If You Don’t Clean Your Dog’s Leash, This Will Convince You to Start

Updated: May 13, 2022

It turns out, your dog's leash may be dirtier than you expect. Don't worry, these expert tips will have your dog's leash clean in no time.

A good boy goes on a walk

Going out for a walk with your dog allows you to stretch your legs and breathe in the fresh air. But when you come back from your walk, do you ever think about cleaning your dog’s leash? You might want to add cleaning your dog’s leash to your list of things to clean.

How to choose a dog’s leash

Choosing a dog leash that’s easy to clean is an important part of being a dog parent. “Every dog parent knows how easy it is for the leash to slip under their pooch when they stop to squat or lift their leg on their daily walk!” Lorraine Rhoads, an environmental biologist at Dogtopia, the nation’s largest dog daycare, boarding and spa facility, tells Reader’s Digest. “Hands-free leashes are a good way to keep your hands from constantly adding to the body oil grime, plus they free your hands up for better walking or running posture,” Rhoads says. She recommends having multiple dog leashes, that way you can rotate cleaning and drying when needed. If you’re looking for a new best friend, these are the 6 puppies that are easiest (and 6 that are hardest) to train.

How dirty is a dog’s leash?

“Anything we frequently touch or handle has the potential to get dirty and pet leashes are no exception! Body oils, dirt, slobber, and even illness-causing germs can be hiding on your dog’s leash,” says Rhoads. “Although it may be unlikely to transmit illnesses like ringworm, mites, or canine cough germs, it is still a good idea to routinely clean pet leashes.” Here are 15 diseases you can prevent just by washing your hands.

What is the proper way to clean dog leashes?

It all depends on what kind of leash you have. “The best way to clean leashes is based on the materials they are made from,” Chewy vet expert Dr. Jennifer Coates tells Reader’s Digest. “For example, a leather leash needs to be cleaned with something like saddle soap.” 

dog waiting for walkdamedeeso/Getty Images

However, if you don’t have saddle soap on hand, that’s OK. “To clean a leather leash, start with a damp cleaning rag and wipe the leash thoroughly to remove dirt,” says Rhoads. “Use a small bowl of water and a few drops of mild soap to make a cleaning solution. Dip a soft toothbrush in the solution and scrub the leather clean rather than soaking the entire leash. Hang the leash to dry out of the sun.”

Other materials need other washing techniques. For rope or nylon leashes, start with hot water and soap. I prefer to use my dog’s shampoo because she has allergies and I know her hypoallergenic shampoo will not cause a reaction,” says Rhoads. “Let your leash soak for ten minutes in the hot soapy water to loosen and break down dirt and oils. If your leash is pretty grimy, take a soft nylon brush (like a toothbrush) and scrub the leash with additional shampoo. Rinse clean and hang to dry. Keep in mind that brushing too much may cause the webbing to look worn. Some rope or nylon leashes can be safely washed in the washing machine.” However, retractable leashes should never be placed in the washing machine. Rhoads says in order to clean retractable leashes, follow the nylon cleaning directions above “with the leash locked in the fully extended position, leaving the handle dry and out of the soapy water.”

To safely wash your dog’s leash in a washing machine, Dr. Coates recommends you lace the [nylon] leash in a lingerie bag and run it through the washing machine with a few towels to protect the machine from dings and scratches.” When you’re cleaning, make sure you know the 8 cleaning products you shouldn’t use around dogs.

How often should pet leashes be cleaned?

“The ideal cleaning frequency depends on how dirty leashes get. A leash that is regularly dragged across potentially contaminated surfaces (like a dirty dog park) should be cleaned more frequently than one that rarely touches the ground,” says Dr. Coates. “Use the ‘ick’ factor as a guide. If the thought of running your hands up and down the leash makes you shudder, it should be cleaned.” Rhoads recommends cleaning dog leashes once every month, or whenever they become really dirty. Along with dog leashes, your dog needs to be washed, too. This is how often you should be washing your dog.

When is it time to finally replace a pet leash?

We’re all conscious about our spending habits but sometimes, like how you’ve kept a fraying T-shirt long past it’s prime, you may need to let go of old pet leashes, too. “Be sure to replace leashes when they get frayed or damaged in other ways,” says Dr. Coates. “Damage makes a leash harder to keep clean and more likely to break.” Make sure you replace your dog’s leash at the appropriate time and avoid these other 53 mistakes every dog owner makes.