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Can you put cat bowls in the dishwasher?

Feeding the cat is often just as routine as making your morning coffee, but when was the last time you gave that cat food bowl a proper clean?

It’s easy to overlook this housekeeping task, especially when your finicky feline spends all afternoon staring at the bowl in protest, holding out for something scrumptious to season their otherwise unceremonious meal.

A perpetually soiled bowl could become a breeding ground for bacteria, so regular cleaning is important. Luckily, you can put most cat bowls in the dishwasher, making this chore a total breeze! 

We’ll tell you what’s fair game when it comes to dishwashers and what’s off-limits. 

Read on for more!

Types of cat bowls

Before you shove the bowl into the dishwasher and call it a day, you’ll want to make sure the bowl you use to feed your kitty is, in fact, dishwasher-safe. 

Often, the bowl’s packaging or the bowl itself will indicate it is dishwasher-safe or top rack safe. If you don’t see that information written, or the symbol to suggest it’s safe, err on the side of caution.


Here are some of the most common materials for cat bowls:

  • Ceramic
  • Stainless steel
  • Plastic
  • Glass

Stainless steel and ceramic cat bowls are generally dishwasher-safe. Plastic and glass bowls, on the other hand, are sometimes not recommended for dishwasher use. 

Plastic warps or melts at high temperatures, sometimes even if placed on the top rack. In addition, plastics can absorb detergent that will make the food taste icky at best and, at worst, make your cat sick.

Glass, if it is not high quality, could break or shatter inside the dishwasher, posing a problem to you, your pet, and your dishwasher too! Peruse the manufacturer’s care instructions for glass to make sure it is rated to be used safely in the dishwasher.

If you don’t happen to have a bowl for your kitty or you’re in the market for a new one, consider whether or not you plan to use the dishwasher for cleaning it. You may select any material you like if you don’t mind giving the bowl a rinse and a scrub regularly, but you’ll want to choose durable materials like ceramic or stainless steel if you’d rather use the dishwasher.

Keep this in mind when shopping.

Benefits of using a dishwasher

Some folks don’t mind rolling up their sleeves each evening and working a lather into their plates, pots, and glassware. The rest of us rather set it and forget it (temporarily) by putting it into the dishwasher and running a cycle.

Not only is the dishwasher irrefutably easier and more convenient, but it’s also arguably more effective as well. Dishwashers use very high temperatures and powerful detergents to clean and sanitize dishes, ensuring that harmful bacteria, like salmonella and E. coli, clinging to your kitty’s bowl doesn’t stand a chance. In addition, dishwasher detergents are specially formulated to break and remove food residue that may be invisible to the human eye.

Even if you believe you’re the dishwashing master, and no speck of food residue or grease escapes your sponge, you still have to admit dishwashers save you loads of time in the long run. Tossing your cat bowl into the dishwasher frees you up to do other important things, like waving a wand in front of your cat’s eager claws.

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C’mon. Who could say “no” to that kitty cat punim?

How to properly clean cat bowls in the dishwasher

Cleaning your cat bowl in the dishwasher is super simple, but there are still a few hard and fast rules to keep in mind to make sure you’re doing things right. Cutting corners not only means your cat bowl won’t get as clean, but it could also affect the function of your dishwasher down the line too.

Here are some steps on how to prepare your cat bowl for the dishwasher to ensure success:

  1. Remove any leftover food. Food remnants and debris could clog your dishwasher drain and lead to issues with the appliance down the line. They also could be missed by the dishwasher and get baked into the bowl by the heat cycle.
  2. Pre-rinse the bowl. This will remove or soften food particles to make for a better clean once placed inside and run through a cycle.
  3. Place the bowl in the dishwasher. You want the opening face down so it can be hit with the jets and cleaned thoroughly. Bowls left right-side up will collect dishwasher water and detergent that you’ll have to dump manually. If the manufacturer’s instructions indicate so, place it on the top rack.
  4. Run the cycle!

Following these simple steps is sure to bring you success in thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing your cat bowl, but there are a few additional precautions you can take to totally optimize the cleaning.


First, inspect the bowl for any cracks or defects. Imperfections could expand and damage the bowl further depending on the settings you use during the dishwashing cycle. 

Next, select a mild detergent, as harsh or abrasive detergent risks damaging the bowl. Place the bowl inside the dishwasher on the top rack. The top rack is generally safest, as it is furthest from the heating element and, therefore, less likely to damage the bowl.

You may choose not to use a heated dry option at all, depending on the material of your cat bowl, and instead, simply remove the bowl when it’s done and towel dry. This reduces the risk the bowl may crack, warp, or shatter during the cycle.

Following these steps and heeding these precautions will be sure to provide you success while washing and sanitizing your cat bowl in the dishwasher.

Maintaining the longevity of cat bowls

Most of us buy a cat bowl assuming it will last for the majority of the cat’s lifetime, or at least for several years. No one should have to discard countless bowls for poor cleanliness.

Regular cleaning and sanitizing prevent damage, wear and tear, and bacterial buildup that can lead to health problems for your pet, thus prolonging the life of your investment. You won’t have to scamper to the store semi-regularly to grab a new bowl if you take good care of it.

Make it a habit to clean your cat’s bowl every day, just as you clean your own bowls and dishes after each use. Doing so will keep your cat safe from harmful bacteria and prolong the life of the bowl itself.

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If you don’t feel like you can clean the bowl regularly, or aren’t running a dishwasher cycle once a day already, consider buying additional bowls and giving your cat a few options. Not only does this provide some festive choices for plating your cat’s meal, but it also saves you from having to clean each bowl immediately after use.

Instead, rinse the bowl, as you would any other plate, and place it in the dishwasher to handle later.

Taking excellent care of the bowl will extend its life, but nothing lasts forever. Signs it may be time to part ways with your kitty’s beloved bowl include:

  • Chips
  • Cracks
  • Stains
  • Warping
  • Discoloration
  • Other damage

Structural issues like cracks, chips, and breaks are obvious, and they could cause harm to your cat if you continue using a bowl that has sharp edges and other hazards present. Stains and discoloration are equally hazardous, as this means bacteria may have seeped into the bowl and could seep into your cat’s fresh food too.

Do your best to take great care of your cat bowl, but know when it’s time to retire a bowl and grab a new one. Your kitty will appreciate it!

Alternative methods for cleaning cat bowls

The dishwasher is great, but it’s not always realistic.

Some people have beautiful, handcrafted cat bowls of the highest quality, but they aren’t dishwasher-safe. Some people prefer cheap but functional bowls, but they aren’t dishwasher-safe.

Heck, some people don’t even have a dishwasher.

Here are a few alternatives to using the dishwasher, as well as a brief explanation of what each entails:

  • Handwashing: Handwashing is the most common method for cleaning cat bowls. Instead of a quick rinse with just warm water, use a mild detergent to really get in there and clean the bowl thoroughly, then rinse it clean.
  • Soaking: Soaking the bowl in a solution of vinegar and water or a bleach solution helps kill bacteria and sanitize the bowl. Make sure you rinse it very, very, very thoroughly if you use bleach on your cat bowl!
  • Boiling: Boiling the bowl in water for several minutes kills bacteria, sanitizes the bowl effectively, and makes it al dente. Bellissimo!

All of these methods are very effective for keeping the bowl clean, but they require different levels of commitment. Handwashing, of course, is easiest, since all you need is a good, clean sponge or scrubber and a little bit of soap. Soaking and boiling, on the other hand, involve additional steps that make the process take a tad longer.

Whatever method you prefer, be sure you clean the bowl regularly and store it properly in a cool, dry place when it’s not in use.

Conclusion

We’ve covered a number of tips and tricks for keeping your cat bowl purr-fectly clean, as well as why it’s important. You would never eat from a dirty bowl, and your precious feline friend shouldn’t have to either.

Fortunately, most cat bowls are dishwasher-safe and, by following the advice provided in this article, your cat will have a pristinely clean bowl every day, so they may live their best, and most hygienic, lives!

Now, if only we could get that finicky cat to actually eat from it!