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How often should you be cleaning your dog's food and water bowls

How often should you be cleaning your dog's food and water bowls

Maintaining the health and well-being of your furry companion involves more than just cuddles and playtime—it also extends to their mealtime. Just as you wouldn't eat from dirty dishes, your dog deserves clean and hygienic food and water bowls. Regular cleaning of these bowls is essential to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, ensure your dog's food and water remain fresh, and promote their overall health. In this regard, establishing a proper cleaning routine for your dog's food and water bowls is paramount.

How often do you clean your dog’s bowls? For most pet owners the answer is not frequently enough. Both food and water dishes are a breeding ground for bacteria and parasites. Here are some tips and tricks to help you keep your dog’s dishes spick and span!

Two dogs eating together from their food bowls Two cute dogs eating dinner from their food bowls on the floor of their home dog dishes stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Water Bowl

Daily: Ideally, you should clean and refill your dog's water bowl with fresh water every day. This helps prevent the growth of bacteria and keeps the water clean and safe for your dog to drink. If you have a drooly dog, you may even need to change their water more than once per day.

Weekly: Give the water bowl a thorough cleaning using mild soap and warm water. Scrub the bowl to remove any residue or slimy buildup. Rinse it thoroughly to remove any soap residue before refilling with water.

Food Bowl

After Every Meal: If you feed your dog wet or moist food, it's best to wash the food bowl immediately after your dog finishes eating. This prevents bacteria growth and ensures that the leftover food doesn't become a breeding ground for germs.

Daily: Even if you feed dry kibble, it's a good practice to wash the food bowl daily to prevent any lingering odors or residue.

Weekly: Just like the water bowl, give the food bowl a more thorough cleaning with soap and warm water on a weekly basis.

I'm hungry! spaniel puppy holding its food bowl and demanding to be fed (white background) dog dishes stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

What is the best way to clean my dog’s dish?

There’s no real technical process to cleaning a dog’s dish. Our suggestion is to clean it in the same way that you would clean your own dishes. Hot water and soap is the best way to ensure that you kill the microbes in the bowl. A soft cloth, rag or sponge is best to use for scrubbing as an abrasive material, like steel wool or plastic scrubbie may scratch the bowl’s surface. Alternatively, you can also place your dog’s dishes in the dishwasher. The hot temperatures in a dishwasher are your best bet for killing resilient microbes.

Sanitizing Pet Bowls- Man Hand Washing Pet Bowls - Close Up POV Sanitizing Pet Bowls- Man Hand Washing Pet Bowls - Close Up POV dog dishes cleaning stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Here is our favourite step by step tutorial to cleaning a dog’s dishes:

Gather Supplies:

  • Mild dish soap or pet-safe dish detergent
  • Warm water
  • Soft-bristle brush or sponge
  • Clean cloth or paper towels


Before you start cleaning, give the bowl a quick rinse to remove any leftover food or debris. This makes the cleaning process easier.

Wash with Soap and Water:

  • Fill the sink or a basin with warm water and add a small amount of mild dish soap or pet-safe detergent.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush or sponge to scrub the bowl thoroughly, paying attention to all sides and corners. Make sure to clean both the inside and outside of the bowl.

Rinse Thoroughly:

Rinse the bowl thoroughly under running water to remove any soap residue. It's important to ensure that no soap or detergent remains, as these substances can be harmful if ingested by your dog.

Sanitize (Optional):

If you want to take an extra step for thorough cleaning, you can sanitize the bowl by soaking it in a mixture of water and a pet-safe disinfectant or white vinegar for a few minutes. Make sure to rinse the bowl thoroughly after sanitizing.

Dry Completely:

Use a clean cloth or paper towels to dry the bowl completely before refilling it with food or water. Moisture can encourage bacterial growth, so it's important to ensure the bowl is dry.

Regular Maintenance:

As mentioned earlier, it's best to clean your dog's dishes daily if you're feeding moist or wet food. For dry kibble, you can clean the dishes every day or at least a few times a week to prevent odor and residue buildup.

Inspect for Wear and Tear:

Regularly check your dog's dishes for any signs of wear and tear. If you notice cracks, scratches, or other damage, it might be time to replace the dishes to maintain a hygienic environment.

Remember that the type of dish (plastic, stainless steel, ceramic) can affect how you clean it. Stainless steel and ceramic bowls are often easier to clean and less likely to retain odors compared to plastic bowls, which can develop scratches and crevices that trap bacteria.

Woman hands washing a dog bowl Unrecognizable woman hands washing dog bowl in the kitchen sink. dog dishes cleaning stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Why do I need to regularly clean my dog's dishes?

Meal time is many dog’s favourite time of day and they waste no time licking their bowls clean and shiny. So why should they need extra cleaning? It’s for the same reason we wash our own dishes after a meal. Cleaning your dog's dishes is crucial for several reasons that directly impact your dog's health and well-being:

Bacteria Growth

Just like with human dishes, leftover food particles can attract bacteria and other microorganisms. While you may not be able to see it, after your dog finishes its meal or drinks from the water dish, it is covered in a layer of bacteria, parasites, mold, fungi and other microbes. This is called a biofilm. Over time, these can multiply and lead to potential health risks for your dog. 

Now not all of these microbes will be dangerous to your dog’s health but there’s always a chance that some of them can make your dog sick. A few of the harmful microbes that can grow in your dog's bowl include Salmonella and E.coli, which can make both you and your dog very sick. According to The National Institute of Health, “One of the most common types of bacteria found in water bowls is Serratia Marcesens, which forms a pink slime and causes infections such as pneumonia.”

Where does a biofilm come from?

The microbes in a biofilm can come from multiple sources. One of them is from your dog itself. Dog’s mouths are full of bacteria and microbes that get transferred to their bowl when they are eating or drinking. 

Water and food dishes are also the perfect environment for growing bacteria. Microbes love moisture and the dampness of the bowls from water and dog saliva creates the optimal environment for bacteria to thrive. Furthermore, the leftover food particles in your dog’s dishes act as a great food source for pathogenic bacteria.

Taken together, your dog’s dishes provide a great home for a growing biofilm. In order to reduce the chances of it collecting harmful pathogens, it is important to regularly clean both your dog’s food and water dishes.

It is also important to keep in mind that different types of dishes can harbor more microbes than others. Porous materials such as plastic and ceramic should be avoided as they have more crevasses for harmful microbes to hide. Hard, smooth surfaces like stainless steel and porcelain make for better dog dishes as they are much easier to clean!

Food Residue

If leftover food is not cleaned properly, it can become rancid and create an unpleasant odor. This might discourage your dog from eating or drinking from the bowls.


Residue from previous meals can mix with fresh food, potentially causing cross-contamination. This is especially concerning if your dog has allergies, sensitivities, or if you're feeding a raw diet.

Hydration and Nutrition

Clean water bowls ensure that your dog has access to fresh, clean water at all times. Dirty bowls can discourage drinking, which might lead to dehydration.

Oral Health

Food particles stuck to the sides of the bowl can contribute to dental issues, as they can promote the growth of plaque and tartar on your dog's teeth and gums.

Parasites and Insects

Dirty bowls can attract pests like flies and ants, which can contaminate the food and water. Additionally, leftover food can attract parasites like flies and other pests.

Sensitive Noses

Dogs have a keen sense of smell, and leftover odors in the bowls can be off-putting to them. This might cause them to eat less or lose interest in their food.

Overall Health

Your dog's health depends on a clean and hygienic environment. By ensuring their food and water bowls are clean, you're helping to prevent potential health issues that could arise from exposure to germs and contaminants.

In essence, cleaning your dog's dishes is not just a matter of convenience; it's a vital aspect of responsible pet care. By maintaining clean and sanitized food and water bowls, you're promoting your dog's health, happiness, and overall quality of life.

Yellow lab holding silver food dish in its mouth
Yellow lab holding silver food dish in its mouth

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February 20, 2024
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