It's no secret that thousands of dogs around the globe enjoy a nice stuffed Kong, but it's also no secret that owners don't love finding a half-eaten Kong under their couch, growing it's own science experiment.
While enrichment toys offer our dogs opportunities to play, learn, and stay stimulated, they can also offer humans the tricky job of figuring out how to properly clean them.
Tips on cleaning enrichment items is easily one of our most FAQ's, so we figured we'd dive into a blog post on the subject!
Without further ado, here are some of my Enrichment Cleaning Tips and Tricks.
NOTE: This post will go over Stuffables (often rubber or plastic toys) and Fabric toys (such as snuffle mats).
STUFFABLES (Kongs, Lick Mats, and More!)
TO DISHWASH, OR NOT TO DISHWASH? THAT IS THE QUESTION...
When it comes to stuffable toys, many of them are top rack dishwasher safe. However, I've found that handwashing some of these toys can help them live a longer life. If you do choose to stick your stuffable toys through a dishwasher frequently, my tip would be to be mindful of the heat settings on your dishwasher. Over the years, I've noticed that Classic Kongs begin to crack or even "flake" if frequently put through high heat cycles, which I now try and avoid. However, I've never noticed cracking with my West Paw Toys, and they seem to go through the wash cycle a bit better (even on a higher heat).
SOAK IT, SOAK IT GOOD
In my experience, the key to a proper enrichment toy cleaning is a deep soak. I encourage tossing your used enrichment toys into a sink (or bucket) of hot, soapy water and letting them sit for 30-45 minutes. This will help lift some of the stuck-on gunk, and also make it easier to scrub out the nasties. This is especially important if your Kong has been sitting somewhere with any remanence of stuffings-past hardening for a few days. We've all been there!
THE MAGIC TOOTHBRUSH
The best thing I've ever found for enrichment cleaning (Specifically Kongs) is.... drumroll please...
A spare toothbrush!
Not only are they easily accessible (and can be upcycled), but the slim design makes them the perfect pairing for reaching those hard to reach nooks and crannies found in stuffable toys. Another great option is using a small Bottle Brush, or using a reusable straw brush to clean through the Kong Tip.
THE TRUSTY SCRUBBER
I've found that having a scrub brush with stiff bristles really helps when it comes to cleaning toys like lick mats. Simply soak the mat in warm soapy water, and go to town (let the bristles do the work)! There are many different scrubbers on the market, but I love my natural Pot Scrubber from A Greener Place. This bristle brush can be fully composted.
SNUFFLE FABRIC BASICS
When it comes to cleaning fabric toys (Snuffle mats being the most asked about in our inbox) they can be a little more tricky to clean. While these toys may not get as "gunky" as rubber stuffables, they still require regular cleanings due to food remanence, slobber, oils, and dirt that accumulate on these mats with use. Some snuffle mats feature plastic bases, making them more difficult as they can't be tossed into the washing machine.
Personally, I tend to look for snuffle mats that are machine washable since we use them so much in our home (PawzNDogz has a few options that we use on the regular). But fear not! If your snuffle mat has a plastic base, it can still be deep cleaned fairly easily.
HOW TO CLEAN SNUFFLE TOYS
STEP 1: Shake 'er out. That's right, head outside and shake it like a polaroid picture! Snuffle mats are meant to have nooks and crannies, so even if you think your snuffle mat is empty, chances are there's some food hiding away in there somewhere. Shake it out, and then do a run through with your hands to see if anything else is hiding away.
STEP 2: Once any hidden goodies have been removed, it's time to soak. In a tub, bucket, or basin, soak that baby in some cold water mixed with pet friendly detergents (some of our favourites are listed below). Soak for 1-2 hours. I like to occasionally use my hands to run through the folds as it's soaking, just to make sure that the soap is getting into any hard to reach areas.
STEP TWO: Thoroughly rinse your snuffle mat of all detergent (I like to use my showerhead for an easy rinse through).
STEP THREE: Air dry. I would recommend squeezing as much moisture out of the snuffle mat as you can prior to air drying. Voila!
Note: Even if your snuffle mat is machine washable, I'd still recommend hand washing (when you can) and always air drying. This helps preserve your snuffle products and overall makes them last longer!
WASH IT LIKE IT'S HOT: WHAT DETERGENT CAN I USE?
I personally like to use non-scented detergents (even better if they're also dye free) when washing our snuffle mats due to the potency. Think about how much your laundry detergent smells for you - now amp that up over 100,000x when it comes to your pooch!
Cleaning Products we love...
SOAP, SCRUBBERS, & MISC
Straw Cleaner (Great for the KONG tip!)
Nature's Miracle Oxy Formula (for spot cleaning)
Now that you know the basics, look out world! You're about to be a mean, green, Enrichment Toy cleaning Machine. Time to release the hounds.