Service Dogs working in public come into contact with a wide variety of surfaces. Some examples include floors, the sides of counters and checkout stands, and the underside of chairs or benches. As such, your Service Dog’s equipment can pick up all kinds of germs. Keep reading to learn how to sanitize your Service Dog’s gear.
Service Dogs need a wide variety of equipment and gear. At a minimum, almost every Service Dog wears some kind of jacket or harness, collar or head collar, and leash. Many also wear boots, tags, sweaters, or other clothing. At home, most dogs have bowls, toys, beds, brushes, and other supplies.
Keeping your Service Dog’s stuff sanitized might reduce the number of germs passed back and forth from your hands to the gear and back. It also keeps you from picking up the germs the equipment carries home from everything it touches in public. You’ll sanitize different kinds of gear in different ways. Some gear will prove easier to clean than others. A few items might not be able to be sanitized. Depending on how important sanitization is to you, you may have to get rid of some of your Service Dog’s gear or switch it out for stuff that’s more easily cleanable.
Lots of gear contains multiple materials. Leashes are often leather or nylon with a metal snap. Kennels often contain plastic and metal components. Some toys might be rubber and fabric. You’ll have to sanitize each piece of the item appropriately for the best results. It’s important to note that cleaning is different from sanitizing. Sanitizing kills bacteria and germs. Cleaning removes visible dirt. Simply cleaning items won’t kill germs.
How Does Sanitizing Work?
When you sanitize something, you kill the germs on it. This reduces the risk of getting sick. Sanitizing something generally requires either high heat for an extended period or a sanitizing solution like a bleach mixture or Simple Green. Certain types of UV light kills microbes on some surfaces and might be useful for soft surfaces like dog beds.
Most households don’t have the ability to sanitize properly via heat. Noncommercial washing machines and dishwashers typically don’t get hot enough to kill bacteria and other germs. Boiling water can be used to sanitize but the items must be completely submerged.
Commercial sanitizing solutions like Lysol and Clorox disinfectants work well to sanitize dog equipment. However, the instructions must be properly followed in order for these products to work properly. Most of them require the solution to sit on the items for several minutes. Some require the solution to dry on the surface in order to properly sanitize it.
How to Sanitize Dog Stuff
Before sanitizing your dog’s equipment, clean it. Disinfectants often aren’t cleaners and vice versa. Make sure to properly clean items before disinfecting them, unless you’ve got an all-in-one product. For hard, non-porous surfaces like kennels or crates, spray with a cleaner and wipe down. Put bowls and hard toys through the dishwasher. Wash soft toys, beds, and crate pads. Drop nylon and fabric leashes, collars, harnesses, and gear into a pillowcase, knot it, and wash them in the washer on a hot water cycle. Pro-tip: they can also be added to the top rack of the dishwasher!
Once they’re clean, sanitize them. Spray crates down with a disinfectant spray, paying careful attention to how long the spray needs to sit. Put metal or ceramic bowls into boiling water or use a food-grade disinfectant. Drop hard toys into a bleach and water solution. Add color-safe bleach to the washer to disinfect beds and soft toys as they’re cleaned. Natural bones, raw bones, and other porous materials like uncoated wood may not be able to be properly sanitized.
Metal can be sanitized with heat, steam, or disinfectant solutions and sprays. If using a spray, test a small area for potential discoloration before using it. Some metals are more sensitive to chemicals than others. Stainless steel and brass are both common in dog gear, as is aluminum. Generally, these metals clean and disinfect easily.
Rubber can be cleaned with heat, steam, or disinfectants. For leashes, crate pads, and hard rubber toys, wiping them with a disinfectant wipe or dropping them into a disinfectant solution works well.
Sanitize plastic with heat, steam, or disinfectant solutions. Spray or wipe down kennels, crates, and training platforms. Soak non-porous toys in a 5 to 10% solution of bleach and water. Smaller, sturdier items like buckles or snaps can be placed in boiling water or sprayed with Lysol.
Sanitize Nylon and Fabric
Nylon can respond poorly to many common disinfectants. Always test a small, non-visible section to make sure discoloration doesn’t occur. Washing gear with nylon in the washer on a hot water cycle can work well as long as you add a laundry-safe disinfectant. Steam cleaning can work well for vests, harnesses, and the like.
Many common disinfectants harm leather. They strip the leather of natural oils during the sanitization process. Many people opt to sanitize with wipes or sprays and then re-condition with leather soaps or butter to help keep the leather healthy.