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Tips for Cleaning Dog Beds

Regularly washing bedding will keep your pet happy and your home safe from contaminants.

Melvin Peña  |  Jan 16th 2014

One of my worst childhood memories was returning home from vacation to find our house had been infested with fleas. We had been gone for a couple of weeks in the summer, and the infestation was unaccountable. My family had a dog, but she was an outside dog, making the invasion even more perplexing. This past summer, that nightmare was revisited. It was a particularly bad year for fleas, at least in my area, and I had a very bad tendency to come in from walking my dog and sitting down on my own bed to take off my shoes and walking clothes.

I would wake in the morning to find myself itchy, and it wasn’t long before I discovered I’d been bringing fleas and other tiny, biting insects in from my dog walks. I got in the habit of removing my outer garments, shoes, and socks before entering the house, and I had to completely disinfect my room and wash my own bedding frequently for the rest of the summer. Those of you who live in heavily wooded areas or have dog beds inside the home may have similar experiences, making the question of how to clean a dog bed of critical importance. Not only will you be sparing your dog any unnecessary torment, but the skin you keep safe may be your own!

Dog beds are repositories for filth, allergens, and pests

As we know, most dogs are not so delicate or discriminating as we are about how they interact with the world. They are adventurous and curious animals who will step anywhere and stick their noses in anything. Shake as much as they will before entering the house, dogs also unwittingly track in dirt on their paws and unknowingly invite insects and allergens in their hair or on their skin. Bathing your dog is all good and well, but they spend a great deal of time in their various beds and nesting spots where the things they bring in can stay behind. You don’t have to let them linger! Whether your dog sleeps inside or outside, it’s important to know how to clean a dog bed as well.

When you choose a dog bed, choose wisely

How to wash a dog bed should be a primary consideration when you are selecting from the range of commercially available dog beds at your local pet or department store. Check the tags on dog beds to see whether the recommended method of cleaning is feasible and practical for you, your home, and the time you have for cleaning. All too often, people buy a dog bed on impulse because it is cute or it fits with their home decor. When the dog urinates all over it a few nights later, they find, to their cost, that the bed itself or the insert is soaked and is either not compatible with their washing machine or not recommended for their dryer.

There are, naturally, as many different kinds of dog beds as there are different kinds of dogs. My own dog sleeps outside, and, depending on the time of year, has between one and three quilts that she carefully arranges each night to nestle among. No matter what kind of bedding your dog uses, if you are time-conscious and prefer to machine wash, it is critical to select an appropriate disinfectant solution or detergent.

Once a month or so, I will put each quilt into the washing machine and then into the dryer, making sure to use detergent that is dog-friendly. After all, without opposable thumbs, Tina drags her quilts around in her mouth, and many cleaning products may contain chemicals harmful to her. In the brighter and warmer months, I’ll wash and then air-dry them. Ventilation and sun exposure are key for air-drying.

You keep your bed clean, do the same for your dog!

Techniques for how to wash a dog bed are as varied as the bedding materials themselves. The process of cleaning a dog bed can be as simple or as time-consuming as you want it to be. If the bed is a one-piece item and is too large for machine washing, take care to vacuum it first, then go over it with a lint roller or duct tape, particularly on the areas the dog has most frequent contact with. This will remove as much hair and as many particulates, dander, allergens, and potential insect eggs as possible before washing. Wash it thoroughly in hot water with a dog-safe detergent or disinfectant solution before airing it dry.

Beds with outer zip covers and foam inserts present their own challenges. If you select a dog bed with an outer cover, you may want to enclose the insert, particularly if it is foam, in a bin-liner or large trash bag to prevent outside agents or stray urine from reaching the insert in the first place.

If you’re not so fastidious, machine wash and dry the cover once a month, and vacuum it between washings. Soak and rinse foam inserts in your bathtub or shower in hot or warm water and allow it to completely air dry before restoring the cover. Ring out foam inserts many times before drying to ensure that mold and mildew do not take root.

How do you clean your dog’s bed?

Since dogs have a number of bedding options, we ask you, the Dogster faithful, to share your techniques for washing, cleaning, and maintaining a dog’s bed! What kinds of beds do your dogs use? What kinds are the easiest to clean? What are your approaches and methods? What are your favored cleaning products? Let us know in the comments!

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