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A Guide to Choose & Clean the Best Dog Food Bowls

What are the best dog food bowls to buy?

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.

It’s 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 in this article, I’m going to break everything down for you—from types of bowls, how to choose the best dog food bowls, and also how to clean dog food bowls.

How to Choose and Clean Dog Food Bowls

This complete guide will help 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 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!

Best Elevated Dog Bowls

Slow Feeder 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.

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.

Best Slow Feeder 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.

Best Non-spill 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.

Best Plastic Dog Bowl

Woof it Down Dog Bowl

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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.

Best Ceramic Dog Bowls

Stainless Steel Bowl

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.

Best Stainless Steel Dog Bowls

Stainless Steel Dog Bowl

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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.

Best Automatic Dog Bowls

Travel Bowl

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.

Best Travel Dog Bowls

Collapsible Fabric Travel Pet Bowl for Water and Food

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Silicone Dog Bowl

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!

Best Silicone Dog Bowls

Collapsible silicone dog bowls

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How to Clean Your Dog Food and Water Bowls

How Often Should You Clean Them

You should do this every day. 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.

Small dog laying by their dog bowl

Hand Wash

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.

Our favorite is Puracy Natural Liquid Dish Soap from Amazon.

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 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.

Raised dog bowl with pet 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, 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.


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.

Don’t Forget the Area Around the Bowls

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 Your Stainless Steel Bowl

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!

Pup eating and drinking out of stainless steel bowls

Before 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!

Wrapping It pUp

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 take into account 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 vet 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 the right products from the start.

Hopefully you found this article on how to choose & clean the best dog food bowls helpful.

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Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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