How Often Should I Wash My Dog’s Bowls?

Are you washing your pet’s bowls often enough? Like most people, probably not enough. But don’t feel guilty - it’s never too late to start!

Are you washing your pet’s bowls often enough? Like most people, probably not enough. But don’t feel guilty – it’s never too late to start!

There is a lot of conflicting information out there when it comes to washing pet bowls. For example, how often should you wash?

Many of us give the bowl a cursory rinse when we think about it and occasionally toss it in the dishwasher. But, I mean, dogs eat poop, so what’s some crusty breakfast leftovers in their bowl?

I’ve talked to many dog owners who haven’t cleaned their dog’s bowls over the years. These were not irresponsible pet owners. They were ordinary dog owners, just like you and me, did not understanding of what they were doing.

Bowls should be washed once a day if your dog consumes dry food. After each meal, washing and sanitizing the bowls are required for dogs who eat wet or raw food.

On top of that, if your dog has long facial hair, the bowl will require even more cleaning. Typically, these dogs will get food or debris stuck in their fur and transfer it to their water bowls.

The Best Kind of Dog Bowl

Not all dog bowls are created equal. While plastic appears to be a logical choice because it does not break and is cheap, it is a breeding ground for germs and many bacteria.

A dog’s food and water dish should be made from stainless steel or another non-porous substrate. So, stick strictly with stainless or porcelain, please.

Stainless Steel Dogs Bowls

They are the best option because stainless steel bowls are sturdy, long-lasting, incapable of leaching toxic chemicals into food, easy to clean, and less likely to harbor microbes due to their non-porous structure.

Furthermore, they can last the rest of your dog’s life if cared for properly.

Plastic and ceramic, for example, should be avoided since they are readily scratched or contain pores. In addition, bacteria can trap in these bowls, making disinfection difficult.

So inspect your dog’s dishes regularly, and if you see scratches, grooves, bumps, or deep bite marks, it’s time to replace them. 

Handling Open Food

Dogs don’t always eat the entire can, and food safety is always questionable when food is left out.

The amount of time food can be safely left out depends on several factors. Uneaten or open canned/moist food should be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated as soon as possible.

As a general rule, do not leave open canned/moist food in your pet’s bowl or on the counter for more than two hours at room temperature.

This is when bacteria in food can multiply rapidly, resulting in foodborne illness.

Can Dogs Get Sick from Dirty Bowls?

Like with people’s food, pet food left out too long can grow bacteria.

Because pets eat directly from their bowls, the microbes that typically live in your pet’s mouth can be transferred to any leftover bits of food in the bowls the pet eats and drinks from, creating an area where the bacteria can flourish.

study conducted by NSF International, a public health and safety organization, found pet bowls to be the #4 germiest place in the home, right behind kitchen sponges, the kitchen sink, and your toothbrush holder.

Mold, yeast, e.coli, salmonella, and Serratia Marcescens have all been detected in dog bowls (you may see this pink stuff that forms a ring around the water bowl.) These germs grow rapidly without proper cleaning and disinfecting.

But don’t panic! The digestive system of your dog is well-equipped to deal with viruses.

Bacteria such as salmonella have a hard time surviving in the very acidic environment of a dog’s stomach. This is because the dog’s short digestive tract permits bacteria to pass through without having enough time to overpopulate.

So, if you neglect to wash your dog’s bowl after a meal now and then, they are unlikely to be harmed.

Regardless, your dog can still be affected by microbes found in their bowls, especially if they are ill or well into their senior years.

On top of that, touching the dog bowls or getting a kiss from your dog can easily spread the bacteria to your family members.

How to Clean Dog Bowls the Right Way

First, let’s define cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing quickly:

  • Cleaning removes germs and dirt with soap and water but does not kill the germs.
  • Disinfecting kills germs with chemicals but does not necessarily clean surfaces.
  • Sanitizing reduces the number of germs to an acceptable level by cleaning or disinfecting.

Pet dishes must be adequately cleaned to eliminate bacteria, prevent dog illnesses, and protect the entire family from dangerous infections.

Bowls should be washed similarly to human dishes. For example, washing your dog’s bowls with hot, soapy water and using the same dish detergent that you use on your dishes will work just fine because the heat effectively kills bacteria.

Avoid using anything abrasive, such as wire cloth, to reduce the risk of scratching the bowl’s surface.

Wash them separately from your family’s dishes and use a sponge or rag reserved just for this purpose to prevent any bacterial growth from being transferred.

And once a week, it’s time for a disinfecting. You can do this by soaking the items in a solution of 1/4 cup bleach to one gallon of water for up to 10 minutes or putting them in the dishwasher on the highest setting.


Dirty dog dishes do more than look gross. They can be hazardous to you and your pooch’s health.

By not cleaning your dog’s bowl regularly, you invite bacteria to build up in their bowls, not bugs and mold.

So, don’t wait for the bowls to “look” unsightly because your dog has already been exposed to germs and bacteria by then.

Now that you’ve got that image in your head start washing your dog’s food bowls daily.

Sure, it’s a little more work than you’re probably used to, but by following these simple steps, you can ensure that you, your furry friend, and your healthy home are free of potentially harmful bacteria.