Make sure your pup's favorite snuggle spot is fresh and tidy.

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Most dog owners want their pups to have a nice and comfy bed where they can chill out and catch up on some z's. But unfortunately, keeping a dog bed clean and tidy can be tricky. Some come with machine-washable removable covers, whereas others need to be scrubbed by hand. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn exactly how to clean your dog's bed, regardless of type, and other important things to keep in mind to make sure your pup's bed looks and smells fresh.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dog's Bed? 

Contrary to popular belief, dog beds need regular cleaning. "We recommend washing all bedding every two weeks at least," says Tina Wismer, DVM, Senior Director, ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

That said, that frequency might vary depending on a number of factors including how much time your dog spends outside, how much he sheds, and if someone in your home suffers from a pet allergy.

How to Machine Wash a Dog Bed

The best method to clean your dog's bed depends on its material. If it has a removable cover, it can likely be machine-washed and dried according to the manufacturer's instructions. But if you don't have instructions on hand, it's best to play it safe.

Start by removing all the excess hair and debris from the bed, says Eleni Shipp, the Vice President of Marketing at Lemi Shine, a line of cleaning products that are formulated with pet-safe, plant-based ingredients. You can do this by either giving the bed a good shake outside or thoroughly vacuum it to remove all residue.

Then, Shipp says to throw the bed cover into the washing machine and run it on a normal, cold cycle. "I usually add a few dog towels to the mix to fill out the load," she says.

When it comes to detergent, look for something that's unscented or fragrance-free, Wismer adds. Similar to humans with sensitive skin, scents and perfumes found in laundry detergent can potentially cause your pet to have an allergic reaction and lead to itchy and irritated skin

It's not just detergents you have to watch out for—fabric softeners can cause even more damage. "Fabric softeners contain cationic detergents, which have the potential to cause issues for your pets like drooling, vomiting, oral and esophageal ulcers, and fever," Wismer explains. "These clinical signs require treatment by a veterinarian." That's why, to err on the side of caution, it's worth putting your dog bed cover through an extra rinse cycle to make sure that all the detergent has been removed from the fabric.

It's also best practice to let your dog bed cover air-dry, Shipp says. But if you were to put it in the dryer, you should dry on low heat so it doesn't shrink, and avoid the use of dryer sheets. "Oral ulcers can develop if a pet chews on a new or used dryer sheet," Wismer warns. "If an animal ingests enough sheets, new or used, an intestinal blockage may occur."

Shiba Inu puppy laying in a dog bed
Credit: Miguel Michán / Getty

5 Steps to Hand Wash a Dog Bed

Dog beds without removal inserts can be a pain to clean since they almost always aren't washing-machine safe. If that's the case, follow these 5 steps if you need to clean your dog bed by hand:

1. Vacuum the Dog Bed

Use your vacuum's head attachment to clean every inch of the dog bed, including the exterior, interior, and in between the seams. The goal is to remove all of the dog hair, dirt, and debris—some of which may not be visible to the naked eye.

2. Spot Clean Stains

If your dog's bed is soiled or stained, soak up any liquid with a paper towel. In some cases, you might need to use an enzyme spray or stain remover.  Just make sure they're pet safe. The Lemi Shine Multi-surface Disinfecting Spray, for instance, is a safe bet. Not only is it free from harsh chemicals, Shipp says, it's safe for pets and anyone with allergies, asthma, and other sensitivities that can be aggravated by the use of strong chemicals such as ammonia and bleach.

3. Soak in Warm, Soapy Water

Depending on the size of your dog bed, fill up a tub or sink with warm water and mix in some unscented laundry detergent. Submerge the bed into the water until it's completely wet and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. If the bed is super dirty and the water turns brown, you should drain and refill the water, and soak the bed for an additional 5-10 minutes.

4. Sprinkle on Baking Soda

Without wringing the bed, take it out of the tub or sink and sprinkle some baking soda all over it. Then, grab a scrub brush and thoroughly brush every crevice of the bed. On top of being an excellent cleaning agent, baking soda is also great for soaking up any foul odors, Shipp says. This is particularly helpful since the detergent you'll use is unscented. 

5. Rinse Thoroughly

While you're scrubbing the dog bed with baking soda, drain all the water from the tub or sink you were using. Refill it and re-submerge the bed into the clean water. Start kneading the bed to remove any extra detergent and baking soda residue. You may need to drain and refill the water multiple times to make sure all the soapiness is gone.

6. Wring and Dry

Once the bed is clean, start to wring it out to get rid of any excess water. Keep in mind that the more water you remove, the quicker the bed will dry. Once you've removed all the water that you can, place the dog bed outside, on a mat, or on a drying rack in indirect sunlight. Depending on your bed, it may take several hours for it to fully dry.

How to Choose a Dog Bed That's Easy to Clean

Aside from machine washing and hand washing a dog bed, you can opt to dry clean it, but for most people, it's not worth the cost. "Is dry cleaning worth it for a $50–$90 bed? Probably not," says Caitlin Sole, senior associate home editor for Better Homes and Gardens.com. "You also can't be sure of the safety of the solvents when they come into contact with dogs."

That's why when it comes to dog beds, it's best to find something that's low maintenance and easy to clean. Here are some things to consider:

  • Check the label before purchasing a dog bed. Make sure that the bed is fully machine-washable or has a removable cover that can easily be thrown into the wash.
  • Since experts recommend that you should wash your dog bed as often as every other week, it’s important to ensure that your bed is made up of a durable material that can last through so many washes.