Dear Tabby,

We have some dog toys that have gotten really dirty! I hate to throw them out, but I was hoping that you had some tips for how to safely clean them?

Grossed out by Gunky Toys in Garden Oaks

Dear Grossed Out,

To love a dog is to also accept his love and adoration for his toys -- even when they get totally gross and dirty. Unless you have a subscription to a monthly dog toy box, there’s a chance that you don’t have a constant stream of new toys coming your way, so it’s important to preserve your dog’s beloved toys so they last longer and don’t harbor bacteria that can make anyone in your home sick. Here are some quick and easy methods for cleaning your pooch’s nasty toys:

Nylon and plastic toys

Hand washing chew toys made from plastic, rubber or nylon is typically recommended. Use dish soap and scrub them with hot water. Unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise, do not attempt to wash these toys in the dishwasher. Your dishwasher uses very hot water that can cause chemicals to be released in the materials. Dishwashers can also melt the toys, compromising the integrity of their construction. 

Plush toys

There is nary a dog who doesn’t have a beloved plush toy. These plush toys often serve as a pacifier and a sleep buddy, so they can get really gross really quickly. The best way to clean plush toys is in the washing machine. If the plush is already well-loved and maybe a bit frayed, consider washing it in a mesh bag on a gentle cycle, in case the beloved lovey falls apart in the wash. It’s typically best to air dry plush toys, but a quick tumble with little to low heat in the dryer can speed up drying time a bit.

Rope toys

A fan favorite for epic games of tug-o-war, rope toys are tons of fun, but can also harbor tons of bacteria. Their absorbent fibers hold on to saliva and all other manners of moisture, which can be a breeding ground for germs. Experts recommend putting a rope toy (that is free from any metal or plastic) in the microwave to disinfect. The microwave will get rid of the gunk that you can’t see, but a quick wash in the washing machine will get rid of the dirt that you can see.

Lastly, use your judgement when evaluating your dog’s toys. Sometimes, as hard as it might be, it’s simply best to toss a toy that has become so gross that it’s beyond repair or chewed into oblivion. Consider taking your dog with you to pick out a new toy and see what he gravitates to. Additionally, monthly subscription boxes are a fun way to introduce new and exciting toys to your pet and also a good excuse to toss the ones that are past their prime.

Do you have a question for Tabby? Email her at

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