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you should be cleaning your pet’s food and water bowls every day – here’s why

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan

You’d never consider eating off of the same dirty plate for every meal, or feeding your kids cereal from a bowl that’s rarely washed – yet most of us do this for our pets without batting an eye.


You might be surprised to find out that our pets’ food and water bowls rank in the top five germiest places in our homes. According to NSF International, a public health and safety organization with a mission to improve human health, pet bowls come in at number four for containing the most germs. The only things germier in your house are your kitchen sponge, kitchen sink and toothbrush holder.


Yet every day, we ask our pets to eat and drink from these germy bowls, and, if they’re anything like mine, they do so willingly!


I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news by adding yet another chore to your busy day, but the truth is that you should be washing your pet’s food and water bowls every day. You can hand wash them with soap and hot water daily, or, if you’re lazy like me, you can just throw them in the dishwasher at the end of the day (provided they’re dishwasher safe). I find that having two sets of bowls per pet makes this a little easier, as there will always be a clean set available at meal time.

Once a week, in addition to your daily washing, you should let the bowls soak in dilute bleach (1:50 solution) for 10 minutes to get rid of the most stubborn germs. Don’t forget to rinse them thoroughly and allow them to dry completely before using them.


If you’re in the market to buy new bowls (or maybe get a second set so you can be lazy like me), choose wisely. There are many, many choices for pet food and water bowls, but my favorite bowls are stainless steel, because they are easy to clean. Ceramic and glass bowls come in a close second, though. Because plastic bowls are easy to scratch, and those scratches can hang onto to food particles and bacteria, I prefer to leave them on the shelf.


Here’s one more tip for cat owners: don’t put your cat’s water bowl next to her food bowl. Because cats are weird and like to keep us guessing, they’ll actually drink more water if the water bowl is placed in a separate location from the food bowl. This is particularly important for cats with urinary issues.


Though I may have just added a line to your daily to do list, I think you’ll agree that it’s a pretty easy chore in proportion to its height on the germiest places in your house list. Now, don’t get me started on your toothbrush holder!

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Posted by Les Myllymaki
on February 02 2017 14:04

We do wash our pet bowls everyday, but a great idea to soak the bowls for 10 minutes in bleach. For my next set, I will buy Stainless. Thanks so much.

Posted by Edwin Ortiz
on January 18 2017 09:48

Thank you for the great advice, keeping my Dexter happy and healthy during his twilight years is very important to me. And to contribute to his happy and healthy lifestyle he has been drinking his water from a pet water fountain for over three years; one with a charcoal filtration system that keeps the water fresh & clear. A drinking fountain provides your pet with a continuous indoor source of fresh-tasting, cool, filtered water that will encourage your pet to drink more. Remember these fountains come equipped with submersible water pumps that require pulling apart they too can get a thorough cleaning, nothing is too good for my Dexter, I'm sure you all feel the same way about your precious four legged friend. If you don't have a water fountain get him one it will make him drink more water.

Posted by Angie Edmunds
on January 17 2017 19:31

I am amazed to think that anyone would use a dirty dish to feed their pet! I am always washing a cat or dog bowl. But I always use a clean dish for myself as well.

Posted by Kathy holtzman
on January 16 2017 21:06

Great, information. I will start washing their bowls and tell my friends also know.

Posted by D Sayles
on January 16 2017 13:47

It blows my mind that people wouldn't wash their pets bowls daily. It's COMMON SENSE!! We wash the bowls twice a day ( after they eat) and wash and change the water bowl numerous times a day

Posted by Dan
on January 16 2017 12:11

I've always use stainless steel and my dog gets a fresh sterilized stainless steel water bowl every day. For food he gets two meals a day and both meals are served in stainless steel bowls that are also not reused. I just always thought it made sense as I figured I would never want to drink or eat out of a dirty bowl.

Posted by Ellen Lawson
on January 16 2017 11:33

Everyone of these articles on screen today has been good full of good tips and needed information for me and I will begin this week to utilize the info. Not writing this for each one individually so please consider this as applying to each of the articles. And thanks for all this helpful information!

Posted by Latayna Sikes
on January 16 2017 11:00

I'm sorry but this is just common sense to wash your pet's bowls everyday if you do not have extra. I enough have stainless bowls for everyday of the week because I do not wash dishes every single days. Plus my Sophie is picky. When I bring her to the dog park, I always bring her own water bowl. She is willing to share with the other dogs but if she sees a lot of drool, she won't drink from it until I dump it and put fresh water in there.

Posted by Carol Figeroid-Burgi
on January 16 2017 10:23

I don't remember my parents washing our pets' bowls very thoroughly. We usually had 5 rescue cats and 3 dogs. Cleanup was a big job twice a day. Now that I have one cat, things are easier. I wash her bowls by hand with soap and water, making sure to rinse thoroughly. I send them through the dishwasher every day and a half. The cat seems happy with the arrangement and is is very healthy. It's not a big job because she has 4 ceramic food bowls and 2 water bowls. Having extras makes the job easy.

Posted by Dawn Lorenzi
on January 16 2017 10:08

Thanks for the info didn't realize this.

Posted by Diane Brunet
on January 16 2017 09:44

I have several bowls for my cat and she never eats from the same one every day. I wash out her water bowl daily. Good article.

Posted by Stacey Kinsel
on January 16 2017 09:37

Diluted bleach? Is there a more natural alternative you can recommend? Would diluted white vinegar and boiling water provide the same germ destroying results?

Posted by Lois Urkowitz
on August 16 2016 16:52

Very good article. I don't think some people realize that the bowls can be so germy. We don't just put new food in our client's bowls-we wash them first!

Posted by Keri Larson
on March 28 2016 22:11

I did not know this! Gross! Thanks for the info.

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