How to Wash a Dog Collar, Leash or Harness

We know that you're a good dog owner! That means taking your dog on frequent walks no matter the weather, or swimming in the lake when the weather's nice, and still loving her no matter what messy stuff she rolls in, right? But that probably also means you've got to wash a dog collar, leash, or harness on a pretty regular basis. How do you do that?

Pug and French Bulldog Looking Into The Camera
credit: MightyPics/iStock/GettyImages

Even if you keep your dog really clean, your dog's accessories will absorb skin oils, dirt and grime, and probably start to smell. Accessories are often made of different materials like nylon, canvas, or leather, and they may have metal attachments that could be damaged by washing. There are some washing and cleaning tricks in order to keep your dog's accessories working well and looking their best.

Determine the material

The first step in figuring out how you wash a dog collar, leash, or harness is to determine what material it's made of. Many dog collars and harnesses are made out of nylon, which is washable in a washing machine. To keep leather items looking their best, a care regimen that is specific to leather is the way to go.

If you have the original packaging for your dog's item, following the recommended instructions is best. If you don't have the original packaging or you're not sure, take a gentle approach. If you want to wash using detergent or vinegar, wash a test spot and see how it looks when you're done. Your dog shampoo is a good choice because you probably already have some at home and it's gentle.

In fact, while many sites suggest using dish soap, laundry soap, or a solution of vinegar and water, Cesar's Way suggests washing dog items with a couple of squirts of dog shampoo. This makes sense because your dog is already used to the smell of the dog shampoo you're already using, and it's gentle enough that it will help prevent skin irritation. You can use this dog shampoo to soak your item for a while, in case any dirt is ground-in. Using a brush, unless it's leather (see below), can damage more delicate materials like cotton or canvas.

dog leather leash
credit: damedeeso/iStock/GettyImages

Cleaning canvas dog items

Reference.com says you can clean canvas with a solution of 1/4 cup of gentle liquid dish detergent or dog shampoo dissolved in a gallon of warm water. Swish your canvas dog collar or harness in this solution and rub it with your hands or rub it gently with a soft brush to work out any stains or odors. Rinse with clean water and then allow to completely dry.

This website says small canvas items may be washed in the washing machine set on warm with a mild detergent. Do not dry waterproof canvas in the dryer. Instead, allow it to air dry.

Cleaning a nylon dog collar

Many dog items are nylon, which makes it very easy to clean. Most small nylon items like dog collars can be hand-washed with a method similar to that given above in the canvas section, or by just putting in the washing machine. The website How to Clean Anything had a great suggestion for how to wash a nylon dog collar. They says to keep a small mesh bag handy and put your collars or harnesses into the mesh bag before loading into the washing machine with your regular laundry.

The mesh bag keeps items together and keeps any metal fixtures from snagging on your other clothes or rubbing against the sides of your washing machine. If any of the metal pieces do come off, they'll stay together in the bag. This is also great for washing leashes, so that the leashes don't get entangled with or snagged on any other items you may be washing at the same time.

Leather Collar With Tag
credit: allanswart/iStock/GettyImages

Some resources, like Dog IDs, say you can clean nylon items with a mixture of 1 part room temperature water, 1 part white vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Place the items in this solution and soak. Then rinse with clean water and lay flat to dry. This method is said to keep the color of your items strong.

Cleaning a leather dog collar

Orvis had tips on cleaning a leather dog collar. Generally speaking, leather should not get wet or be soaked in water. It is best to regularly maintain a leather item rather than neglecting it and then trying to "fix" it later.

If the leather is badly soiled, use a solution of soapy water (dog shampoo is gentle) or baking soda and vinegar. Use a toothbrush dipped into the solution to gently scrub. Rinse immediately and blot the leather dry with a towel before hanging it to finish drying. Once it's completely dry, use a leather conditioner on the collar.

Finished leather is often cleaned with a commercial leather cleaner. There are many commercial leather cleaners that may be a good investment, but if you use any of those make sure your dog is not sensitive to any of the ingredients in the cleaners. Since the collar or harness will be right next to their skin, this presents a risk of skin irritation for your dog.

Unfinished leather may be more susceptible to stains and discoloration. For this type of leather, Orvis suggests using saddle soap and a cloth, then letting the collar air dry out of the sun.