Mucky pups: who’s dirtier, you or your dog? holiday cottages

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Mucky pups: who’s dirtier, you or your dog?

Hannah 21 July 2022

They sleep in our beds, eat our food, and even kiss us on the lips from time to time. For most dog-owners, their pampered pooches are part of the family, but dog-free households might question how hygienic these close-knit dog-owner relationships really are. 

Is it safe to let your dog lick your face and share your food? Well, you might be interested to know that we humans might be just as dirty as our four-legged friends! 

Dirty Jack Russell dog on a clean sofa

With over 80 million dogs throughout Europe loved and adored by their human families, we decided to end the age-old argument of who’s dirtier, you or your pup. To do this, we performed swabs of seven dog items and seven human items. We then compared the Relative Light Units (RLU) of each one. The RLU readings are based on the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) collected from each sample. 

So, is it acceptable to let your cuddly canine sleep in your bed? Is it safe to feed them from the table? Or should they be the ones dodging your kisses and kicking you out of bed? Let’s find out.

Are dogs or humans dirtier?

To collect the data, we took swabs using Hygiena’s UltraSnap Surface ATP Test and EnSURE Touch monitoring system to determine the RLU results. Five different locations of each item were swabbed. 

The dirtiest items are based on RLU (Relative Light Units). The RLU reading is based on the amount of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) collected from the sample. The relationship between the amount of ATP on the sample and the RLU result reading is as follows: high contamination (improper cleaning) = large amount of ATP = more light produced in reaction = high RLU reading on EnSURE.

Sum of RLU
Human water bottle
Dog lead
Dog toy
Human dinner bowl
Dog water bowl
Dog food bowl
Dog bed
Dog towel
Dog lead handle
Human teddy
Human towel
Human bed
Human coat
Dog coat

The results are in, and you might be surprised to see that the human water bottle has been crowned the dirtiest item out of all those we tested. It topped the board with +41,700 RLU – significantly higher than any of the other items, including all of those belonging to dogs. So, next time you screw up your nose at a communal dog bowl, remember that the bottle you regularly take to the gym might be even less hygienic! 

Not only should you be cleaning your bottle more thoroughly, but the results suggest our bowls need a good wash out too. Appearing in the top 5 dirtiest items with +7,235 RLU, a dinner bowl is dirtier than both the dog food bowl (+4,318 RLU) and dog water bowl (+6,145 RLU). 

Chart of the dirtiest dog and human items

But it wasn’t all good news for our furry friends. By far, the dirtiest dog item tested was the dog lead, coming in at +21,456 RLU. This might be unsurprising given how often it ends up trailing through the mud on daily dog walks. However, this makes it even more worrying that our water bottle has almost double the amount of bacteria on it!

Perhaps surprisingly, the only item to pass the test was a dog item. With a sum of just +2 RLU, the dog coat was the only item to pass the swab test and was significantly cleaner than the human coat (+333 RLU). 

Top tips: how to keep your dog’s things clean

So how do you make sure you’re properly keeping things clean? We asked Laura Lambert, owner of Dragonfly Products, for her top tips for cleaning the following dog items: 

  • Dog bowls
  • Dog beds
  • Dog toys
  • Collars and harnesses 

Dog bowls

Beagle eating from its food bowl

Dog bowls can harbour bacteria so they need to be cleaned regularly. If you're a raw feeder, they should be cleaned after EVERY meal. By not cleaning your dog's bowl (including the water bowl) regularly, you are inviting bacteria to build up, not to mention bugs and mould. Not only can these germs dissuade your dog from eating or drinking, but they can also put dogs at increased risk of developing infections and tummy upsets. 

Hand wash bowls in hot water with washing-up liquid or, even better, put them into the dishwasher (check they are dishwasher safe) for a deep clean. We recommend cleaning raw and wet food bowls every day (raw-fed dogs should also have their water bowls cleaned every day) and at least three times a week for dry food.

Dog beds

French bulldog lying in a dog bed

Dog beds can get very smelly over time, so we would always recommend getting a machine washable one or one with a removable cover that can be put into the washing machine. It's particularly important to wash bedding if your dog has had fleas or worms! 

If the bed is unwashable, we would recommend discarding them if fleas and worms have been a problem OR if your freezer is big enough – pop it into the freezer for 24 hours to kill off the pests! 

Dog toys

A black and tan dog with a rope tug toy in its mouth

Most soft dog toys can be washed in the washing machine. You can use a dog-safe laundry detergent to clean and sanitise the toys or you can opt for a totally natural method of baking soda and white vinegar during the washing cycle. Then hang them out on the line or on the radiator! 

Toys that have been left in the garden pose a lungworm threat as slugs and snails are carriers of this parasite, so beware of slug and snail trails on toys and balls! Balls and rubber toys can be soaked in white vinegar and baking soda for 30 minutes to clean them.


A dirty red leather dog collar

While there are no health implications of dirty collars and harnesses, spruce up your harness and collar by hand washing in mild detergent and then leave to dry on a line or over a radiator. For really dirty harnesses and collars, pop them inside a pillowcase to prevent damage to the washing machine, and do a handwash cycle using mild detergent.

To find out more information and to discover more things to do with your not-so-mucky pup, take a look at our dog-friendly guides

Dog-friendly holidays in the UK

If you're ready for an adventure, we have plenty of (paw-fectly clean!) dog-friendly cottages available for the whole family to enjoy. Just click the button below to browse our full collection.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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