How to Make My Dog Crate Smell Good

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Make your dog crate smell better by keeping it clean.
Image Credit: Christine McCann/iStock/GettyImages

If you keep your dog in a crate either for transporting him to and from different locations or in your home as a permanent retreat/sleeping area, you know it can begin to get smelly. You can solve the problem with a few preventive measures as well as regular wipe-downs and scheduled comprehensive cleanings.

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Don't forget that you're not just eliminating odors but you're also killing the bacteria that cause the smell, and bacteria can harm your pet. Reviewing some steps for how to clean a dog crate will help you keep your house smelling fresh and keep your pooch from becoming uncomfortable or ill.

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Trying to make a dog crate smell good to you can irritate your dog's nose or stress him, so focus on eliminating any smells rather than trying to make the crate smell "good" to you.

Locate the cause of the smells

The first step in reducing and eliminating dog crate smells is to find out where they are coming from. It's rare that a dog can make metal stink, so you'll want to focus on the materials inside, near, and underneath the crate. The flooring of a dog crate should be a comfortable material for a dog that is also water-resistant or that absorbs moisture and wicks it away from the dog. Putting an old comforter you're not using in a cage with your dog can lead to a smelly area even if your dog is house trained.

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Do you keep a water or food bowl, toys, blankets, or other objects in the cage that the dog can lick, rub against when it's dirty, or eliminate on? If so, you'll have to either get rid of them or remove them when you clean. Be careful doing this, however, because dogs like routines and can become traumatized if you change their bedding, move their cage or bowls, or take away favorite toys. Just changing the direction of the clean crate can be stressful even if you leave the cage in the same spot.

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Perform regular wipe-downs

Get ahead of the problem by keeping your dog's crate wiped down before it starts to smell. This can include using a damp cloth to wipe down the interior and exterior. You won't even need a cleaning agent if your cloth is damp and you press firmly against the surfaces. If you have objects in the crate, like toys, wipe them down as well.

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You should be cleaning your dog's bowls daily and disinfecting them once a week anyway. You should also keep an eye on bedding for stains and odors. You might be tempted to let smelly bedding go unwashed for a few days until you can make time to wash it. To avoid this situation, have a second set of bedding ready to swap out and put the offending items in your garage or laundry area until washing time.

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Schedule regular deep cleans

Don't wait for the crate to obtain a bad odor before you do a thorough cleaning. By the time you smell it, the dog has probably been smelling it for days. Remember that a dog's nose is much more sensitive than yours, so pick a schedule that you feel works for you and your dog.

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Schedule times when you can get the dog out of the crate for 30 minutes or more. Completely empty it, clean each item and the cage with a cleaning agent, and let everything dry before sleep time.

How to clean a dog crate

  • Spot-clean areas you think might need more attention before you begin working on the entire cage.
  • Follow this by wetting the cage with water or your cleaning solution and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes to loosen dirt and contaminants.
  • Thoroughly wipe or hose down the cage, working in a pattern from one end to the other so you don't miss any areas.
  • Rinse with hot or warm water to remove any cleaning agent and foreign scent.

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If you wash your cage with a hose on the driveway or in the yard during warm weather, figure out how you're going to wash the crate during cold or rainy weather. If the cage folds, you might be able to fold it and wash it in the shower, bathtub, or a laundry room utility tub.

What cleaners to use?

Make sure whatever cleaning agents you use won't harm or irritate your dog. You can buy a cleaning product from a pet store but first, check with your vet, professional pet sitter, groomer, or dog trainer for expert advice. You can mix a variety of natural ingredients with water, such as vinegar, baking soda, or lemon juice.

Whatever cleaning agent you end up using, do a test run in a small area first. If your dog gets into the crate, sniffs the area, and is fine, you can clean the rest of the crate with that bleach or soap or vinegar. If your dog freaks out and won't go back into the cage, you'll only have to get that scent off the small area you cleaned.

Give your dog a heads up before you use any cleaning agent by letting her smell it in the palm of your hand or on a cleaning cloth first. She'll then recognize the scent later when it's on her cage, toys, or bedding. If possible, rinse the cage and all objects with enough hot water to eliminate any leftover foreign scents.

Avoid using a hanging air freshener or a disinfecting spray to mask smells. If you need those, that means the cage or something inside it or near it smells, and it might be irritating your dog's nose. Avoid washing dog bedding in detergents that leave an "air fresh" scent, which might upset your dog. You can put a small cloth washed with your detergent of choice into the cage in advance to see if your dog accepts or rejects it.

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