With all the dirt, grime, microbes, and bacteria a dog can track into a home, cleaning is not only a matter of aesthetics but also a matter of health and safety. A dog spends a significant part of his life in bed, so that's the area in your home that is most likely to be the dirtiest and most dangerous — to your pet and to family members. Reviewing how to wash a dog bed, regardless of the make, model, or material, will help you keep your house clean and your pet and family members healthy.
Do some research
If you purchased your dog bed, it might have come with washing instructions. If you don't have those handy, look for the box or plastic bag in which the bed came for directions. They might be taped to the packaging.
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If you still can't find instructions, do a web search for the bed using the brand name and model number. Also use search terms like, "How to wash an XYZ bed." You might find that a pet expert has posted a blog article or made a video and posted it on a site like YouTube.
If you can't find any washing instructions that came with the bed or online, look on the bed. The bed might be made up of two or three pieces. If it came with a wood, plastic, or metal frame, take the bedding out of the frame and check the soft bedding for directions. The instructions might be on a tag sewn onto the bedding. If the bed has a cover, remove the cover and check the padding inside for a tag or other instructions. Check the inside of the frame and the bottom as well.
Choose your cleaning agent
If you can't find any directions for washing the bed, you'll need to choose a cleaning agent and use it at a dilution that will be safe for the pet to sleep in the bed (and to lick it). Some people use vinegar, others use household soap, and some only use cleaners specially formulated for pets.
Contact your vet, groomer, dog walker, or pet sitter for advice. Send her a picture of the bed taken apart if it comes in several pieces. This will help her advise you, as different parts of the bed might require different cleaning agents. While you can go to a pet store and find cleaners made just for pets or do a web search for pet cleaners, a pet professional has probably tried the top cleaners, might be aware of some lesser-known brands that work better, and might have read reviews of some products.
If you can't get a hold of a pet professional, visit a pet store or go online and order a pet cleaner (look for reviews, such as the ones that accompany Amazon products). Some national newspaper articles provide product recommendations for cleaning agents for dog beds. Regarding pet stain removers, the cleaner you use on your carpets might also be fine to use on your dog's bed.
Test your cleaning agent
No matter what cleaning agent you choose, it might be a good idea to test it to see if your dog is sensitive to it. You can do this by cleaning the dog's blanket or giving the dog a new blanket that's been cleaned with the solution. Give the dog a new blanket before you clean it for a couple of nights and then reintroduce the blanket after it's been cleaned. If the dog tosses the blanket out of the bed and doesn't want to have anything to do with it, it's probably the solution.
Spot clean the bed
Even if you're going to wash the entire bed in a washing machine or tub, try spot cleaning it first. Not only will this help you address tougher stains but it will allow you to use a microbicidal or other pet-cleaning stain remover designed to kill and remove bacteria. Gather a vacuum, cleaning solution, pet stain remover, bucket with warm water, cloth for cleaning, cloth for drying, and a gentle but stiff brush for cleaning.
Brush and vacuum the dog bed thoroughly to remove as much hair as possible. If the dog bed has a cover over a pad or other insert, take the cover off before you begin spot cleaning. The soap and water solution might penetrate the cover into the padding. As you start examining the bed, you'll see darker stains and problem areas that might require more attention. Spray (or apply with a cloth) the pet stain remover to any obvious spots that are stained worse than others. Next, dip a cloth into the cleaning solution and apply it to the areas. Let it sit for a minute before you begin cleaning.
Begin rubbing in a firm, circular motion to see how that works. If you get the results you want, continue to spot clean the rest of the bed. Once this process if finished on the exterior bed cover, do the same thing to the interior padding if you are going to clean the padding.
How to wash a dog bed
Wash the bed materials using the method you have chosen, which can include putting the cover and padding into a washing machine (together or separately) or washing it by hand in a tub or other container. If you are nervous about damaging the bed or interior padding, use the gentle cycle and cold water. Wash dog bedding in hot water at a minimum temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
In order not to leave any cleaning residue on the cover of the pad, consider rinsing the material(s) in warm water twice, wringing it out each time. If you can use a strong sprayer to rinse it, that will help. When you're finished rinsing, smell the cover and pad to see if there's any odor.
During the washing process, include your dog. Let him smell the cleaning solution, let him sniff the bed after you've rinsed it, and let him watch you cleaning the bed so he won't be surprised when you bring it back to his favorite place.
Dry the bed
Don't put foam padding into a dryer because it might melt or create a strong odor. Line dry the bed parts outside if you can. If you're comfortable putting the exterior cover into the dryer, don't put it on a high setting and walk away for an hour.
Let the bed dry for 10 minutes and then check the dryer to see if there's any odor. If not, continue for another 20 minutes or so and check again. If everything's fine, decide how long the padding will probably need to dry before it's finished. Set the time and finish drying. While you're drying the bed, you can clean the bed's frame and the floor where the bed is kept.