How to Clean a Dog Bed When It's Smelly and Dirty

By Alexa Erickson

Our furry friends bring us so much joy. The love, cuddles, and companionship they provide make them an intricate part of the family unit. But just like any other member of the household, they can be messy! Dogs are prone to tracking dirt and grime throughout the home, and ultimately onto their beds. Dirt from outdoor adventures, endless piles of drool, and lots of shedding make their sleeping zones in need of regular cleaning.

If you have a dog and his or her bed is smelling funky or is showing visible signs of dirt and fur, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about how to clean a dog bed.

beagle puppy sitting on dog bed

Photo via Shutterstock

How Often to Clean a Dog Bed

In most cases, you'll want to clean your dog's bed (or just the cover if it's removable) every two weeks. You'll want to clean the foam part of the dog bed (or the entire bed if the cover is not removable) every two or three months.

The time between washings can vary, though, depending on how much time your dog spends in the bed, how much the pet sheds, if he or she spends a lot of time outdoors and/or around other dogs, and household allergies. Use your best judgment here and err on the side of caution—it's better to over-wash a dog bed than it is to not wash it enough.

How to Clean a Dog Bed with a Removable Cover

If the dog bed you’re dealing with has a removable cover, you’ll want to wash the cover separately from the bed in the washing machine. The process is relatively simple, but there are a few important things to keep in mind and ingredients/cleaners to stay away from.

Tools and Materials Needed

Step 1: Vacuum

Vacuum the dog bed to remove as much dirt and fur as possible. Then, remove the cover from the bed.

Step 2: Wash the Cover

The removable cover can usually be tossed straight into the washing machine. Check the care instructions on the label for any delicate fabrics that need different care. Otherwise, choose a pet-safe detergent like the one we linked in the materials list—scented, chemical-heavy formulas can be harmful and uncomfortable for dogs and their strong sniffers. Wash the cover on hot using the recommended amount of detergent.

Step 3: Dry the Cover

You can either air dry the bed cover or put it in the dryer at a low heat. Avoid dryer sheets, which are toxic to dogs. Also avoid placing the dog bed outside to air dry, because you never know what kind of pests it might pick up.

Follow the instructions in the next section for cleaning your dog bed’s foam piece.

dirty dog bed on sidewalk

Photo via Shutterstock

How to Clean a Dog Bed without a Removable Cover

A dog bed without a removable cover requires a bit more work and will need to be hand-washed. The same idea here as in the above section: Make sure you’re using a pet-safe laundry detergent since dogs have incredibly sensitive noses.

Tools and Materials Needed

Step 1: Vacuum

Vacuum the dog bed to remove as much dirt and fur as possible.

Step 2: Soak the Bed

Plug the bathtub and fill it with warm water and non-toxic detergent. Fully submerge the dog bed in the soapy water. Let it soak for 15 minutes.

Step 3: Scrub the Bed

Lift the bed out of the water and examine it. If you catch any stains, apply baking soda to the surface of the stains, then use a scrub brush to work the baking soda in. Submerge the bed back in the soapy water for another five minutes.

Step 4: Rinse Thoroughly, Air Dry

Empty the tub and rinse the bed with clean, warm water until there is no soapy residue left. Wring out the bed and let it air dry. Again, avoid putting the dog bed outside to dry to avoid any pests hitching a ride back inside.

How to Remove Stains from a Dog Bed

If there are lurking odors on the dog bed, like from accidents or upset tummies, you should treat the stains prior to washing or soaking the dog bed using the methods above.

An enzyme cleaner free of harsh chemicals and a clean towel will do the trick. Simply spray the area with the cleaner and follow the product’s instructions. You may be instructed to agitate the stain by rubbing the spray into it. Eventually, wipe away the residue with a clean cloth.

Tips to Keep a Dog Bed Clean

Periodically washing a dog bed comes with the territory of being a dog parent, but there are some ways to keep your dog's bed cleaner for longer:

  • Vacuum it every few days. Even if it may not look all that dirty, we can guarantee there is almost always dirt and hair lingering on a dog bed surface. Dogs will be dogs, after all. Use the brush attachment on your vacuum to pick up surface debris every few days.
  • Place it in sunlight. We advised that dog beds stay indoors to avoid outdoor fleas or ticks making a home on the bed. But the dog bed could still use some sunlight to ward off bacteria; place it next to a bright window and let the sun's rays help keep it germ-free.
  • Make sure your dog is clean. It goes without saying, but a clean dog equals a clean(er) dog bed. Wipe your pooch's paws when they come inside and bathe them the recommended amount for their breed.
  • Replace it when needed. If the dog bed is showing any signs of wear and tear (like loose threads or holes), it's time to replace the dog bed. These things are not only a nuisance but can be a hazard to dogs. Also, if your pet or home has been infested by any sort of parasite, it's time for a new dog bed.

What kind of dog bed do you own? How do you clean it?

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