How To Clean Baby Toys

Because that’s a whole lotta floor-to-mouth action.

Babies love to put stuff in their mouths, toys or otherwise. Babies also tend to be clumsy. Their itty bitty butterfingers drop stuff all the time. Even those soft, squishy, graspable items specifically designed for small baby hands get let loose, rolling on the floor and sometimes even—gasp!—under the couch, onto the pet’s bed or beneath the kitchen table. You know what else lives in all those places? Nests of dust bunnies, loose pet hair and crumbs, oh-so-many crumbs. Your baby doesn’t discriminate against floor germs or dirt, though. They’ll happily put that toy straight back into their gummy little mouth, ingesting all that stuff as they gnaw and suck away on that little giraffe or whatever.

You might not be able to stop them from putting that toy in their mouth, but you can keep a clean floor for your baby to inhabit. After all, that’s where they spend a lot of their time. But even the most dedicated or neat-freak parents can’t ensure their floors are a completely sterilized space. After all, that’s where the shoes and pets live, and they frequent the outdoors regularly, tracking in dirt and dust and allergens. Plus with young babies around, who’s got the time and energy to clean the floors daily?

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An easier solution is to routinely clean the baby toys. Sure, they’ll still hit the floor with regularity and gusto, but if you clean them regularly (at least weekly!), you’ll be doing your due diligence to keep germs, dirt and bacteria out of your baby’s mouth.

So why should you clean the baby toys?

  • Babies put things in their mouths.
  • Babies play close to the floor.
  • Baby toys can harbor germs—especially if someone’s recently been sick at your house.

Baby toy cleaning supplies

Types of toys and how to clean them

Plastic toys

  • Check to see if the toy is dishwasher safe. If it is, put it on the top rack of the dishwasher (so it doesn’t melt), and use Cascade Free & Clear ActionPacs.
  • If the toy isn’t dishwasher safe, use a concentrated dish soap, like Dawn Free & Clear, and warm water to wash the toy in the sink (or a food-grade sanitizer would work great). Use a soft sponge or scrubber to get into all the nooks and crannies of the toy. Then let it air dry in the drying rack.
    • You could also let the toys soak overnight in a solution of soapy water, then rinse with clean water and let air dry.
  • Be careful with toys with stickers—the combination of water and dish liquid could affect the adhesive or even remove the sticker. Your safest bet for washing with soap and water are simple toys without adhesives, like plastic building blocks.

Bath toys

  • Because baby bath toys get wet and tend to stay wet, they’re a breeding ground for bacteria. You’ll want to be disinfecting and sanitizing these toys, in addition to simply washing them.
  • The most important thing: Make sure you’re letting them air dry completely in a mesh bag after every bath and wash (you don’t want them sitting on the surface of the tub because they could grow mildew or mold inside).
  • You could soak your baby’s bath toys in a bucket of white vinegar and hot water to sanitize them (½ cup vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water), and then let them air dry completely.
  • You could also soak the bath toys in a diluted bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water). Soak the toys for about 10 minutes, rinse them clean with warm water and let them air dry completely.
  • If you’ve got the time, you can individually wipe down each toy with a rag soaked in hydrogen peroxide. Then let the toys air dry.
  • Those cute squirty bath toys with the tiny holes in them that allow you to fill them with water are the ones most likely to grow mold and mildew inside of them because the water gets trapped inside of them and stays there.
    • These toys should be replaced every few months or so—or avoided entirely if you just don’t want to have to worry about moldy bath toys.
    • To clean these toys, soak them in either the vinegar or bleach solution, and be sure to squeeze them to allow the cleaning concoction to get inside and break down any mildew or mold that’s formed. Then rinse them the same way with several squeezes of just plain water, and allow them to air dry completely.

Wooden toys

  • Wood is super porous and absorbs liquid, which could cause the toys to warp and splinter. Because of this, avoid soaking wood toys in any type of solution, even water.
  • Instead, hand wash wooden toys with a gentle dish soap like Dawn Free & Clear, warm water and a soft sponge or bristle brush. Then use a clean, dry cloth to remove excess water, and air dry.
  • Alternatively, you can use a vinegar/water spray (1:1 ratio) on wooden baby toys. Wipe them down with a microfiber cloth. Quickly rinse with warm water or wipe toys down with a clean, damp rag to get rid of any potential lingering vinegar taste. Let the toys air dry.

Stuffed animals and blankets

  • Wash stuffed animals or blankets in the washing machine with mild detergent on a gentle or delicate cycle. Use a mesh laundry bag to keep them protected. Dry on low heat, or let them air dry if they’re especially fragile. You can also use a hair dryer to help stuffed animals and teddy bears dry more quickly.
  • Some plush toys can’t be laundered, so you’ll have to hand wash them. (After all, what’s worse than accidentally destroying your kid’s best friend in the washing machine?! You’ll have to live with that one for the rest of your life.)
  • Soak the plush toy in a bucket of warm water with a few drops of gentle dish soap.
  • Remove the plush toy, gently ring it out and let air dry. (You could use the hair dryer trick with these toys, too. The hair dryer will also help fluff the toy’s fur back up!)
  • You can also use a garment steamer to eliminate allergens or dust mites from the plush toy.
  • Try running your vacuum’s upholstery attachment over the plush toy to further fluff it’s fur back into place.

Electronic toys

  • Remove batteries from the toy, or unplug the toy from the charger.
  • Using a well-wrung-out soapy rag (we like Dawn Free & Clear and warm water), give the exterior of the electronic toy a wipe down. Wipe with a clean, damp rag to remove soapy residue.
  • To disinfect, you can wipe down electronic toys with a diluted isopropyl alcohol solution (about 1:3 ratio of alcohol to water). Do not spray the solution directly onto the toy. Instead, spray it onto a rag, and then wipe the toy with that. Let air dry. (Rubbing alcohol evaporates very quickly!)
  • Avoid wetting any electronic ports or connections.

And don’t forget to clean their play areas, too!

  • Kid’s play areas—from miniature kitchen sets, tummy time mats and dollhouses to backyard swing sets, playpens and kiddie pools—also need to be routinely cleaned.
    • That vinegar/water spray (1:1 ratio) we keep talking about is perfect for cleaning most of these play areas. If you’re concerned that foam mats may absorb that vinegar smell a bit too much, try sprinkling them with baking soda instead, letting it sit for about 10 minutes and then rinsing or wiping it off with a clean, damp rag.
  • Microban 24 is our favorite ready-made all-purpose cleaner for nonporous items such as car seats, bathtubs, highchairs, strollers and baby changing stations. It instantly kills 99.9% of germs and continues working throughout the day to provide long-lasting protection for surfaces in your home.*
    • Microban 24 is not to be used on toys, but it’s great for nearly all your daily messes and high-touch areas!

How often should you clean the baby toys?

All kids’ and baby toys should be cleaned weekly—unless someone in your household is sick, in which case you should clean them more frequently to avoid spreading germs.

Work cleaning your kid’s toys into your weekly cleaning routine to keep your household healthy and germ-free. Then you can confidently accept sweet openmouthed baby smooches without having to wonder why they’ve got a curious case of bath toy breath.

*When used as directed and within 60 seconds, effective against bacteria including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella enterica and viruses including Human Coronavirus, Influenza A H1N1, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Microban does not provide 24-hour residual virus protection.

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