There’s little doubt that we spoil our dogs rotten. I know I do – not in the sense that Janice and Leroy are badly trained or allowed to have their own way all the time, but I play with them pretty much whenever they want, don’t mind their demands to be petted, let them sleep wherever they like, and so on.
One way in which I most definitely don’t spoil them, though, is by buying them clothes. Oh, sure, a jacket for when it’s really cold outside, and boots to protect them when we’re walking on surfaces that could harm their paws, but I draw the line at cute costumes and clothing that isn’t purely necessary.
That said, though, I know that there are any number of people who think there’s nothing more fun than dressing up their dog. People spend big money on dog clothing. The clothing itself is expensive, and then you have to factor in laundry. When you shell out a small fortune for dog clothing, taking care of it is important. And that means you have to deal with dog laundry.
Although I don’t buy fancy clothes for my dogs, I’m no different from anyone else in that I have to clean their bedding, collars, and leashes. So I’ll also be talking about how to deal with those items.
Dog laundry is actually pretty simple when you know how to do it properly, so keep reading, and by the time you’re done, you’ll have all the information you need to keep your dog’s clothes and other items looking good and smelling great!
Doing Dog Laundry
Proper laundering is vital if you expect those pricey garments to last for long. So, here’s how it’s done.
1. Washing Dog Clothes
When you’re dealing with dog laundry, the rules are pretty much the same as when you’re handling your own clothing.
First, read the label to find out if the clothing requires any sort of special care. Most of the time you can machine- or hand-wash your dog’s clothing, but that’s not always the case. And even when it is, you have to pay attention to water temperature, which cycle to use, and whether the garment can be machine dried.
Before washing, make sure to button up or zip the clothing where needed – this will prevent snags. If you’re washing small items, it’s best to use a mesh bag so that the garments don’t end up being beaten around too much by the washing machine’s agitator.
Make sure to pre-treat any stains. Dogs get into all manner of dirt, so work in the pre-treatment gently with your finger. If you’re not using stain remover, then it’s best to choose a heavy-duty detergent, but choose one that doesn’t have any strong perfumes. You can actually buy detergents that are specifically made for pet clothing – they’re available in most pet supply stores. Keep in mind that anything harsh could cause skin irritation.
Odor can be a huge problem, so if your dog laundry is particularly offensive, you should pre-soak before washing. You might also have to run them through the washer a couple of times, but most odors will come out. The exception to this is skunk odor – if your dog has come up close and personal with a skunk, don’t even try. Just throw the clothing away.
2. Cleaning Collars and Leashes
Dog collars are going to end up dirtier than most other items and should be cleaned regularly. Most nylon and fabric collars are easy to wash, as are leashes and harnesses. Just fill a bucket with water that’s as hot as you can stand it, and then add some hypoallergenic detergent or dog shampoo. Let the items soak for about half an hour, and then use an old toothbrush on stubborn stains. Rinse a couple of times, and then air dry. Don’t use the collar until it’s fully dry. Otherwise, you could cause your dog’s skin to become irritated.
You can also clean leather collars and leashes. A finished leather collar (one that has a coating applied for extra durability and water resistance) can be cleaned with soap and warm water, rinsed and air dried. An unfinished leather collar is best cleaned using leather conditioner or saddle soap, and again, dried flat. Either type of collar will benefit from leather conditioning before you put it back on your dog.
3. Cleaning Bedding
Of course, clothing isn’t the only type of dog laundry you’ll have to deal with – bedding can get pretty gross after it’s been used for a bit. Most types of bedding can be treated in much the same way as clothing, though. Shake it out first to get rid of as much hair as possible, or put it in the dryer on the air fluff cycle. Then, pre-treat stains, and wash as you would any other type of fabric clothing.
For stubborn odors, you can add a cup of baking soda to the wash cycle. Don’t use any fabric softener, because it can be irritating to your dog’s skin. The same goes for dryer sheets. If you love a fresh smell, line drying is best.
4. Cleaning the Washer
Once you’ve finished the dog laundry, it’s important to clean your washer. All you need to do is run a full cycle, using hot water and a bit of bleach. Now you’re ready to do human laundry!
Those are the basics. I’ve touched a bit on products that you shouldn’t use, but since this is your best buddy we’re talking about, I want to take it a step further and suggest that you should handle your dog’s laundry a bit differently than you do your own. That means…
Go Chemical Free
I’ve never been one to fuss with my laundry. If it’s clean, it’s good. I don’t care what my detergent smells like, and if the dryer sheets take the static out of my clothes, that’s all I care about. The thing is, the way I do my laundry could actually be toxic to my dogs, so I’m very careful with what I use when doing laundry for Janice and Leroy. When in doubt, I think the best way is to go completely chemical-free.
It’s shocking how many chemicals there are in laundry products. Sure, they make your wash smell good, but they’re probably not all that good for you, or for your dogs. Studies have actually shown that laundry products can contain more than 25 harmful ingredients, including known carcinogens like benzene and acetaldehyde. Benzene has been linked to leukemia, and acetaldehyde has been linked to throat and nasal cancer. I don’t know about you, but it seems as though that’s a pretty high risk to take. Other chemicals in laundry products have been found to be linked to reproductive changes, endocrine disruption, organ toxicity, and skin irritation.
Of course, I didn’t much care about any of that when it came to me – I figured I could take my chances. But when it comes to Janice and Leroy, it’s a whole other ball game.
So here’s what I suggest.
1. Use a Natural Laundry Soap
Don’t take it on faith, though, that what you’re buying is really safe. Almost any product can be labeled “natural.” Think of it this way – hemlock is natural, but if you consume it, it will kill you. Always read the label.
2. Make Your Own Soap
Check out recipes online that provide instructions on how to make your own laundry soap. It might be a bit time-consuming, but the end result (a safe detergent) will be well worth it. Most recipes involve very simple ingredients like borax and natural soap.
3. Use Bleach Alternatives
When you’re confronted with clothing that’s dingy or stained, the most common reaction is to simply reach for the bottle of bleach. It might not be the best idea, though, and the good news is that you can actually whiten your dog laundry without having to use bleach. One of the best ways is to soak the clothing in a basin of water to which you add about a cup of white vinegar, and then hang them on the clothesline or spread them out on the lawn on a sunny day. It won’t take out the worst stains, but it will help. And besides, what would you rather have – stained clothing or a sick dog?
You can also tackle stubborn stains with homemade stain remover. Take about a tablespoon of peroxide, and mix it with a teaspoon of Dawn dish soap and two tablespoons of baking soda. Work the mixture into the stains using a laundry brush, and then leave the garments for about an hour. Wash as usual.
4. Use a Fabric Softener Substitute
Adding half a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle works almost as well as acommercial fabric softener. Don’t worry about the clothes smelling like vinegar – they won’t.
If you want to add a pleasant smell to the dog laundry, use essential oils. Just sprinkle a bit on a clean cloth, and add it to the dog clothes that you put in the dryer.
Here’s a trick for dealing with static – it sounds crazy, but it works! Before you put your dog laundry in the dryer, fasten a metal safety pin to each garment. Even wool blends will come out static free!
These are some of the most effective ways that I know of to do dog laundry without inadvertently endangering your dog’s health. Sure, some of them take a bit of time, but if the idea of toxic chemicals in your dog laundry troubles you, it will be time well invested.
The Final Word
Sure, dealing with dog laundry can be a pain, but the suggestions offered above should make it considerably easier. You can do your dog laundry safely and efficiently without having to spend an arm and a leg, and your dog’s clothes will last a long time.
Going chemical free will take a bit of work, but I do recommend it. I figure that if the usual commercial laundry products aren’t all that good for me, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’re not good for Janice and Leroy either. And since my dogs are my whole world, I prefer to err on the side of caution.