys. No squeakers, no crinkles, nothing special. Just a stuffed—fabric and stuffing—kind of toy.
Washing Machine: Regular, nothing-fancy, ho-hum plushy toys can be washed on a regular warm/cold setting (if they have any plastic, avoid washing on hot/cold) and can be thrown in with your towels or blankets to make the load count, if you wanted. The plushies aren’t anything special, so washing them regularly with towels is a pretty easy fix-all to keeping your house clean.
Before washing anything in the washing machine, you’ll want to make sure you’ve stitched up any holes to avoid having your washer or dryer filled with loose stuffing.
Plush Toys With Squeakers/Crinkle
Washing Machine: This was a concern I had when I was sorting through the toys. I was worried that washing these toys in a washing machine would somehow destroy the squeaker. After washing them, I can tell you that washing them in a washing machine should not ruin the squeaker (unless the squeaker already had holes or was damaged to begin with), but you’ll want to be sure to wash it on a cold/cold setting and dry them either by hanging or on a cool dry setting on your dryer. If possible, use a gentler wash setting (like hand wash) if available.
You can wash these toys with the other plushy toys, but in this case you’d have to wash the lot on cold/cold and on a cool dry dryer setting, or hang dry.
We wash Archer’s bedding once every week or so (it’s the fur more than anything that gets out of hand). It’s the little things that, left untended, can get out of hand and suddenly you realize your house is a mess and smells like dog. If you keep on top of each task, you’re all set! Just make a habit out of maintaining the toys and accessories and you’ll keep yourself sane and your home from smelling like your pup!