Dog With Bed and Toy
After a long winter, the early days of spring can be a good motivator to start cleaning up, airing out and getting ready for warmer, sunnier days.

I started my own spring-cleaning recently, and it got me thinking about pet-related housekeeping tasks that we probably do less often than we should. Take crates: When is the last time you cleaned yours — other than that time your dog vomited in it? What about your pet’s other belongings? Do they need to be cleaned or replaced?

Clean gear helps protect your pet’s health and safety, and a thorough spring-cleaning is an easy way to establish good habits for keeping your pet’s possessions pristine all year long. In the spirit of spring refreshment, here’s a list of maintenance tasks to keep pet paraphernalia clean and in good working order. Some of these tasks need to be done seasonally, while others should be part of your weekly routine.

Seasonal Tasks

Carrier or Crate: A clean pet carrier is more pleasant for your dog or cat, but that’s not the only — or even the best — reason to give it a good once-over. A clean crate is less likely to harbor parasites or contribute to pet odors in your car. It’s a good idea to clean it frequently, especially if your pet often rides in it.

The padded portion of the crate or carrier can be cleaned in the washing machine on the hottest cycle possible (check the washing instructions first). This is also a good time to wash soft (drool-covered) chew toys. Vacuum the interior of the crate or carrier to suck up crumbs, hair, flea eggs and the like. If you don’t have a good way to vacuum it at home, take it with you the next time you have your car washed and have it done there.

Wash hard-sided or metal crates using warm water and a mild, unscented dish detergent. Rinse thoroughly, making sure you don’t leave behind any residue that could irritate your pet’s skin. If the carrier needs a higher level of sanitation because your pet had an accident in it, use a mixture of one-half cup bleach and one gallon of water to kill bacteria. Let the bleach solution sit on the surface of the crate for at least five minutes before rinsing thoroughly with clean water. Let it air-dry completely in the sun.

To clean a soft carrier, dip it in warm, soapy water in the bathtub or wipe down the interior using a clean sponge and warm, soapy water. Remember to use a mild, unscented soap that won’t irritate your pet’s skin or annoy his sensitive nose. Rinse the carrier thoroughly in clean water and let it dry in the sun.

Collars and Leashes: Whether your pet’s collar and leash are made of nylon, leather or some other material, there’s a good chance they need to be cleaned. Collars get stained with skin oil and dirt, and they may retain odors. Leashes are often dragged on the ground or accidentally peed on. Keeping them clean not only looks more attractive, it also helps keep your pet’s skin and fur healthy.

To clean nylon collars and leashes, remove ID tags and hand wash the collar and leash in warm water with mild, unscented dish soap or a gentle-cycle laundry detergent (best for delicate collars with embroidery or other adornments). Scrub stained areas with an old toothbrush. You may be stunned at how dirty the water gets. You can also put nylon collars into the washing machine with the dog beds; make sure collars dry thoroughly in the sun before putting them back on your pet.

Scrub leather collars and leads in hot water with saddle soap or oil soap. Wipe them with a clean, dry cloth and let the collar or leash dry flat. Then, rub them with baseball glove oil, neat’s-foot oil or leather shoe oil. Conditioners like these keep leather supple and shiny. Buff them dry with a clean cloth.

Replace collars or leashes if you notice any fraying or weakness in material or hardware. You don’t want to run the risk that they could break under stress. When you put the collar back on, make sure it fits well. It shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. You should be able to comfortably fit two fingers between your pet’s neck and collar.

Weekly Cleaning

Litterbox: Experts recommend cleaning your cat’s litterbox biweekly. Dump out the litter, and clean the container thoroughly with hot water and a mild, unscented dish soap. Let it dry in the sun, then add fresh litter.

To make this process easier — and to make sure your cat doesn’t have to do without a litterbox for any length of time — it’s a good idea to have an additional box, so you can just swap them every two weeks.

Beds and toys: Wash beds and soft toys weekly (or as directed on the label) in the washing machine with hot water on a bulky setting. Use a mild, unscented detergent to reduce the risk of allergic reactions and smell-sensitivity. 

Depending on their construction, these items can then go into the dryer, or they can air-dry outdoors. Avoid using the dryer if the item has any plastic or rubber components. If beds can’t go in the washing machine, give them a going-over every time you vacuum the floor.

Brushes and combs: Clean these weekly by removing hair with your fingers or a comb, then washing in warm, soapy water (use a mild soap or shampoo). Let them dry thoroughly, with bristles sideways or down, in the sun. This is especially important if the item has any wood parts. You can also use Barbicide (available at beauty supply stores) or a cleanser made for makeup brushes. Clean pet toothbrushes after each use in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly.

Food and water bowls: Clean these items after every use. Wash them separately from human dishes in hot, soapy water in the sink or run them through the dishwasher using high-heat and sanitize settings.

Replace chipped ceramic bowls. The broken areas can harbor bacteria. The same is true for battered plastic dishes. Areas where the plastic has been cut with a knife or other sharp object make a nice living space for bacteria, which can contribute to pet acne or other infections.

As a final touch, give your pet a bath so he’ll be spring-clean, too.

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