dog bowls

How to Clean Dog Bowls

When you have a dog, it sometimes seems like your whole life can revolve around them.

Between walks, feeding, playing with toys, training, grooming, trips to the vet and long heart-to-hearts going late into the night (OK, then, just me) it can be a case of one’s existence being decidedly dog-shaped.

With this in mind, it would be really nice if we didn’t have to spend any longer than necessary getting our best friend’s bowl clean.

Thankfully there are a number of methods you can use to get that bowl super spick and span in no time at all.

You’ll get it so clean you could eat your dinner off it. Well, your dog could.


How Often Should You Wash Dog Bowls?

woman wiping dog bowls

After every meal, is the short answer. This may come as something of a surprise to some people, who may only wash their dog’s bowl every week or so.

Sometimes, it’s tempting to think that when the bowl is licked clean and no trace of any food remains to be seen, then surely that’s all the cleaning done. Not so.

It’s been found that bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli can hang around a dirty dog bowl, so for the good of your dog and the whole household, you need to get that canine crockery categorically clean.


Cleaning Techniques for Dog Bowls

1. Washing-up liquid

dog bowl and washing up liquid

OK, it’s old school, but it works. If there are any remaining scraps in the bowl then put them in your food waste then apply warm water and washing-up liquid.

You can use the soapy water left over from your regular washing up to wash dog bowls. But don’t then use that same water to do any further human utensil washing-up in!

Then rinse, lots. This is because unless your dog’s got no nose (in which case I am legally bound to do the joke, I’m afraid: ‘how does he smell?’ ‘Terrible!’) they won’t appreciate any soapy whiffs left over from the washing up.

We might like lush lemon or pine perfection, but most dogs will find these kinds of aromas most off-putting.

Then dry. That’s it. Your dog’s dinner service is now ready for the next sitting.

If there are some dried-on, hard-to-remove food traces, try soaking the bowl for a little while in soapy water. That should loosen things nicely.


2. Dishwasher

dog bowl and dishwasher

While we’re at this trad end of things, we should mention that a ceramic, metal, bamboo and even a silicon collapsible dog bowl will usually be fine in a dishwasher. Do check manufacturer’s instructions though.

You shouldn’t risk a plastic one in there. Your dog will not see the funny side when you present the melted remains at tea time.

If a plastic bowl simply has to go into the dishwasher for whatever reason, make sure it goes in the top rack. Fingers crossed.


3. Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

dog bowl, baking soda paste and sponge

For those who prefer a natural approach, here’s a very effective method. Mix some bicarbonate of soda and warm water into a paste (add salt for extra cleaning power) and apply with a sponge. Rinse clean and dry.


What Kind of Sponge to Use

The ideal kind of cleaning implement depends a great deal on what kind of bowl your dog’s got.

If it’s metal or ceramic, you can use a sturdy scourer just as you might with your pots and pans.

If it’s plastic, bamboo or silicon, it’s best to use a non-scratch scourer. This isn’t just to keep the bowl looking good. It’s also because scratches are breeding grounds for germs.


Whatever you use, make sure it’s dedicated to your dog’s gear. Never use it on your own crockery and cutlery. Those germs we mentioned are zoonotic (i.e., they can affect you and your family as well as your dog) so do the sensible thing and get your dog a scourer of their own.

Not that you’ll have much luck getting them to do their own washing up with it, unless you’ve got a bright breed like a border collie, in which case they’ll be only too happy to wash up once they’ve finished their sudoku.


How to Disinfect a Dog Bowl

dog bowl and bleach

So, you’ve got your bowl looking good and your dog’s very happy with things.

However, to be really safe from bacterial buildup, you should disinfect it (the bowl, not the dog). Do this once a week (after washing up) and you’ll keep things pretty much germ-free.

Get some household (chlorine) bleach and pour ½ cup into a gallon of water. Pop into this solution the dog bowl and any other mealtime bits and pieces, like:

  • Water bowl
  • The fork you use to get the food out of the tin
  • Any food mats that are bleach safe
  • Silver napkin ring
  • Party favours
  • Lazy Susan, and all the other things a modern dining dog simply has to have.

Leave for 10 minutes. Then rinse with plenty of cold water and dry. For a more natural alternative, you can use white vinegar instead of bleach. It does need to be stronger though: 2 cups per gallon or thereabouts.


Compostable Bowls

disposable compostable dog bowls

OK, this isn’t necessarily going to be much use as a permanent solution (unless you really, really hate washing your dog’s bowl) but it is possible to buy disposable bowls like these from Hand-E Touch that you get rid of after each meal.

The best thing about these is that they’re compostable, so you can put them in your food waste.

These are super-useful if you’re on holiday with your dog and you don’t want the bother of washing the bowl.


Say Woof! to Clean Bowls

dog with food bowl

Dogs generally prefer eating out of a clean bowl. It’s striking how an individual that is happy to chow down on the most unsavoury item while out on a walk will suddenly have the standards of an Environmental Health Inspector when dinner is served.

Go figure. Dogs are complicated. That’s why we love them. Show them just how much, by rolling up your sleeves and getting that grub gear gleaming.