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How to Properly Clean and Disinfect Toys

Keeping your baby’s toys clean is important, especially during the current coronavirus crisis. Little ones love to put toys (and anything they can get their tiny little hands on really) in their mouth and these toys can harbor dirt and germs if not cleaned properly and frequently.

While disinfectant wipes and sprays can be hard to come by right now, soap and water alone can go a long way when it comes to getting rid of the germs that may be on your child’s toys. We’ve got the low down on when you should clean and disinfect toys and how to properly clean the different types of toys your little one may have.

When to Clean and Disinfect Your Child’s Toys

How often you need to clean and disinfect your little one’s toys really depends on how much they are being used. In general, plastic and electronic toys should be cleaned weekly while toys like stuffed animals should be cleaned at least every other week or as needed. For toys your baby uses a lot that tend to find their way into your baby’s mouth or on the floor, you’ll want to clean every couple of days.

While these are general guidelines, it’s important to know that you should clean your child’s toys whenever you notice they’re dirty or feel it’s needed. You should also clean and disinfect toys more frequently if your baby is sick and after they’ve gotten better to get rid of the germs.

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting

Cleaning and disinfecting are not the same and both are needed to prevent the spread of germs. Cleaning removes germs and dirt from the surface. Much like with washing your hands, using soap and water to scrub down or wash your baby’s toys is the easiest way to keep them clean. Cleaning toys before disinfecting them will also help get rid of the most germs.

Disinfecting on the other hand kills germs and stops them from reproducing. Disinfectant wipes and sprays are the most popular solutions that may come to mind. Using a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water instead of harsh chemicals like bleach is best when it comes to toys since it will kill germs and be safe if your baby puts it in their mouth. Vinegar solutions are also popular when it comes to cleaning toys, but as a disinfectant, it isn’t recognized by the EPA and isn’t as effective at killing harmful viruses and bacteria so keep that in mind.

The EPA has made a list of disinfectants to use against COVID-19.

How to Clean and Disinfect Different Types of Toys

Plastic Toys

Baby chews on plastic toy

When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting toys, the plastic ones are the easiest to take care of. You can boil them in water, scrub them with soap, or throw them into the dishwasher, just be sure to check the products care instructions to know if it’s safe to boil or is dishwasher safe.

If you are putting toys in the dishwasher, be sure to place them on the top rack between the tines of the rack or in a mesh bag to keep them from falling around. Put them on a normal or sanitizing cycle and heated dry.

Once you have them cleaned, you can disinfect by soaking them in a hydrogen peroxide solution for three to five minutes or wipe down with a disinfecting wipe. Rinse them off again once you’re done to get rid of any of the cleaning solutions that may have been left behind.

Bath Toys

Baby plays with rubber ducky bath toy

Just because these toys are hanging out in the bath with your little one doesn’t mean they’re getting clean. Those little rubber duckies are swimming around in the dirt and grime you washed off your baby and are prone to mildew thanks to the mix of water and humidity. Some bath toys also have those pesky holes in the bottom where water can get trapped inside and cause mold.

The best practice for bath toys is to clean them with soap and water after every bath. If they do have holes in the bottom, squeeze out as much water as you can. Once you have them clean, set them out, and allow them to air dry. You can disinfect them weekly.

Note: If you do ever find mold in one of your child’s toys, don’t try to clean it. Throw it out immediately.

Stuffed Animals

Baby chews on stuffed animal

Many stuffed animals can be cleaned in the washer and dryer. Make sure to read the tag for care instructions on how to best wash the toy you’re trying to clean. If you are able to clean them in the washer and dryer, put them in a pillowcase and tie a knot to keep the toys from falling out. You could also use a washer and dryer bag for toys to keep them from getting torn apart. Once you take the stuffed animal out of the dryer, look it over for any loose threads, buttons, or holes before you give it to your child to ensure it’s safe for them to play with. Remember to never wash any stuffed animals that have batteries or any other metal pieces inside, as the water may damage them.

If a stuffed animal can’t be cleaned in the washer and dryer, then you’ll need to hand wash it. Use a warm soapy washcloth to go over the toy, then rinse it off with a clean wet washcloth. Let the stuffed toy air dry or use a hairdryer to speed up the process.


Little girl plays with baby doll

How you clean your child’s dolls depends on the material it is made out of. Some are made of cloth-like materials and can be cleaned like stuffed animals. If your child has a plastic doll, then you can give it a mini bath to clean it. Just wipe down the body with a wipe or warm water and soap and wash its hair and clothes with baby shampoo. Not only will you be ridding it of germs, but your little one will also have fun giving their doll a bath!

Electronic Toys

Baby plays on electronic keyboard

Any electronic toys can only handle a surface level cleaning. Wipe any of these down with a soapy washcloth, being sure to clean good around any buttons or crevices without getting any water inside of the toy. Then rinse it off with a clean washcloth. To disinfect, wipe down the toy with a disinfecting wipe and let it dry. If there’s a chance the toy will end up in your child’s mouth, rinse it off again afterward to remove any cleaning solution that may be left behind.

Wood Toys

Baby plays with wood toys

Cleaning any of your natural wood toys with water will cause them to warp. This is one instance where dipping a washcloth in a 50/50 solution of vinegar and soap water will work best to clean the toy and not destroy it. You can use a toothbrush to go in and clean out any grooves the toy may have. Set the toys out in the sun to dry once you’re done to help kill even more germs.



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