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By Helen Anne Travis

When we think of spring cleaning, we typically picture ourselves organizing closets, vacuuming behind the furniture and wiping down our refrigerators. But springtime is also the perfect time of year to give our dogs’ favorite dog toys, dog beds, dog blankets and dog plush toys a good cleaning.

Cleaning your dog supplies not only keeps your home clean, but it can also benefit the health of the family.

Here are some spring-cleaning tips for cleaning your dog supplies the right way.

Why You Should Wash Your Dog’s Beds and Toys

Dog beds and dog plush toys see a lot of action throughout the year. They’re slept on, gnawed, dropped in the dirt and dragged through the house. Our experts all agree: Dog toys and beds are laden with bacteria.

By regularly cleaning your dog’s bed and toys, you can reduce the numbers of potentially harmful germs that are in your house. “Let's not limit our scope to just germs,” says Dr. Bruce Silverman, VMD, MBA, of Village West Veterinary in Chicago. “Dogs may also carry allergens into the home and plant them on your furniture and on the floors.”

A good spring cleaning isn’t just good for everyone’s health. Washing your dog’s toys and beds also helps to prevent or reduce unpleasant odors in your home.

“You don’t want your guests to know you have a furry friend by the smell of your home,” says Debra Johnson, a home-cleaning expert at Merry Maids.

How to Wash Dog Toys Safely

To clean your dog’s rubber and plastic toys, Johnson recommends giving them a good scrub with warm water and antibacterial dish soap.

Afterward, soak the dirtiest toys in a solution of one part vinegar and two parts water for 10 minutes. Then, give them another soapy wipe-down, rinse and dry them with a microfiber towel.

Don’t put your dog’s toys away wet. That could lead to a bigger mess than you started with. “To prevent mold, it is important to make sure your toy is cleaned and thoroughly dried,” Johnson says.

Soft, plush dog toys can usually be run through the washer, says Johnson. Use a natural laundry detergent and let them air-dry outside in the sun.

As for pet-friendly cleaning solutions, Dr. Stephanie Liff, DVM, the medical director at Pure Paws Vet Care in New York, recommends Nature’s Miracle products to her clients.

The Nature's Miracle laundry boost stain and odor additive helps break down tough laundry stains from feces and vomit.

How to Clean Dog Beds and Dog Apparel

Ideally, you’ll want to shake out any debris that has built up and give dog beds a good vacuuming once a week, says Johnson, and do the same before washing them. For a deeper clean, she recommends cleaning not just the dog bed cover, but the foam bedding inside as well.

After vacuuming the cover, soak it in hot water for 15 minutes to kill any lingering flea eggs, then run it through the heavy-duty setting on your washing machine.

For the bedding, you want to give it a good shake to knock out any loose particles. Then, run the vacuum over it as best as you can. Drain, wipe down and refill your bathtub with more hot water. This time, add a little laundry detergent to the water and use your hands to massage the soapy solution into the bedding, says Johnson. Rinse thoroughly.

Lay both the cover and bedding outside to air-dry, and while they’re basking in the sun, give the area where the dog bed sits a thorough vacuum and wipe-down, she says. Most dog bed covers can be dried in the household dryer, but foam bedding tends to clump and become uncomfortable to lie on.

To prevent future stains, Johnson recommends spraying the bedding and any upholstery in the house with Scotchgard fabric and upholstery protector.

Dog apparel, dog boots and dog costumes are also typically washable. Dr. Liff recommends checking the label for instructions. If all else fails, you usually can’t go wrong with using a fragrance-free detergent and warm water, she says.

Tips for Pet Stains and Odors in Your Home and Car

The other areas where your pet spends time also deserve a good spring cleaning. In addition to vacuuming the surfaces thoroughly, the following spring-cleaning tips can help you tackle tough stains and odors.

If you find a smudge that won’t budge, apply undiluted soda water directly to the stain and blot with a clean white cloth, recommends Jennifer Gregory, brand manager of Molly Maid, a Neighborly Company.

“Repeat until the majority of moisture is absorbed,” she says. “Then, place a new clean white cloth on the area and put a heavy object over the towel to soak up the remaining moisture.”

She also recommends using baking soda to help eliminate odor.

“Sprinkle over the desired area and let sit for 15 minutes. Once the baking soda has soaked in, vacuum clean, and say goodbye to unwanted odor.”

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