How to disinfect toys and keep your child’s play area clean and free of germs, grime and dirt.

As parents, we try to keep all of the things our babies and children come in contact with as clean as possible. The place we live, the things we touch but do we disinfect toys as often as we should? Well, I hope you do, but if you don’t maybe it’s because you simply don’t know how, or if you should.

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You should be washing toys often to help reduce the spread of germs. When your baby is in the teething stage where everything goes in her mouth, I highly suggest having a special bin for the toys that have touched her mouth so you can wash them regularly.

The good thing is that scrubbing toys down with soap and water is the easiest way to keep away the germs. The bad news is that not every toy can be cleaned this way without getting ruined.

You can sterilize and disinfect toys for your children in machines or by using cleaning products specially designed for disinfecting. While that sounds fairly straightforward, not all toys are built the same, so I have come up with a comprehensive list of how to wash all sorts of toys ranging from toys made from fabrics such as stuffed animals to toys with batteries and even paper books.

Difference Between Clean And Disinfected

When you are trying to keep your home safe and healthy and want to reduce the risk of infection you should be cleaning and disinfecting things in your home regularly. Cleaning removes dirt and germs with soap and water while disinfecting kills germs with chemicals.

You should sanitize and disinfect frequently touched surfaces often such as light switches, doorknobs, toilets and more.

Be sure to always read the safety instructions on disinfectants and don’t mix chemicals together as that can be dangerous. Make sure you do not mix bleach with anything other than water to prevent inhaling poisonous gasses.

How to Disinfect Toys That Are Wooden

Stuffed animals and plush toys often come with a care label which should be checked before cleaning. Many stuffed animals will be labeled as hand wash only.

If your plush toy is simply dusty, you can vacuum the fur of the toy by placing a pantyhose over the vacuum brush attachment and vacuuming the fur. If you need to deep clean your plush toy, then here are some things you can do.

Hand Washing: Use a mild detergent, scented or unscented is fine, but unscented is better, and mix it with some water in a bowl. Then take a clean c loth and dip it into your detergent mixture. Wipe down the stuffed animal using circular motions. When the stuffed animal is all soapy, clean off the rag with water and wipe off any soap residue off the stuffed animal. Air dry your plush toy in the sun or inside your home.

Washing Machine: You may be able to wash your plush toy in the washing machine, but keep in mind that a top load washing machine can mess up the batting inside the plush toy with the agitator. Use regular detergent or one that is safe for babies and add a scoop of oxi powder into the washing machine. Place your stuffed animal inside a pillowcase and twist the pillowcase with a pipe cleaner to close it up. You can use a mesh laundry bag as well if you have one. Turn your washing machine onto the gentle cycle with cool or warm water. Note that hot water can melt off some of the glue on your stuffed animal which can ruin the plush toy. When the washing is complete, re-fluff the plush and consider running a fine-tooth comb through the fur. Let the plush toy air dry naturally inside the home or outside.

How To Disinfect Hard Plastic Toys

To clean and disinfect hard plastic toys you should follow these general guidelines.

Remove the toys from the play area and wash them with soap and hot water. Toys without batteries can be submerged into water. You can use a cleaning toothbrush or a dish scrubbing brush to clean crevices and hard-to-reach places on the toys. Once the toys have been washed, rinse them off well to remove any soap residue on the toy. Soap residue can reduce the effectiveness of the disinfectant. Dilute 2 teaspoons of bleach in 4 cups of water and put into a spray bottle to create your disinfectant. Spray your toys liberally. The disinfectant takes 2 minutes to start working its magic. Make sure you create a new disinfectant solution each time you disinfect anything in your home.

Once the disinfectant has had it’s 2 minutes of sitting time, wash off the bleach with warm water.

If you want to skip the bleach part, you can place your toys in the top rack of the dishwasher, but use this with caution as you don’t want any of the toys to melt. Air-dry the toys completely before placing them back into the play area.

Cleaning And Disinfecting Board Books And Wooden Toys

Board books and wooden toys can get just as germy as plastic toys, but we can’t wash them the same way. If you need to clean your wooden toys, take a warm wet cloth and wipe down the toys and books. Let them dry completely and then follow up with another wipe, this time with a disinfectant. You can wipe off the disinfectant after a few minutes if your child puts their toys in their mouth often. Let everything dry completely for a minute before placing back into the play area. Since wooden toys and books cannot be submerged in water, they should only take a minute to dry off.

Disinfecting Paper Books

Paper cannot be washed without getting ruined so there isn’t a good way to disinfect a book other than “quarantining” it for a few weeks to ensure all germs are dead. If the book has a hardcover, then you can wipe down the hardcover with a cleaning wipe.

Disinfecting Fabrics

Anything that is made with fabric such as blankets, cloth books and loveys can be washed in the washing machine. Follow the stuffed animal care instructions above if you need to wash and disinfect a plush toy. When washing fabric toys in the washing machine, place them in a pillowcase or a mesh bag to protect them. Make sure these fabric toys don’t have any batteries in them.

Cleaning Electronic Toys

When it comes to taking care of electronic toys you should follow the manufactueres instructions on cleaning. If you do not hav insutrction, you should be able to find them online.

Here are some basic care instructions for electronic toys:

  • Remove batteries and unplug the toy
  • Wash the toy with a cleaning wipe or a cloth with warm water and soap.
  • Use a disinfecting wipe to disinfect the plastic portion of the toy.
  • Once the toy is dry, you can replace the batteries.

How To Clean Bath Toys

Bath toys can grow mold and often get slimy if not cared for properly and regularly. Toys with holes in the bottom are the most problematic because when water gets trapped inside, it gets moldy. Mesh toy caddies can also get moldy if not washed regularly. If you notice mold inside your toys, throw them away right away because there is no guarantee you can wash all the mold away.

You can wash bath toys in the dishwasher on the top rack. Place large toys between the tines in the rack and place smaller pieces (such as lego) into a mesh bag. Select normal or sanitizing cycle and heated dry to ensure the toys get dried well in the dishwasher. Dry off any toys that may still be wet before placing them back into the play area.

You can also use Clorox of Lysol wipes, a wet cloth with 3% hydrogen peroxide solution on it OR 2 teaspoons of bleach and 4 cups of water in a psray bottle to disinfect surfaces.

In order for disifectants to work well, keep the toys surface wet for 10 seconds to 2 minutes for the sanitizing to take affect. Always rinse off toys with warm water after using bleach and other chemicals on your child’s toys.

Can I disinfect toys with vinegar?

Vinegar is an excellent household tool, but it is not a good option for disinfting toys. It can kill some germs, but it is not powerful enough to sanitize and disinfect to the 99%. Washing toys with hot water and soap will be better to clean toys than using vinegar.

If you need a more natural solution to cleaning your toys that don’t involve bleach, try these disinfecting wipes by seventh-generation which kill germs with thymol and are EPA registered. The surface requires to stay visibly wet for 10 minutes when using these wipes for the disinfectant to take full effect.

How often should you clean your child’s toys?

Toys that are played with often should be washed once a week, or more often if you notice them getting dirty sooner. If your child is coughing or sneezing on the toys, then you should wash and disinfect the toys right away.

If your child or other children that he interacts with have been ill then you should wash and disinfect the toys, and other surfaces around your home.

If food or other things are on the toy then you should wash the toy as well. If you see that the toy is visibly dirty, then go ahead and wash it.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Bath toys should be cleaned weekly
  • Plush toys should be cleaned weekly if your child sleeps with them, or when needed if they do not interact with it daily
  • Electronic toys should be disinfected weekly
  • Baby toys that go into the baby’s mouth should be washed after each time they play with it

How to Disinfect Toys Without Bleach

If you want to avoid bleach in your cleaning process there are some bleach free alternatives.

  • Wash toys in the dishwasher
  • Boil toys in water
  • Use vinegar as a mild disinfectant – keep in mind it will not kill 99% of germs like bleach and other chemicals will
  • Use rubbing alcohol

How to Clean Dolls with Hair Lie Barbie

Plastic toys with hair can be tricky to keep clean. Here is how you clean the hair of a plastic toy. Shampoo the hair with some dish soap or baby soap. Rinse it off with cool water and comb it to avoid tangling. If the hair is very tangled then soak the hair in conditioner overnight and then rinse it out. Comb the knots away and lay the hair flat to dry. You should not use a blow dryer on toy hair. If you need to clean the body of a toy with hair, then you can use these tips. For a stain or mark, you can make a baking soda water paste and apply the paste with a cotton swab to the mark and erase with a circular motion. Wash the area off with a damp cloth. You can remove facial features this way so be extra careful. You can try nail polish remover if the stain is tougher. You can wipe down these toys with a disinfecting wipe or spray with rubbing alcohol, or a water bleach solution. Be sure to wipe with warm water after disinfecting!

How To Clean Toys Using Surface Wipes

Disinfectant surface wipes can be easily found in your local grocery store, or online at They are a great way to clean plastic toys that have batteries and other hard to wash items. To use a surface wipe to properly disinfect a toy, wipe down the toy and let the toy air dry for a few minutes before wiping it down with a slightly wet cloth.

Using The Dishwasher To Clean Toys

Some toys like baby rattles, some bath toys, plastic shape sorters and more can be dishwasher safe and are labelled as such. The hot water in the dishwasher will sanitize and clean the toys.

How to Clean Outdoor Toys

You can use your hose or a pressure washer to wash off any outdoor toys. Sandboxes, toy cars, castles and playhouses can harbour E-coli which can be deadly to children, so you should be cleaning your outdoor toys regularly. I, unfortunately, knew a child who passed away from E-coli after an afternoon of enjoying his backyard. It’s very sad, and this can be avoided by washing outdoor toys. Use soap and your hose and you should be good to go. You can also try sanitizing wipes if you want.

How to Clean Secondhand Toys

You should be disinfecting second-hand toys very well. Use a bleach solution to sanitize any toys which are from resale shops, garage sales and friends and neighbours.

Environmentally Friendly Surface Cleaners

If you are looking for a more environmentally friendly surface cleaner to clean your toys with you can look for toy cleaners that do not include dyes and are biodegradable. These cleaners should also be free of phthalates and parabens which can be harmful to babies who place their toys in their mouth.

Here are some great options for baby safe cleaners:

How Play Areas Spread Germs

Kids spread their sickness by touching toys and touching their mouths. This is a good way to spread bacteria to caregivers and other children. This happens a lot during playdates, in play centers and community playgrounds too. Public places should sanitize daily, and I’m sure they do their best. Kids should be keeping their hands clean and parents should try to teach children to keep their hands out of their mouths as much as possible when playing with toys that do not belong to them.

Why is Toy Cleaning Important?

The biggest reason that toy cleaning and disinfecting is important to that we want to keep kids as healthy as possible. They are often exposed to many germs on a regular basis and are always getting sick. Killing germs at home can help keep your child healthier overall. Germs are good for our immune systems, but we are exposed to so many germs on a regular basis already, there is no harm in cleaning our toys at home.

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