How to wash dog collars and harnesses

How to wash dog collars and harnesses

Author: Terry Hearn

It’s common to treat your dog to a stylish new harness or collar, only for them to immediately get covered in mud and dirt - let’s face it, that’s often their favourite part of being outdoors!

Even if they do stay clean, their gear will start to smell over time and will eventually need to be washed. It’s not only important to regularly keep your dog’s walking gear clean because of their appearance, but if they are well cared for, harnesses and collars will remain secure and comfortable for many more walks in the future.

So, let’s explore Topdog’s tips for cleaning and washing your dog’s harness and collar.

Washing a dog harness

small fluffy dog in pink harness sitting next to matching lead, indoors

Washing a dog’s harness is a simple process that is very similar to that of your own clothes. While most can be machine-washed, be sure to check the harness label for cleaning instructions to make sure you don’t damage your pup’s gear. 

Ideally, handwashing is the best way to prolong the lifespan of most fabrics as it is far gentler than washing with a machine, but sometimes the dirt is so stubborn that a machine is the best option. Choosing which method is best for you will depend on several factors, but in either case, the first thing to do is clean off any excess dirt and dried mud with a brush and then follow these instructions.

Machine washing your harness

  • If your harness says that machine washing is safe then simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions for temperature and duration to get the best results.
  • Double-check that there are no leather parts as the material is not suitable for washing machines.
  • Just throwing a harness in the washing machine will not only be noisy, but could damage the drum as those clips and buckles get thrown around. To prevent this, put the harness in a mesh bag or wash it with blankets or towels.
  • Make sure that any detergent is pet-friendly to avoid issues with sensitive skin or allergies.

Hand washing your harness

The following process can also be followed to clean your dog’s coat.

  • Step 1: Prepare a bowl of hot water with mild washing-up liquid. This will need to be hot, but not boiling.
  • Step 2: Put the harness in the bowl for a few minutes to allow it to soak for 5-10 minutes. Once the water has cooled, dive in with a brush to scrub off any stubborn dirt.
  • Step 3: Rinse off the excess soapy water under the tap
  • Step 4: Wring the harness out and hang it up to air dry.
  • Step 5: Do not use the harness until it has completely dried - so make sure you have a spare ready!

Note: Never use a dryer as it could damage the materials and shorten the life of your harness.

Washing a dog collar

french bulldog sitting in its bed, looking to the left of the shot. it is wearing a topdog collar

Machine washing your collar

  • Many collars are not machine washable, so carefully check your manufacturer's guidance to avoid causing damage. If you cannot machine wash, follow the hand-washing instructions in the section below. Most Topdog collars are hand washable and quick drying.
  • If your collar is washing machine-friendly, follow the instructions closely and clean it with pet-friendly detergent.
  • Put the collar in a washing bag to protect the fastening and other metal parts from damage.

Hand washing your collar

The process for hand washing a collar is very similar to that of a harness and can also be used for non-leather leads.

  • Step 1: Prepare a bowl of boiling water with mild washing-up liquid. The heat will disinfect the collar.
  • Step 2: Put the collar in the bowl for a few minutes to allow it to soak. Once the water has cooled, use a hard brush to scrub it clean.
  • Step 3: Rinse off under the tap.
  • Step 4: Wring the collar outleave it to air dry.
  • Step 5: Make sure the collar is completely dry before putting it back on your dog.

Note: Never use a dryer as it could damage the materials and shorten the life of your harness.

Leather collars should not follow these steps. Instead, follow the manufacturer’s care instructions and spot-clean with a non-toxic, dog-friendly cream. Do not soak leather as it may become cracked and brittle.

FAQ

How often should you wash your dog’s harness?

If it is covered in mud, you should wash your dog’s harness immediately to remove bacteria and avoid staining.

In standard use, harnesses should be washed roughly every 1-2 weeks.

How often should you wash your dog’s collar?

A good rule of thumb is to wash your dog’s collar every time you give them a bath. This will vary depending on their breed and activity levels, but likely every 1-2 months unless they get particularly muddy!

Cleaning the collar at the same time will mean you aren’t putting dirt and bacteria onto your newly washed pup. Letting them be ‘naked’ while the collar is drying will also give their skin and fur some time to breathe and could help to avoid matting around the neck.

Is it okay to leave a harness or a collar on a dog at all times?

  • Harnesses should not be kept on all the time. While they are useful on walks or for training at home, wearing a harness all the time can cause your pup discomfort and irritation - which can sometimes result in them chewing and damaging their harness.
  • Collars must be worn outside as it is the law in the UK for dogs to wear a pet ID tag or other form of clear identification in public, even if they are microchipped. At home, you may want to remove the collar for multiple reasons:
    • Safety - getting the collar caught on something at night
    • Comfort - skin irritation and matting fur.

How do I know when I need to replace my dog’s harness or collar?

  • If the harness or collar has become stretched or appears to be out of shape it should be replaced. A loose collar or harness increases the risk of your dog slipping out during a walk. When the time comes to buy a replacement, use Topdog’s harness size guide to make sure your pup is as comfortable as possible.
  • As it grows, your dog will change size and shape. Make sure their collar and harness remain comfortable and are correctly adjusted. When you get to a point where you can no longer adjust to a comfortable size, it’s time to choose a replacement.

Be ready for any mud-drenched dog walk

Bulldog wearing TopDog Harnesses To Dye For Dog Collar and matching lead, sitting on the grass yawning

Getting home from a walk with a dog that is covered from head to toe in mud happens to us all and it’s a sure sign that they’ve had a great time! With these tips, you’ll be able to easily get their harness and collar cleaned up looking as good as new.


When the time does come for a new harness, choose from our stylish ranges including reversible and adjustable harnesses with options for dogs of all sizes.

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