How to Wash Dog Sweaters, Collars and Bedding

Dog wearing a sweater and a child in the snow
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According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spend more than $52 billion per year caring for our pets. Now, much of that figure goes for veterinary care, feeding, and grooming, but a growing amount is spent on accessories like sweaters, coats, and decorative collars for dogs and cats.

Since these accessories can be quite expensive, taking care of them is a must. Plus, once a dog reaches adult size, and that happens quickly, they stay around the same size for the rest of their life and those accessories can be used for many years.

How to Wash Dog Sweaters and Clothes

When taking care of clothes and accessories for your dog, you need to follow many of the same rules for pet laundry as you do with your clothes.

  • Read the care label. Most dog sweaters and clothes can be machine or hand washed.
  • Before washing, check the garment for loose seams or holes that might worsen during washing. Mend rips and tears before washing.
  • Close all zippers and buttons to prevent snagging.
  • Use a mesh bag when machine-washing small items. This will prevent tangles and loss of small pieces.
  • Pretreat stains. If the clothes have mud or food stains, use a stain remover like Shout or Zout for washable fabrics. Work it into the stain with your finger or a soft-bristled brush. If you don't have a stain remover, then use a heavy-duty liquid detergent (Tide and Persil are considered heavy-duty) that contains enough stain-lifting enzymes to remove the stain.
  • Use a hypoallergenic detergent that does not contain perfumes or dyes. You can purchase specialty pet detergents or simply use one recommended for babies or anyone with sensitive skin. Harsh detergents with perfumes and dyes can cause skin irritations and problems for animals.
  • If there are strong odors remaining after washing, soak the items in a solution of two quarts cool water combined with one cup baking soda overnight and then rewash.
  • Air dry all clothing and accessories to ensure there is no shrinkage from excessively high dryer heat.
  • Be sure that clothing pieces are completely dry before allowing the dogs to wear them again to prevent skin irritation.

How to Clean Fabric Dog Collars, Leashes, and Harnesses

Dog collars get the most wear and contact with the dog's skin and should be cleaned regularly. Nylon and fabric collars, harnesses, and leashes can be easily washed.

  • Fill a small bucket or sink with lukewarm to hot water. Add a bit of pet shampoo or hypoallergenic detergent. Place the collar and leash in the solution and allow to soak for at least 30 minutes. Use a soft brush, like an old toothbrush, to scrub any stains. You may need to use a dab of the shampoo on the brush for tough stains.
  • Rinse twice to remove any remaining cleaning solution and allow to air dry. Do not use until the collar is completely dry.

How to Clean Leather Dog Collars

There are two types of leather dog collars-finished leather and unfinished leather. Finished leather collars have a coating applied that makes them more durable and resistant to water. Finished leather collars typically have a sheen to the finish. Unfinished leather collars are softer and more pliable because no dyes or surface finishes have been added.

Both types can be cleaned with a soft cloth dipped in a solution of lukewarm water and leather or saddle soap. Wipe down the inside and outside surfaces with the solution and then dry with another clean dry cloth. Allow the collars to air dry flat away from direct heat.

To keep the collars flexible, treat with a commercial leather conditioner after cleaning and before placing back on the dog. Finished leather can be treated with a homemade conditioner made with two parts boiled linseed oil and one part distilled white vinegar. Rub the leather with the solution and then buff to a shine.

How to Clean Pet Bedding

While there are detergents touted as just for pets, as long as you use a mild detergent without dyes or fragrance you can safely wash your pet's bedding and toys in your washer. A front-load or high efficiency top load washer without a center agitator is the best choice because of the size of the bedding. Before washing, pre-treat any stains and vacuum or shake the bedding outside to remove as much dog hair as possible. You can even toss the bedding in a dryer and run a cycle on air only to remove hair. This will help prevent a clog in your washer's drainage system.

To help neutralize odor, add one cup of baking soda to the wash water. Do not use liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets which may irritate a pet's skin due to the added perfume.

Line dry bedding and toys to help freshen and dissipate odors. If you must use a dryer, be certain to clean the lint filter which is sure to be filled with hair.

After washing your pet's laundry, clean your washing machine by running a cycle of hot water with 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach. Now you're ready for the next load of laundry from the rest of your family.