How to Clean a Dog Collar

By: Darren Marcy

Dogs love mud, and they end up soiling their collars, as well as themselves.
Photo by Jody, Stevenson

No matter how clean your dog stays or how fresh his coat, the collar he wears will eventually absorb enough skin oils, as well as dirt and grime, to develop an odor. Dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors rolling in the mud, swimming in lakes and streams, chasing balls, or playing at the dog park will be more prone to collar funk than the small lap dog who rarely ventures out and takes a weekly trip to the doggie salon. But eventually all collars will need to be washed to keep them smelling nice, and for good hygiene.

How to Clean a Synthetic Dog Collar

If you clean your dog’s collar regularly, it’s not a big job. The quickest and easiest way to keep your dog’s collar smelling nice is to wash it at least as often as you wash your dog. Put a little dog shampoo into a bowl of hot water and soak the collar for at least 10 to 20 minutes. Then give it a light scrubbing with a soft-bristled brush—an old toothbrush works well—paying special attention to any crevices where dirt and grime can hide. Rinse the collar under hot water and then place it on a flat surface or hang it by the buckle to dry.

Or you might try cleaning your dog’s collar with natural ingredients. Mix 2 or 3 teaspoons of vinegar—apple cider vinegar smells nicer—with baking soda into a bowl of hot water. Let the collar soak and then scrub it clean. Rinse thoroughly in hot water and let dry.

Note: You may not want to soak a leather collar in your cleaning solution. Leather dog collar cleaning tips are below.

Cleaning a Leather Dog Collar

While many leather collars can be cleaned as described above, some leather collars, particularly those that have not been well cared for, should not get wet and certainly shouldn’t be soaked in water. The higher cost of a leather collar also might cause you to pause before dunking it in a watery solution. Fortunately, there are other options. Be advised that cleaning your dog’s leather collar regularly to maintain it is better than trying to reclaim a collar that is soiled and reeks.

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Cleaning a Badly Soiled Leather Collar

Rather than soaking your leather collar in a solution, make a smaller bowl of soapy water, or a baking soda and vinegar solution. Dip a toothbrush in the solution and then scrub the collar clean. Rinse, and immediately blot the leather collar dry with a towel before hanging it to finish drying. Once it’s completely dry, use a leather conditioner on the collar.

Cleaning a Finished Leather Collar

Finished leather has been treated and dyed. This protects the leather and helps it stand up to water and stains. If you scratch the leather and it is the same color, it’s finished leather. Check the collar’s tag for specific cleaning instructions and warnings. Lacking this, you can clean finished leather with warm water and mild detergent. There are commercial leather cleaners, but before you use any kind of product on your dog’s collar, be sure it doesn’t present a risk of poisoning or skin irritation for your dog.

Cleaning an Unfinished Leather Collar

Unfinished leather is more supple because it is untreated. It is also more susceptible to stains and discoloration. If your dog wears an unfinished leather collar, your best bet is to put a little saddle soap on a cloth and scrub the collar clean. Wipe away any additional soap and let the collar air dry away from the sun.

It’s no fun snuggling up to a clean dog only to realize his collar still reeks of swamp water. Taking a few extra minutes to clean your dog’s collar when you bathe him goes a long way towards preventing the buildup of dirt and grime that causes odor.

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