It’s important to keep your baby’s toys clean and germ-free to help protect their health.
Toys that are frequently played with should be cleaned once a week, and toys should be given a thorough cleaning or disinfecting after a playdate or if your child becomes sick.
In addition to cleaning toys regularly, be sure to wash your hands frequently to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses.
Keeping baby toys clean
As a parent, you realise pretty quickly that anything your baby can get hold of is likely to end up in their mouth. Your clothing, car keys and fingers are just as likely to go in their mouths as their favourite toys.
I distinctly remember having to have a word with myself at my first baby group while my little man was chewing anything and everything he could reach, regardless of whether it was covered in another child’s saliva or not.
The fact is you can’t sanitise everything they come into contact with, and neither should you. But, that said, once you have kids cleaning toys will become part of your routine.
Different toys should be cleaned in different ways. And it’s a good idea to disinfect baby toys after illness to prevent the spread of nasty bacteria and viruses.
Cleaning wooden toys
Cleaning wooden toys is easier than you might imagine. Although wood is porous, meaning you can’t soak it in hot soapy water or chuck it in the dishwasher, it is also naturally antibacterial, meaning germs are less likely to breed and spread.
To clean toys first get rid of any dried-on food or other obvious dirt with a brush. Next, either wipe with warm soapy water or spray with diluted white vinegar and wipe with a damp cloth.
Vinegar is good as it acts as a disinfectant so will kill germs without being harmful to babies. Then air dry, in the sun if you can, although be careful not to leave in the sun for too long.
Cleaning hard plastic toys
Plastic toys might seem like they are easier to clean but they often contain batteries and or lots of small nooks and crannies which makes cleaning more difficult and makes it hard to sanitize toys.
Many toys that are made 100% from plastic, such as the fabulous Green Toys range made from recycled milk cartons, can simply be put in the dishwasher if you have one or washed in hot soapy water. An old toothbrush or a straw brush is a handy tool to help you clean any tricky bits.
Any electrical toys, either plug-in or battery-operated obviously can’t be submerged or put through the dishwasher. In this case clean in the same way you would wooden toys using a damp cloth.
Cleaning soft or plush toys
Soft absorbent toys are great at sucking up food, saliva and other bodily fluids so they’re going to need a clean every now and again, no matter how hard it is to prise them away.
Fabric can be spot cleaned with a damp cloth to get the worst off, and most kids’ cuddly toys can go in the washing machine (check the label) providing they don’t have batteries.
Sunlight is also a fabulous disinfectant and great at getting rid of stains. And the heat from the tumble dryer will help kill bugs when the sun isn’t shining.
If you have many plush toys its a good idea to vacuum them frequently to remove the dust mites before putting them on a gentle cycle with mild soap in warm water. Your child’s toys can harbor nasty germs even if you can’t see any visible dirt. Smaller children’s toys can be put in a mesh bag and if you want to disinfect you can put them on a sanitizing cycle.
Some toys may not be able to withstand the heat or agitation of a washing machine, and may need to be cleaned by hand.
Here are a few tips on how to clean rubber toys:
- A good old-fashioned wash with hot water and soap is always a great place to start. Fill up a sink or basin with hot water and add a squirt of dish soap. Submerge the rubber toys and use a sponge or brush to scrub them clean. Rinse thoroughly and let them air dry.
- If you want to take it up a notch, a diluted bleach solution can be an effective way to disinfect rubber toys. Mix 1 teaspoon of bleach with 5 liters of water and soak the toys in the solution for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly and let them air dry.
- For a natural disinfectant, try a mix of white vinegar and water. Just mix equal parts in a spray bottle and spritz it on the rubber toys. Let it sit for 15 minutes before wiping it off with a clean, damp cloth. Rinse thoroughly and let them air dry.
Doing this regularly will keep baby’s toys clean and baby healthy!
How to disinfect toys
Generally, a wipe-down with a damp cloth is enough to clean baby toys.
However, if they get sick, or have a playdate with a poorly friend then you might want to clean their toys a bit more thoroughly, especially any they have been sick on or have been in their mouths.
And of course, it goes without saying that if you or your child is sick you should be extra vigilant when it comes to hand washing as this will massively reduce the risk of germs spreading.
The difference between cleaning and disinfecting
Cleaning physically removes dirt and germs, whereas disinfecting kills them and stops them in their tracks. It is always important to clean before you disinfect to ensure toys are germ-free.
The best ways to disinfect baby toys
As with general cleaning, how you disinfect toys will depend on what the toy is made of, and how big they are.
If toys can go in the dishwasher this makes washing toys easy as most dishwashing detergent will contain a disinfectant. Otherwise, you will need to clean the surface of the toys with something that will kill any germs.
If you have a baby then the chances are you have some Milton in the house. As well as sterilising bottles and dummies you can also use Milton to sterilise toys. For toys that can be submerged make up a solution and give them a soak. Remove toys, rinse and allow them to dry.
Milton can also be sprayed onto toys that can’t be submerged and wiped off. Make sure you read the instructions and leave on for long enough to ensure disinfection takes place.
Alternatively, diluted bleach can also be used to disinfect toys. A teaspoon of bleach in 5 litres of water is strong enough to kill germs yet still be safe for your child.
If you have soft toys (stuffed animals, plus toys or any soft toys) that need disinfecting check to see if they can go in the washing machine. Most can on a wool cycle. A cool cycle is less likely to damage toys but isn’t much good if you are trying to sterilise so add a bit of laundry sanitiser to make sure you get rid of any nasties.
There are a few different methods you can use to clean and disinfect bath toys:
- To clean bath toys wash with hot water and soap: Fill a sink or basin with hot water and add a small amount of dish soap. Submerge the bath toys in the water and use a sponge or brush to scrub them clean. Rinse the toys thoroughly and let them air dry.
- Use a diluted bleach solution: Mix 1 teaspoon of bleach with 5 liters of water. Soak the bath toys in the solution for a few minutes, then rinse them thoroughly and let them air dry.
- Use white vinegar and water: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the bath toys and let it sit for 15 minutes before wiping it off with a clean, damp cloth. Rinse the toys thoroughly and let them air dry.
- Use Milton: Milton is a disinfectant solution that can be used to sterilize toys. Simply make a solution according to the instructions on the bottle and soak the bath toys in it for the recommended amount of time. Rinse the toys thoroughly and let them air dry.
It’s important to follow the instructions on any cleaning or disinfecting products you use, and to be sure to rinse the toys thoroughly after disinfecting to remove any residue. Let the toys air dry before giving them back to your child to play with.
Disinfecting toys without chemicals
If you are wary of using harsh chemicals on kids toys you’ll be pleased to know that a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water does the job just as well. This can be used on wooden toys, plastic toys and to soak bath toys.
For non-porous toys spray on and leave for 15 minutes, then wipe with a clean damp cloth and let dry.
For wooden toys apply the vinegar solution with a clean cloth, leave for a couple of minutes and wipe off with another damp cloth then let air dry.