A dirty pet dish can attract bacteria, bugs and mold. It’s not likely your dog, cat, hamster, or guinea pig for that matter, will quit eating if you don’t clean his dishes, but it’s better for his health and for your peace of mind that you do so.
Gravity-Fed Food and Water Dishes
If you use a gravity-fed food or water dish for your pet, you should be able to detach the dish from the bottle or canister and follow the directions below. You may also want to empty and clean the storage container every two weeks or so. You may need to invest in a bottle brush to scrub the interior of a gravity-fed water bowl if the opening is not large enough to accommodate your hand.
If your pet uses a water bottle, simply clean it as below every time you refill it. You may wish to purchase a special brush to scrub it out thoroughly. These are available at most pet supply stores.
Using the Dishwasher
For most pet dishes, unless yours is especially delicate (perhaps hand painted by Great Aunt Mildred), you can simply put them in the dishwasher. Just remember, if the bowl is plastic, to place it on the top rack so that it doesn’t melt. Run the dishes through the entire cycle as normal. You can run them in the same load as the rest of your dishes; no need to wash them separately.
Washing by Hand
If you’d prefer to wash your pet’s dishes by hand, just bring them to the kitchen sink, grab a clean sponge and get to scrubbing. Run warm or hot water as you wash the bowls (though not so hot that you risk burning yourself!) and add a squirt or two of nontoxic dish soap made for hand-washing. If your pet bowl is made of glass, make sure it is warm (at least room temperature) before you run hot water in it or you could risk breakage.
Washing the food dish
The pet food should come off of the dish fairly easily. If it doesn’t, you can always use a steel wool pad for light scrubbing. Just be careful, especially if the dish is ceramic, stainless steel or glass. If you scrub too hard, you risk scratching the surface of the bowl.
Once you’ve scrubbed the bowl clean, rinse it with cold water and dry it with a dish towel or paper towel.
Washing the water dish
You can wash the water dish the same way that you wash the food dish. The important thing to remember here is to rinse very well. Although dish soap is not particularly toxic, if the bowl’s not thoroughly rinsed out the water will at least taste funny to your pet. Worst case scenario, it is possible it could make him sick.
If you have a sprayer nozzle on your sink, this can aid you in rinsing the bowl well. You can also get out any remaining residue by wiping the bowl thoroughly with the dish towel or paper towel while you dry it.
After the cleaning
Once your pet’s bowls are clean and dry, you can either replace them on the floor or in the cage or store them on the counter or in the cabinet until the next time they’re needed. Just remember to have water available to your pet at all times. If you’re not going to refill this water dish yet, be sure another one is available. You don’t want Rover to head to the toilet as his next option.
Some people clean their pet’s bowls every day, but a couple times a week should be enough, as long as you give the food bowl a quick rinse after each meal and wipe out the water bowl with a clean paper towel prior to each time you refill it.
Preventing Unwanted Visitors
As long as you keep your pet’s bowls rinsed after every use, you shouldn’t have a problem with insects congregating around your pet’s feeding area. Also, clean up any water or food spills on the floor with a mop or broom as soon as you notice them.
If you are having a problem with pests getting into the food, particularly if it is outdoors, you can wipe a line of cooking oil around the bottom rim of the bowl. Most small bugs like ants will be unable to cross the line of oil. Just be sure to use an oil that is safe for your specific pet should they decide to lick it on accident or on purpose. Olive oil is safe for most dogs and cats. Coconut oil is also a great choice as it is safe for most dogs and cats and it naturally repels some insects, however, some pets find it very attractive and will lick it off, therefore removing the insect barrier.
Also remember to store your pet’s food in a sealed container with a lid. Not only will this prevent insects or rodents from getting inside the food, it can help to keep the pet food tasting fresh.
Mineral deposits, or limescale, that may develop around the rim of the water bowl from hard water can be removed by soaking the bowl in white vinegar, then using a scrub brush to scrub it off.