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Photo: Stocksy/Caine Delacy

You probably (hopefully, is more like it) don’t eat out of the same bowl repeatedly without giving it a good, soapy scrub between uses. (Not even if it’s left with remnants of the most delicious vegan mac and cheese on the planet.) When it comes to your dog’s bowls, on the other hand, it’s a different story. This unhygienic reality certainly isn’t due to neglect for your furry friend’s health—rather, it probably just doesn’t cross your mind to clean your pup’s dinnerware between servings of super-healthy pet food. But, that’s about to change.

If you thought kitchen sponges were gross, you might want to sit down for this: According to the National Sanitation Foundation, pet bowls are the fourth germiest item in your home, right behind the aforementioned dish-cleaning tool, the kitchen sink, and your toothbrush holder. (FYI: Pet toys are pretty gross too, coming in at number seven.) This might seem crazy since you’re simply refilling the same food and water in receptacles every day, but veterinarian Jerry Klein, DVM told Apartment Therapy there’s everything from salmonella and E. coli to staph, yeast, the parasite giardia, and mold all getting all cozy in those dirty bowls.

Pet bowls are the fourth germiest item in your home, right behind kitchen sponges, the kitchen sink, and your toothbrush holder.

Aside from switching to ceramic or stainless steel bowls (plastic is the worst choice because bacteria can live in even the tiniest of scratches on it!) to prevent germs from taking over, Dr. Klein says it’s also important to wash them depending on what kind of food you use. For dry dog food, the bowls should be thoroughly washed with super hot, soapy water every day—which includes the rubber mat it might sit on—then air-dried so dish towels aren’t subject to cross-contamination with human plates. For raw food, you have to go a step further by sanitizing after every meal—including cutting boards, sinks, and anything with which Fido’s food comes into contact.

Sure, it’s a little more work than you’re probably used to, but by taking these simple steps, you can ensure both you, your furry friend, and your healthy home stay free of potentially harmful bacteria. And as an extra bonus, those slobbery kisses you love so much might not be nearly as icky.

No, drinking your dog’s urine is not a good acne solution—here’s why. Also, check out the top-rated dog beds on Amazon for spoiling your pup.

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