Saturday, October 18, 2014

Washing Kongs with No Dishwasher

As I always point out when sharing that a toy is dishwasher safe, not everyone has a dishwasher. My house is eighty years old and tiny, there's no dishwasher and no place to put one, so we have to hand-wash everything. This comes up a whole lot, since the standard answer to cleaning all manner of things is often "just throw it in the dishwasher". Countering this advice with "I don't have a dishwasher" gets old fast, even more so than perpetually having to inform people that I don't watch TV when they must know how I could possibly have missed that wonderful commercial everyone is talking about. It's an assumption that people with electric dishwasher don't even think about, which annoys me.

Step 1: Star with some gross dog toys.
For the benefit of those who live in dishwasherless domiciles, prefer to hand-wash their dog toys, or
find themselves needing to clean something really gross, here is how I get my dog toys clean with nothing but soap, water, and elbow grease. And scrub brushes. And vinegar. And sometimes bleach. No, actually don't bleach Kongs.

None of my dogs appear capable of cleaning out a Kong. I have mostly size large and one XL Extreme Kong, and neither Brisbane nor Ulysses can reach the very end of the inside when I stuff the toys with food. Less prissy dogs would probably chomp the thing a few times to break the goodies loose, but here they have already decided that they can't win this game. I don't tend to stuff the Kongs with anything perishable these days, but occasionally I lose my mind and decide to cram some mushy banana, baked sweet potato, or canned dog food in there.

I don't usually wash our Kongs immediately after use, and sometimes they get lost under the couch for a few days (or weeks!) and I find a mold-crusted Lovecraftian horror inside.
Step 2:Soak those things!

I have found that soaking makes everything less gross. It will disintegrate kibble and biscuits, and make horrifically decomposed meat and vegetable matter less icky and more likely to slide out. Depending on how gross the toys are, I may soak them in hot water with a healthy squirt of soap (peanut butter, dry biscuits, kibble), vinegar (rotten produce and canned food), bleach (mold!) or napalm (fish oil can go straight to hell).

The worst-case scenario at my house is a Kong or other food toy with a solid plug of horribly-spoiled stuffing packed into the small end. I get gross (and not-gross) stuff unstuck from flexible rubber toys by putting them on the floor and stomping on them a few times. This is basically what unprissy dogs do when they chomp rubber toys to get the food out.

I also bash the toys opening-down on my granite counter to work the stuffing loose. Between this and the stomping I rarely have to use tools to scoop disgusting crap out of things. I also once pounded the Biggie Bone with the smooth side of a meat tenderizer to break up a particularly stubborn wad of goo.

My arsenal.
I don't think there is any one cleaning tool that would serve all of my dog-toy-scrubbing needs, I routinely use at least three or four different brushes. Kong used to make a Classic Kong-shaped scrub brush for cleaning their toys, but the handle of mine snapped off the second time I used it. Brushes designed for cleaning assorted baby-feeding apparatus are perfect for cleaning dog toys. My baby bottle brush even came with a tiny brush that's perfect for scrubbing hard-to-reach places on stupidly-designed toys like the Starpod. The round dish-scrubber is great for getting crud and hair off the outsides of the toys, and that Christmas tree-shaped brush is awesome for cleaning tapered cavities like the ones in the Urban Stick.

My favorite thing about baby-stuff brushes is that they are intended to be replaced frequently, so they are cheap and really easy to find. My last baby brush had a suction cup on the bottom so it could be stood upright to dry.

All Kongs have a small hole in the end to prevent the toy from accidentally suctioning to the dog's face. One of the ways I de-stick food from the inside of the toy is by holding the hole against the faucet and forcing water through it. This sometimes results in water spraying all over the kitchen, but never fails to flush out the crud. This also works on the Kong Marathon, assorted Starmark toys and pretty much any toy that has more than one hole.

Sometimes a rubber toy that has been through true horror will continue to stink after all traces of its adventures have been scrubbed away. I employ various methods to remove the smell depending on the toy and what I have on hand. Normally I use environmentally-friendly biodegradable dish soap, but sometimes I break out the blue original Dawn when I need weapons-grade detergent. Smelly toys can be soaked in diluted vinegar, or even straight vinegar, though this may just make them smell like vinegar instead. Depending on the smell, this can be an improvement. I've soaked all sorts of things in bleach solution, with enough rinsing and plenty time I believe the bleach will neutralize itself, but I am waiting to hear back from the Kong Company as to whether this is a recommended method for cleaning nasty Kongs. Any toy that is dishwasher-safe should also be safe to boil for a few minutes to sterilize it.

I usually leave the toys in the dish rack or on the windowsill to dry, sometimes I skip this step and just restuff and freeze them immediately. In her Behavioral Adjustment Training book, Grisha Stewart says she skips the cleaning step entirely and just puts the toys back in the freezer as soon as the dogs are done with them. I'd probably do this if I didn't have to worry about getting dog hair in the peanut butter.

No comments:

Post a Comment