More people are taking active steps to stay well while global health is a top priority. Apart from disinfecting our hands and sanitizing our surroundings, we’ve also taken to wearing protective clothing and masks to shield ourselves from airborne viruses. As we strive to protect ourselves from getting sick, it’s also important to keep our pets healthy by keeping their toys and gear germ-free. Here’s a guide to properly disinfecting your dog’s gear and keeping them free from harmful germs and bacteria.

Wash food and water bowls daily

A new study by the NSF International has found that a pet’s food bowl is among the top five of the most germ-infested items in the average home. Dry dog food can leave residue that can be a breeding ground for bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella, which can cause illnesses in humans and their fur babies. This is why it is recommended that food and water bowls should be washed daily with soap and hot water, then sanitized weekly by soaking them in water with a teaspoon of bleach for about 10 minutes. After soaking, make sure to rinse the bowls thoroughly with clean water. Avoid using overly harsh chemicals such as ammonia or industrial-strength cleansers to clean your dog’s food and water bowls, as these may cause skin irritation. Some highly toxic chemicals can even be absorbed into your skin and cause damage to the internal organs, so always choose a mild or natural cleanser, such as Castile soap or an eco-friendly dish soap to thoroughly clean your dog’s food bowls.

Regularly disinfect your dog’s toys

Dog toys should be cleaned on a regular basis, especially those that are made of soft or porous materials. Soft or plush toys should be hand washed with a pet-safe or mild detergent, and then left to dry under the sun. Meanwhile, rubber and nylon toys should be soaked in a vinegar and water solution for about 20 minutes, then, with a soft brush, scrub the toys thoroughly to remove dirt and grime. Wipe the toys thoroughly before returning them to your pet’s toy basket. The basket or toy container should also be cleaned at least once every three months to get rid of any germs that may be lurking in there.

Don’t forget to clean your dog’s leash

Dog leashes are considered to be hot spots for germs as anything that we frequently use or touch, including leashes, can harbor illness-causing bacteria. Moreover, leashes can get dirty in a short amount of time, especially if you have a particularly active dog. This is why it’s a good idea to have a few leashes at home so you can rotate them and clean them as needed. Leather leashes should be wiped clean with a damp cloth that’s been soaked in soapy water, while nylon or rope leashes can be scrubbed with a brush in a basin filled with a soap and water solution. Hang leashes to dry in the sun to get rid of any lingering germs and bacteria.

Keeping your dog’s gear clean and germ-free can help you and your pet stay healthy. Try these tips to thoroughly disinfect your pet’s things, and make sure to clean them regularly for best results.