How to Choose and Clean Dog Food Bowls [Top Recommendations]
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A Guide to Choose and Clean Dog Food Bowls

  • Last Updated On: February 25, 2020
  • / Dog Care Tips
  • / By Drew & Gunnar

How to Choose and Clean Dog Food Bowls

How to Choose and Clean Dog Food Bowls

To some people, it may not seem like a big deal, but the truth is that choosing food and water bowls for your dog is a very important choice to make (like choosing good food for your dog). If you pick one at random, it might be inadequate or low-quality and you’ll find yourself spending more money than you should on bowls for your dogs.

Cleanliness is also very important when it comes to food and water bowls. As you can imagine, they get attract bacteria really fast, and keeping them clean will only improve the lifespan of the bowls and it will keep your dogs healthier.

That’s why today I’m going to break everything down for you: types of bowls, how to choose and clean dog food bowls. This guide will allow you to make the right choices and you’ll have one less thing to worry about! Let’s get started.

Different types of dog bowls

There are quite a few more types of food and water bowls for dogs than you know! Let’s look at them individually, so you can consider each of them before making a decision.

Elevated or Raised Dog Bowls:

Elevated or raised bowls are just two bowls in a stand. The material of the bowls—ceramic, plastic, stainless steel—and the stand—wood, plastic, metal—may vary, so make sure you choose the right one for you and your dog. They look like a food tray and they keep the bowls at a certain height, depending on the model you choose; and the model you choose will, of course, depend on the build of your dog.

Elevated bowls are perfect for dogs who suffer from joint problems of any kind because they make bending down to eat and drink unnecessary. If you have a senior dog who suffers from dysplasia or arthritis, elevated bowls are the best way to help them out and you’d be alleviating a source of discomfort and pain. Elevated bowls are also a great choice for large dogs and giant breeds.

There are a lot of different designs out there and they all come with two dishes; one for food and one for water, as it should be, and a feeding stand. These stands go up to 14 inches, so make sure you choose the right height for your dog.

If you have a healthy dog, elevated bowls might not be the way to go! On healthy dogs, it can increase the chances of developing a condition called stomach dilatation or bloat; which is when the animal’s stomach gets bloated and then twists around its axis; causing great discomfort and it can even be deadly. Please discuss elevated bowls with your veterinarian to make sure that you’re doing right by your dogs!Available at Amazon

Available at Amazon

Slow Feeder Dog Bowls:

If you have a ravenous dog that can’t help itself from gulping down its food all at once, slow feed bowls are just what you need. Rapid eating can also cause the aforementioned bloat, and it can cause indigestion, excess gas, vomiting, etc. So if you see your dog trying to swallow all of its food at once every time its mealtime, it’s wise to do something about it!

Slow feed bowls make your dog work harder for their meal because they are designed with obstacles; this means that the food is not available all at once. It’s not a regular bowl, so fast eating is prevented and healthy chewing and digestion are encouraged. Some slow feed bowls have elevated bumps or turrets, others have ridges, and others take the shape of mazes; the point is that they all have some sort of structure that forces your dog to take a minute. All slow feed bowls make it harder for dogs to eat, so they’re forced to slow down and figure out how to get each piece.

Slow Feeder Dog Bowl, by Siensync

Available at Amazon

JW Pet SkidStop Slow Feed Pet Bowl

Available at Amazon

Non-spill Dog Bowls:

This type of bowl is perfect for the younger dogs around! Puppies and high-energy dogs are always running around and playing, so they’re more likely to make a bit of a mess of things, especially when it’s time to eat! They come running and next thing you know, all of the food and water is on the floor.

To avoid this annoyance, you should get a non-spill bowl. These bowls are designed to stay in place, whether it’s because the material is very heavy or because they come with a rubber base. You can go for a ceramic bowl because they’re very sturdy. The downside is that if they do get toppled over, they might break or chip. Another choice would be a stainless steel bowl or a bowl with a rubber base.

Stainless Steel Dog Bowl with No Spill Non-Skid Silicone

Available at Amazon

Elevated Bowls No Slip Non-Tip Double Diner Stainless Steel Food Dish with Stand

Available at Amazon

Plastic Dog Bowls:

This type of bowl is very inexpensive, dishwasher friendly and it comes in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and shapes. However, plastic bowls are not the best choice for most types of dogs. I would say they’re fit for small dogs that don’t get much pleasure out of chewing on things.

As you can imagine, plastic can be easily chewed on and your dog might end up swallowing pieces of it. It can also scratch easily, and these scratches basically become houses for unwanted bacteria. In some cases, plastic can also cause allergies. So, before you make your buy, make sure that a plastic bowl is a right choice.

Petmate Jumbo Fool-A-Bug Bowl

Available at Amazon

TBC HOME DECOR Round Plastic Pet Bowls

Available at Amazon

Ceramic Dog Bowls:

Ceramic bowls are mostly known because they’re stylish, heavy and most are dishwasher friendly. These bowls come in a wide array of designs, colors, and shapes, and you can choose one to go with your home and kitchen décor, which is a lot of fun for owners.

The downside is that they can break very easily if they’re dropped, so you’ll have to be very careful. If you have a very mischievous and playful dog, the beautiful ceramic bowl of your choice might get easily chipped and cracked. Make sure a ceramic bowl is the right choice for your dog and also make sure to check it regularly for scratches and other blemishes.

Dry Ceramic dog Bowl For Food & Water, With Non-Skid Silicone

Available at Amazon

Dog Feeder Double Ceramic Bowls

Available at Amazon

Stainless Steel Dog Bowls:

This type of bowl is the most durable kind there is, by far. You’d be sacrificing design and color, but you’ll get a sturdy bowl that can stand any sort of treatment from your dog. Most of them also come with a rubber base to prevent messes and they’re dishwasher safe! They’re very practical, inexpensive, and they can stand the test of the time.

However, it’s important to take care of them properly; especially if you’re keeping them outside because they can develop stains or rust.

AmazonBasics Stainless Steel Dog Bowl

Available at Amazon

Bergan Standard Dog Bowl

Available at Amazon

Automatic Dog Bowls:

If you spend a big part of your day away from home and your dogs are left alone, automatic bowls can be a good choice for you. Plus, you won’t have to worry about constantly refilling the bowls.

Automatic bowls are simply bowls that are attached to some sort of container or reservoir; one for food, and the other for water. How the food and water are distributed really depends on the kind of automatic bowl you choose.

Some automatic bowls are designed to keep refilling the bowls as they get emptied and for as long as the container or reservoir is full. Other automatic bowls are programmable, which means you can set a time for it to refill. This feature allows you to be more in control of your dog’s eating habits.

Non-programmable bowls are better for water than for food. You want to keep water available at all times, but the food is a very different deal. Free-feeding is not something you want to encourage, especially not if your dog is insatiable.

PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Automatic Pet Feeder

Available at Amazon

Petmate Pet Cafe Feeder

Available at Amazon

Travel Dog Bowls:

If you spend a lot of time on the road with your dog, travel bowls are a no-brainer! They will allow you to bring food and water every time you take a trip. In fact, even if you’re not the adventurous kind that takes hiking trips every weekend, you should still consider having a travel bowl. That way you can bring food and water every time you go to the park, on vacation, or any other kind of activity that takes you away from home for long periods of time.

These bowls are commonly made of materials such as polyester or a similar fabric, and plastic or nylon liners. There are some that are made of more solid materials, so you can take your pick. The amazing thing about travel bowls is that they can be folded or collapsed when they’re empty. That means they take very little space and they’re easy to carry.Outward Hound Port-A-Bowl Collapsible Travel Dog Food and Water Bowl

Available at Amazon

Collapsible Travel Pet Bowl 2 Pack for Water and Food by Dog-Gone Dish

Available at Amazon


Silicone Dog Bowls:

This is another type of portable bowl that can come handy! Collapsible silicone bowls are silicon bowls that collapse into a flat design and they open up like an accordion, so they offer some adjustability to different heights.

They’re very convenient; you can take them anywhere you go and they can hold food and water, they are dishwasher friendly and they can last for some time. The downside is that it’s made of silicon, and you know what that means. It means your dog can mistake it for a toy and chew on it until it’s destroyed. This is something to consider if your dog is especially playful!

Collapsible silicone dog bowls

Available at Amazon

There Are So Many! How to Pick One?

You probably weren’t aware of the many types of food bowls and water bowls I just described, and that’s okay! Now you might be wondering: how do I know which one is the perfect one for my dog? Well, there are quite a few things to consider. Let’s take a look:

The size of the dog matters:

When you’re shopping for bowls, you really have to consider the size of your dog. The bigger the dog, the deeper the bowl should be. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I think you get my point! Large dogs with long features and snouts will have a very hard time eating out of a small, shallow bowl, so you’ll have to provide a deep bowl, proportional to their size. That way they can eat comfortably.

Deep bowls are also the right choice for dogs that have long, floppy ears that they drag around. By providing a deep bowl, they’ll be able to keep their ears away from their food and eat better while keeping their ears clean.

When it comes to smaller dogs, such as puppies or stout, short-nosed dogs, the right choice is a shallow bowl. That way they’ll be able to reach their food and you’ll help them prevent neck and throat strain.

Consider elevated trays:

These trays are perfect for dogs that have any sort of joint problems. They will hold food and water bowls at their level, so they won’t have to bend to reach their food. This is a good choice for senior dogs because it will help alleviate the tension on the dog’s neck and back. Just make sure you choose an elevated tray that’s proportional to their size.

Elevated trays are also a great choice for dogs who suffer from the mega esophagus, which is a condition that makes the animal’s esophagus become softer and bigger over time, which makes it harder for them to swallow. Discuss it with your veterinarian and consider what he has to say about elevated trays.

Bowls with rubber bases:

Rubber bases are there to prevent messes! Dogs can be very sloppy eaters, and they often knock over their food and water bowls. A rubber base will keep the bowls grounded and messes will be reduced to a minimum.

Stainless steel for durability:

Stainless steel is the go-to choice for material for those who are looking for durability above all. Your dog won’t be able to damage stainless steel bowls because they won’t be able to chew on them or damage them in any way. They’re also easy to clean, inexpensive, and sturdy! Just remember: if you keep your dog’s bowls outside, switch to ceramic or plastic during winter to avoid any injuries.

Ceramic bowls make stylish options:

If you want your bowls to look good because you keep them inside for everyone to see, ceramic bowls might be the choice for you. They come in a wide array of designs and colors, but they’re also very durable and they can also prevent messes because they’re heavy, so they won’t move easily. The downside is that they can break or chip if they’re dropped and they have to be cleaned every day because ceramic is more likely to trap bacteria.

Warning: Please make sure that your ceramic bowl of choice is lead-free! Some ceramic dog dishes contain harmful substances, so make sure to check out the manufacturer.

Plastic bowls:

Plastic bowls are the ultimate cheap option! They come in a wide array of colors and sizes, and they’re also dishwasher friendly. The disadvantage is that dogs can chew on them and basically destroy them pretty quickly. Not only that, you risk them swallowing pieces of plastic and they’re easily knocked over as well.

Collapsible bowls:

If you live a very adventurous life and your dog is your partner in crime, then a collapsible bowl is just what you need. They’re easy to carry, easy to clean and easy to use. If you often go on road trips, on hikes, camping, etc., a collapsible bowl is a smart choice.

Slow-feeder bowls:

They’re made for dogs that inhale their food or are prone to vomiting, choking and gastrointestinal issues. Slow-feeder bowls will make your dog slow down their eating. They can be tricky to clean up, but the effort could be worth it if your dog has these types of issues frequently. Make sure to discuss it with your veterinarian!

Automatic feeders:

These are usually more expensive than any other type of bowl, but they’re perfect if you spend too much time away from home during the day and you don’t have anyone to look after your dogs. These bowls dispense food throughout the day; electric feeders do so at timed intervals and free-flowing feeders replenish the bowl as it empties thanks to gravity.

How to Clean Dog Food and Water Bowls

 We are all about variety, so here you have a couple of choices to keep your dog’s bowls clean and free of bacteria!

Hand wash:

Puracy Natural Liquid Dish Soap, Sulfate-Free Dishwashing Detergent, Green Tea and Lime

Available at Amazon

This is the most common way to clean anything! If you’re someone who likes to make sure that everything’s clean, you’ll probably want to hand wash your dog’s bowls.

The first thing you’ll need to do is choose the right detergent; it’s recommended to use a mild, non-toxic dishwashing detergent. To make sure of this, check the labels and if it says that the product will be soft on your hands, you’re on the right path. If it’s mild enough for your skin, it’s mild enough to get your dog’s bowls clean.

If you can buy an organic detergent, then go right ahead. They tend to contain no toxic ingredients, so that’s always a plus. They are a little more expensive, but if you want to go for it, it won’t be a problem.

Please make sure to avoid: harsh detergents and bleach. First of all, because these products are toxic to your dogs, and second of all because they can damage the material of your bowls.

If you want, you can also make your own detergent by mixing equal parts of baking soda, warm water, and salt.

The next thing you’ll need to do is choose your “work station”! Try to avoid washing your dog’s bowls in the bathtub or the sink because the risk of cross-contamination is real, and you want to avoid it. You don’t want the bacteria from your dog’s mouth to contaminate the things that you and your family use on a regular basis. Use the bathroom sink or a utility sink if you have it, or you can just take it outside and wash it in a container.

In case you don’t have any other options and you have to use your kitchen sink, make sure there’s nothing else in there while you’re washing the bowls and after you’re done, make sure you disinfect the sink.

Now, to hand wash your dog’s bowls all you need to do is grab a sponge or a towel and make sure you only use it for this purpose alone. Warm up the water and mix it with enough detergent, wear gloves if you have them, and use the sponge or towel to clean both the inside and outside of the bowl. Be thorough! If there’s food stuck in it, make sure you fill it with water and let it sit for a moment before you wash the bowl so you can get rid of hardened food.

If you encounter a sort of slimy, gluey texture while you’re cleaning your dog’s bowl you might be dealing with biofilm. Biofilm is basically a mixture of bacteria, algae, and fungi, and it accumulates in your dog’s bowls. It can make your dogs sick if it’s ingested, so it’s important to get rid of it, but it can be tricky.

If you made the homemade detergent I told you about, later on, baking soda will take care of it. If you don’t have any baking soda, what you can do to disinfect it is to take one gallon of water and add a tablespoon of bleach. Keep this in your pantry and use it every time you need to disinfect your dog’s bowls. Just add it, let it sit for a couple of minutes and rinse it out.

Once you’re done hand washing your bowl, rinse it and dry it completely. Make sure that there’s no residue of any product you might have used. Then, you can dry it off using paper towels or let it air dry outside before using it again.

Seventh Generation Dish Liquid, Free & Clear

Available at Amazon


Using The Dishwasher:

As you may have noticed before, most of the food and water bowls for dogs are dishwasher friendly. That’s great news! Because it means you can just toss them in there and the machine will take care of it for you.

Washing dog’s bowls in the dishwasher can be better than hand washing because the water gets hot enough to kill any bacteria and you won’t have to go to that much trouble. Plus, it takes a lot less time. The time you spend hand washing the bowls, you’re now able to spend doing something else while the dishwasher does its job.

Now, just because you’re using the dishwasher doesn’t mean there’s no risk of cross-contamination. So make sure you wash your dog’s bowl separately from anything else you and your family use.

If your dishwasher has a “sanitize” setting, then it would be okay to wash your dog’s bowls with your own plates and kitchen utensils. If it doesn’t, don’t even think about it! Only this setting can prevent cross-contamination.

If you’re not comfortable with this idea, just wash everything separately but make sure you always choose the hottest temperature available.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dog’s Bowls:

You’ll need to do this every day. The number of times you clean your dog’s bowls per day will depend on what you feed them. When you feed your dog wet food, or a combination of wet and dry, or raw food, then you should wash their bowls after each meal.

If you only feed your dog dry food, you can clean the bowls only once a day. If the water bowl is used by several dogs at a time, you should clean the bowl several times a day.

Remember that food and water bowls for dog accumulate all sorts of things: saliva, dust, debris, even food, so if you leave it dirty for too long you risk your dog getting sick and it just looks really bad.


Over time, and depending on the material, your dog’s bowls can get really scratched, whether it’s because of use or because of the frequent washing. Scratches are your enemy because they accumulate bacteria and it will make your dog sick. When you clean the bowls, make sure to check for scratches.

If the bowls are too scratched, you have to replace them. Consider choosing sturdier materials like ceramic or stainless steel. Plastic and other materials scratch easily so, sooner than later you’ll have to replace them.

The Area around The Bowls Matters:

When it comes to the hygiene of your dog’s bowls, it not just about cleaning the bowls, it’s also about keeping the area around the bowls clean as well.

If you don’t want to clean that area more than you already do, then you can place the bowls on a mat. That way you can keep the area cleaner because the mat will collect excess food and water. It’s easier to clean the mat than to clean the whole floor, so wipe it down or wash it by hand every day to prevent bacteria from making a home.

Cleaning Plastic and Ceramic Bowls:

First of all, check to see if the bowls are dishwasher friendly. If they are, then you already know what you have to do. If they’re not, you’ll have to hand wash them as explained above.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Bowls:

Stainless steel bowls are more hygienic than others, but they can easily rust or get stained if they’re not properly taken care of. For the sake of your dog’s health, you have to minimize the risk of rust.

Don’t use anything too harsh to scrub the bowls because they can scratch the surface. So make sure you use a sponge or a soft towel and be thorough! Beforehand washing them, you should soak the bowls in a mix of vinegar and warm water. Just make sure you rinse them well and get them completely dried when you’re done!


As you can see, there are quite a few things to consider when you’re shopping for food and water bowls for your dogs. You have to consider their size, age, health, and even personality!

The bottom line is that you want to make sure that your dogs are as comfortable eating as they can possibly be and you also want to make sure to keep everything clean to prevent any disease or infection caused by unwanted bacteria.

Food and water bowls for dogs are affordable for the most part keep and if you choose wisely and take good care of them, you won’t have to worry about buying a new one for a long time.

There’s a bowl for every need and every kind of dog, so make sure you consider your choices carefully before making a decision. You can also discuss this with your veterinarian if you haven’t been a dog owner for a long time and you are still getting to know your new friend. Also, make sure to discuss any special feeding needs so you can buy adequate food and water bowls.

We hope this guide simplified the process for you! Happy shopping!

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About the Author Drew & Gunnar

As you can see, Gunnar makes Drew do all the work but heading outdoors with your best friend is never really work! Drew buys the products and Gunnar does the testing so you can rest assured you are reading the most up to date information to make the best decision for your dog's health and well-being! Make sure to visit our YouTube channel :)

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