If you have a baby at home, you likely have a collection of baby toys strewn about the house. From soft lovies to plastic teething toys, these items have the potential to be germ magnets.
To keep your baby safe from dirt and germs, you want to make sure their toys are regularly cleaned and disinfected.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a great illustration that explains how toys can be part of the chain of infection when it comes to childhood illnesses. Take a look to understand better the different ways germs make their way onto your child’s toys.
Baby toys, by their nature, get thrown around a lot. They get thrown on the floor, dragged behind your little one when they crawl and are regularly covered in drool and spit-up.
After all of that, where are these toys most likely to end up?
In your baby’s mouth, of course!
Babies put everything in their mouths from a young age. It’s how they explore a new object and relieve pressure on teething gums. It’s an entirely natural action.
Since it’s so intuitive for babies to put items in their mouths, it’s up to parents to make sure that what they are putting in their mouth is clean and safe. That’s where cleaning those baby toys comes in!
Baby toys need to be cleaned regularly, but how often is regularly?
You should always clean toys when they are visibly dirty. If you can see dirt or grime on a toy, then it needs to be cleaned.
Even if toys don’t have any visible grime, you should clean them at least once a week. It’s helpful to designate a specific day or time to do this and make it part of your routine.
Toys also need to be disinfected once a month. However, if someone in your family has been sick, another baby has been playing with the toys, or your pet has licked them, you should immediately disinfect.
Clean vs. Disinfect
So what’s the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?
Cleaning is to remove the dirt from the surface of toys. This will clear away any accumulated grime and get rid of small particles of foreign matter.
To clean a toy, you can use warm, soapy water. I recommend using your standard dish soap or baby shampoo to clean your child’s toys.
You need to clean toys before you disinfect them. This will allow you to disinfect the actual surface of the toy, as opposed to whatever film or dirt that might be on top of the surface.
Disinfecting an item does not necessarily remove dirt. Instead, disinfecting kills germs and bacteria left on the surface of toys, even after the dirt has been removed.
This is why it’s important to both clean and disinfect toys.
There are multiple solutions and supplies that you can use to disinfect toys.
- Surface Wipes: You can use surface wipes, such as Lysol or Clorox wipes, to disinfect your toys. If toys are meant specifically for chewing or just spend a lot of time in your baby’s mouth, then I recommend using a food-grade surface wipe.
- Hydrogen peroxide: This works not only to clean cuts and scrapes but also on household surfaces and baby’s toys. It’s best and safest to use a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.
- Bleach/Water Solution: You can make your own bleach solution to disinfect toys. Mix 1 gallon of warm water with as little as 1 tablespoon of bleach (you can safely use up to ¼ cup) as a disinfecting solution.
Different Methods for Different Toys
With the variety of materials that you find in baby toys, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that there are different ways to clean and disinfect each one.
Stuffed and Fabric Toys
Those soft lovies and plush animals are among the easiest ones to wash and disinfect.
These toys often have washing instructions on a label, but in general, they can be thrown into the washing machine for a quick and easy bath. Make sure to remove any sound boxes before washing them!
If you have several toys, you can use a laundry bag to keep them together and protect them from snags in the washer.
When washing, make sure to use a sanitizing detergent to clean and disinfect the toys effectively.
Once washed, you can either send them for a tumble in the dryer (on low!) or let them dry out in the sun. Both methods will add an extra disinfecting boost to the toys, in addition to ensuring that the material dries completely and fights against mold.
For a stuffed toy that cannot be put in the washing machine you can clean them with a damp cloth and mild soap.
The easiest way to clean plastic toys is to pop them into the dishwasher! Like the washing machine, this appliance will help you get the job done quickly and effectively without the extra effort on your part.
Of course, this only works for toys that don’t have batteries or any delicate parts. For these toys, the process requires more elbow grease on your part.
First, wipe the toys down with soap and warm water, then dry them.
Next, use a disinfectant wipe, or spray and wipe the toy down to kill all the germs.
Rinse and dry the toy thoroughly before returning it to your baby.
For toys with batteries, make sure to remove the batteries before washing them. You can use a dry toothbrush to clean the battery compartment after washing the rest of the toy.
This might seem counterintuitive because bath toys get washed in the bath! However, stay with me here.
Baby bathwater tends to be contaminated, not only by the dirt and particles you are washing off your baby. Babies pee in the bathwater regularly, and the occasional poop accident isn’t unheard of. Can you imagine all that stuff on your baby’s bath toys?
Bath toys need to be rinsed and dried with each use and disinfected at least once a week. Most of the bath toys fall into the plastic toy category, but for soft ones, make sure to send them through the washing machine.
It’s extra important that bath toys dry thoroughly in order to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. You can dry them in a net bag or open basket to allow water to drain.
Silicone and Rubber Toys
Babies love the soft and flexible toys made out of silicone and rubber. These tend to be a little more porous than other toys, and it’s a good idea to give them a little extra love when it’s time to clean and disinfect.
Wipe the toys down with warm, soapy water first. Then allow them to soak in a bath of warm water mixed with a mild disinfectant.
After a 30 minute soak, rinse the toys in clean water and leave them to dry on a drying pad or dish rack. You can also set them to dry in a clean and empty dishwasher.
Natural, wooden toys for babies are enjoying a comeback recently. However, wooden toys can be hard to clean.
Wood has little grooves in it that trap dirt and grime. But wood can’t get too wet. The porous nature is a hospitable environment for mold, and too much water absorption can warp the wood.
Use a soft brush to remove any dirt from the surface and in the grooves of wooden toys. Then wipe them with a damp cloth using a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. Sun-drying these toys is the best way to ensure all moisture is gone, as well as giving them the benefit of heat to disinfect.
Dolls can be the most complicated toys to clean, thanks to the variety of materials in one toy. Luckily, there’s a method for each material.
Plastic bodies can be wiped with a damp cloth, then a disinfectant wipe. Wipe it down again with a wet cloth after disinfection.
Doll hair can be washed with baby shampoo. Older babies and toddlers might enjoy doing this with you, washing their doll’s hair in the same way you wash theirs.
If the doll is fabric, you can once again use warm water and baby shampoo, just make sure to dry the doll completely to avoid the danger of mold.
Safe and Clean
It can feel like just another chore to clean your baby’s toys, especially when you’re busy cleaning up the rest of the house, washing the clothes, and of course, caring for your child!
However, it’s an important step to take that can protect your child from germs and bacteria, especially when they are at the age when everything goes into their mouth.
Keep playtime safe and fun with regular toy cleaning.