Big, small, or in between, your dog probably loves its bed. It may sleep, eat, play and seek safety or comfort, making it an ideal place to harbor nasties from doggy drool, dirt, food, and whatever else has been rolled in or played with that day. Getting a pet bed clean is vital for health, happiness, and household hygiene, keeping it looking and feeling good for your dog’s enjoyment.
Take It Outside
If your dog likes to bring the outside world in, this is an excellent opportunity to put it back where it belongs! Take the dog bed outside and get rid of any sand or easily moved debris by turning it upside down, shaking it, and gently beating it with a broom or stick. If your dog’s bed has a cushion or blanket separate to the base, make sure that these are separated before shaking.
Knowing how to wash a dog bed once a week is the only way to give it a proper clean, but before each wash and between washes, dog beds need to be vacuumed. This is to remove any smaller or stickier detritus, such as hair and dust. Many kinds of vacuum may be of additional benefit, such as a specialist pet vacuum, vacuum with hypoallergenic/HEPA filters, a handheld vacuum, or a standard vacuum with fabric/crevice attachment for best results. Focus on the seams and corners as these areas are prone to harboring dust, debris, and insects. If you can still see loose dog fur after vacuuming, use a lint roller to clean it off.
Even if you know how to wash dog beds well, you can save yourself time by attending to spills or accidents straight away. Avoid applying chemical fabric cleaners directly to the bed, as these can cause a reaction when they make contact with your dog’s skin or paws, or discomfort if ingested while your dog is cleaning itself. This is especially true if your cleaning products contain bleach or chlorine. Instead, try less abrasive alternatives to cleaning patches:
- flake dried dirt away with an old toothbrush
- apply a dampened cloth or paper towel to a stain for 10-20 minutes, then use a clean part of the cloth or paper towel to wipe it away
- absorb the water from mud using a cloth or paper towel, then vacuum the dirt when dry
- blot recent urine using an old towel, then spray a homemade solution of 2 cups of white vinegar, 2 cups of warm water, and four tablespoons of baking soda directly onto the dog bed
- for dried urine, sprinkle baking soda directly onto the stain then apply the homemade spray (above) and wipe clean after 5-10 minutes with a cloth
- sponge a solution of 2 cups of warm water, one tablespoon of salt, one tablespoon of liquid dish soap, and a half cup of white vinegar onto dog vomit.
Your dog may have medical issues or a penchant for bringing in mud from the garden - whatever the reason, a dog bed can become stained. The International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene recommends that a dog bed in the home has a wash at least once per week, and soaking can be an important first step for loosening dirt, removing stains, and getting rid of germs. Once you have read your dog bed’s care instructions, remove the cover if it has one. Make sure you use hot water to soak the bed, and if you discover a stubborn mark or caked-on residue, try loosening it with a toothbrush during the soaking. Move the dog bed around as you wash it to remove all dirt, and rinse it with clean water.
If you have concerns about parasites or diseases, use boiling hot water from a pot or kettle to sanitize the bed as you soak it for 3-5 minutes - but don’t burn yourself, and watch the condition of the bed for any deterioration as you wash it. You may also want to consider giving your pet a pill or topical treatment to avoid a repeat infestation.
It is advisable to put a pet bed into a washing machine load without anything else if you have access to one. This could be your own washing machine at home or one at a laundromat. If you have a dog bed that is too large or unwieldy for a washing machine, try to wash it in a bathtub (which you can clean thoroughly afterward). Use water at a temperature of at least 60 C (140 F) to hygienically clean beds. When considering what detergent to use when washing in hot water, it will depend on whether your dog has sensitive skin. Using laundry detergent and bleach is a way to feel confident in your cleaning, but it may also have adverse effects on your pet. A gentler detergent from a pet store is likely to be safe for your dog. If your dog bed is especially dirty, you can give it a clean with detergent in your machine twice.
Make sure always to follow the instructions on your pet bed to getting it dry. You may be able to put it into a tumble dryer for 20 minutes with a pet-safe dryer sheet to reduce static. If not, air dry it completely in a well-ventilated area to prevent mold or mildew from taking hold. Sunlight can also help to sanitize fabrics, so don’t be afraid to put the bed or cover outside on a washing line or clean drying rack unless the instructions specify otherwise.
Once all of this is done, you can add a light spray of odor-removing product to the dog bed if your pet does not have an overly sensitive nose or skin condition. If you prefer a natural alternative, to reducing pet smells on a bed, try putting two cups of baking soda, half cup of cornstarch, half cup of cornmeal, one tablespoon of borax, one teaspoon of cinnamon, and 2-3 dried bay leaves into a food processor. Process the mixture into a powder which can be lightly sprinkled onto a clean, completely dried pet bed and distributed with a brush or broom. After a few hours (or overnight if you can), this can be vacuumed, and you will find less dog smells accumulating in your house.
Once you become familiar with how to keep your dog’s bed clean, it will be easier to keep it that way. A dog bed is likely to be used every day by your pet, so choose your timing wisely and enjoy the benefits of a cleaner bed and a cleaner dog!