Dealing with Odors: how to clean a dog crate

Unpleasant odors coming from your dog’s crate can be a common challenge for pet owners. Whether it’s the result of accidents or simply the accumulation of dirt over time, a smelly crate is not only off-putting but can also be a breeding ground for bacteria. From understanding the sources of the stench to adopting proper cleaning practices, we’ll guide you through a step-by-step process on how to clean a dog crate to ensure your dog’s crate remains fresh and inviting. Say goodbye to unpleasant crate odors and welcome a cleaner, healthier space for your furry friend.

What makes your dog crate smell?

A dog crate can start to smell due to various factors, and understanding these elements can help maintain a clean and odor-free environment for your dog.


Dander consists of tiny, even microscopic, flecks of skin shed by your dog. Dogs constantly shed dander as part of their natural skin renewal process and these microscopic particles can accumulate on surfaces, including the inside of a dog crate, leading to an unpleasant odor over time.

Did you know?

People are commonly allergic to dogs’ dander rather than their fur!

The skin cells in dander provide a nutrient-rich substrate for microbial activity. Microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, are present on the skin and in the environment.

The proteins and oils in the dander serve as a food source for bacteria and fungi. During metabolism, microorganisms break down these substances into simpler compounds. This process releases byproducts, some of which may have distinct odors.

The surfaces within the crate, including the walls, bedding, and any other materials, can absorb the byproducts making it smell


While dogs don’t sweat in the same way humans do (through their skin), they do have sweat glands in their paws. Dogs release moisture through the pads of their paws, and this moisture can contribute to the development of a damp or musty smell in the crate, especially if the crate is not adequately ventilated.

Dirt and Debris from Outside

Dogs often bring in dirt, mud, and debris from outside when they enter their crate. This can include soil, grass, leaves, and other outdoor elements. As this dirt accumulates, it can mix with the natural oils on the dog’s fur and skin, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and contributing to an unpleasant odor.

Moisture and Humidity

If the crate is located in an area with poor ventilation or high humidity, moisture can accumulate. This damp environment is conducive to the growth of mold and mildew, both of which can produce unpleasant smells.

How to clean a dog crate

Cleaning a wire dog crate hygienically involves thorough cleaning to remove fur, dander, and any potential bacteria.

Materials Needed:

  1. Enzymatic cleaner
  2. Warm water
  3. Soft-bristle brush or toothbrush
  4. Microfiber or soft cleaning cloth
  5. Vinegar or pet-safe disinfectant (optional)
  6. Towels for drying

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Remove the Dog and Bedding:
    • Take your dog out of the crate (!) and remove any bedding or accessories and clean these separately.
  2. Shake Out Loose Dirt:
    • Take the crate outdoors if possible and give it a good shake to remove any loose dirt or debris. Slide out the plastic tray.
  3. Vacuum Loose Debris:
    • Use a handheld pet vacuum or a hose attachment to remove loose fur, hair, and any debris from the crate. Pay attention to corners and edges where fur and dander get caught.
  4. Scrub with Soft Brush:
    • Gently scrub the crate using the enzymatic cleaner and a soft-bristle brush or toothbrush. Pay extra attention to areas where wires cross to prevent fur or dander from getting stuck. If there are stubborn stains, you can use a soft cloth or sponge.
  5. Rinse Thoroughly:
    • Rinse the crate thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue. This is crucial to ensure your dog doesn’t come into contact with cleaning agents.
  6. Disinfect (Optional):
    • If desired, you can disinfect the crate using a pet-safe disinfectant or a vinegar solution (mix equal parts water and vinegar). Spray or wipe down the entire crate and let it air dry. Ensure the crate is completely dry before returning your dog.
  7. Clean Accessories:
    • If your dog’s bedding or any accessories are machine washable, launder them following the care instructions. Using a biological laundry powder (not non-bio) will help break down the organic dirt and help with the smell.
  8. Dry Completely:
    • Allow the crate to air dry completely before placing any bedding (or your dog) back inside.
  9. Regular Maintenance:
    • Perform routine spot cleaning to address any spills or messes promptly. This will prevent the buildup of dirt and make deep cleaning easier.
how to clean a dog crate


  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals:
    • Stick to mild, pet-friendly detergents, preferably an enzymatic cleaner which works by utilizing enzymes to break down and remove stains, odors, and organic material. Try to avoid any normal household cleaners as most are formulated with bleach or ammonia which to a dog, smells like pee and may encourage them to soil in that area.
  • Check for Sharp Edges:
    • While cleaning, inspect the crate for any sharp edges or protruding wires that may harm your dog.
  • Use a Dog-Friendly Disinfectant:
    • If you choose to disinfect, use a pet-safe product to ensure it’s safe for your dog.
  • Frequent Cleaning:
    • Aim for regular cleaning to prevent the buildup of dirt and odors. This will make the process quicker and more manageable.

Step by step guide to cleaning your plastic dog crate

Cleaning a plastic dog crate hygienically is essentially the same process as your wire crate guide but with one notable exception. The dirt tends to build up in the areas where the plastic parts meet each other so for a really good, deep clean, we recommend dismantling the crate completely, cleaning, and then reassembling.

Hopefully, you kept the instructions regarding assembly but if you didn’t, a good idea is to video yourself as you take it apart, that way if you get stuck reassembling you can just watch the video back!


  • Check for Wear and Tear:
    • While cleaning, inspect each component for any signs of wear, damage, or sharp edges. Replace any damaged parts promptly.
  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals:
    • Stick to mild, pet-friendly detergents, preferably an enzymatic cleaner which works by utilizing enzymes to break down and remove stains, odors, and organic material. Try to avoid any normal household cleaners as most are formulated with bleach or ammonia which to a dog, smells like pee and may encourage them to soil in that area.
  • Dismantle Periodically:
    • Completely disassembling the crate periodically is crucial for ensuring no hidden dirt, fur, or dander accumulates.
  • Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions:
    • Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly to maintain the structural integrity of the crate.

By thoroughly cleaning and periodically disassembling your plastic dog crate, you create a clean and safe space for your pet, reducing the risk of odors and potential health issues.

All articles on are written by qualified behaviorist and dog trainer, Cheryl Walker.


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