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When And How To Clean, Disinfect Baby Toys

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Babies explore the world with all their sensory organs, including the mouth. They tend to put everything they see into their mouth first. While this doesn’t pose much of a problem in infancy, it can become troublesome once your baby starts moving about. Crawling babies mouth everything they encounter in their path.

You need to clean baby toys regularly because they are usually handled roughly and get dirty. “So, how should I clean baby toys?” you may ask. Well, you are in the right place. In this post, we give you a few handy tips on how to clean your baby’s toys safely so that you do not constantly worry about what is going into your baby’s mouth.

Why Is It Important To Clean Your Baby’s Toys?

Babies love playing with toys, but once they are done playing, the toys inevitably end up getting dirty. They have drool on them most times, and at other times, you might find snot or spit on them, too. However, babies are blissfully ignorant of this fact and put these toys into their mouths at the first chance they get. These dirty toys are the perfect breeding grounds for germs.

While experts maintain that some bacteria and other organisms are good for toddlers (1), there are some germs that could make your baby ill. Thus, it is necessary to clean and disinfect your baby’s toys frequently.

When To Clean And Disinfect Baby Toys?

You must clean baby toys every time they handle it. But sometimes, this might seem impossible.

Thus, you can spot clean toys daily to maintain some level of cleanliness. Spot cleaning involves cleaning only the part of the toy that is dirty. It is usually done using mild soap and some water, and it helps remove dirt from the surface of a toy. Besides, you should clean and disinfect baby toys at least once a month.

Usually, the more your baby loves a toy, the more you would have to clean and disinfect that favorite toy of theirs. If a toy is relatively unused, wipe it down once in a while. The type of toy matters, too. Toys that end in the child’s mouth most often, such as teethers, need more cleaning and disinfecting than other toys.

The following situations may warrant extra cleaning or even disinfecting of the toys on a daily basis.

  • Your child or their playmates have been ill
  • Other children on a  playdate have used your baby’s toys
  • The toy has vomit, spit, food, or mucus on it
  • The toy has fallen on the ground

In any of these cases, give the toys a thorough cleaning or disinfect them to avoid the spread of germs and diseases.

Cleaning Vs. Disinfecting

Before you decide whether you should clean or disinfect your baby’s toys, you must understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting (2) (3). Cleaning and disinfecting the toys on a regular basis keep germs from spreading.

Here are the basic differences between cleaning and disinfecting:

  • Cleaning removes germs. It is the best way to remove visible dirt and grime. It is done by using water and soap on the surface.
  • Disinfection is a deep-clean process that involves killing germs and preventing germs from reproducing. It is usually done using disinfectants.

Always clean baby toys first before disinfecting them. Wash the toys with soap /detergent and water thoroughly before applying a disinfectant. Disinfecting can be done once or twice a month or when your baby is sick.

How To Clean Baby Toys?

Every child has different types of toys, and these toys come in different shapes, sizes, and materials. Most toy manufacturers include instructions for cleaning or disinfecting a toy, and most baby toys are dishwasher-safe or machine-washable.

Here are a few handy tips on how how to clean baby toys of different types.

Plush toys/ stuffed toys

Stuffed toys are notorious for getting dirty very quickly. They are a magnet for sticky hands and runny noses and get grimy in no time. Unfortunately, they also harbor germs that can be passed on to other children or family members, causing a series of illnesses.

However, there is a silver lining. Stuffed toys usually come with guidelines on the label to help you clean them effectively.

  • Most stuffed toys can go through the laundry, but some cannot. They can also be spot cleaned with a damp cloth and a mild soap solution for minor stains. Ensure you dry them completely because even a small damp spot might become a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
  • If the toy is machine-washable, you can use a baby detergent and put the toy through a gentle wash cycle. You could also add a cup of vinegar to get rid of the bacteria. Ensure you tumble dry the toy completely.
  • If a stuffed toy cannot be machine-washed, hand wash it in mild soap and warm water and air dry it in the sun. You can also run it through a low-heat dryer cycle to ensure complete and quicker drying. Heat helps kill germs, so use warm water or heat whenever you can. Use a mild disinfectant regularly while washing.

Bath toys

Bath toys are some of the most challenging toys to clean. Most babies have a set of favorite duckies and other bath toys. These toys usually float on the surface of the water in which the child bathes.

Many babies pee in the water while bathing. Moreover, grime and other body fluids, such as mucus and sweat, get washed away from their little bodies. All these invariably stick to the plastic toys floating around. If they are squeaky toys, as most bath toys are, there is a high chance of dirt entering these toys through the holes at the bottom. This makes a perfect environment for unwanted microorganisms and mold to flourish.

  • Wash the toys thoroughly after every bath and put them in a net bag to dry. You can also use an open basket that allows the water to drain away. In any case, make sure that the toys dry completely. Disinfect them once a week by dipping them in a mild bleach solution having 1.5 tsp of bleach and one gallon of water.
  • No matter how much you clean and disinfect bath toys, you must keep in mind that they might become harmful after a few months of use. Don’t hesitate to discard and replace them if you feel that they cannot be cleaned to your satisfaction.

Plastic toys

Plastic toys are ubiquitous and are babies’ favorites. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are battery-operated and might include lights, sounds, or remote controls, while others are simple toys, such as rattles, teethers, and pull-along toys.

  • Plastic toys without batteries are usually easy to clean. Most of them are dishwasher-safe. You can pop them in your dishwasher and run a hot cycle to clean them. You can also wipe them with hot water and detergent daily.
  • For battery-powered toys, you need to remove the batteries before wiping the toy. You can use an old, dry toothbrush to clean the battery compartment. Let the toy dry completely before inserting the batteries in it.

Rubber and silicone toys

Rubber and silicone toys are usually soft and squishy, making them favorites among babies. Most babies have rubber and silicone toys that they love squeezing at every opportunity. These toys get dirty, too, and attract a fair amount of germs.

Rubber and silicone toys cannot be cleaned using heat as it can change their texture. In some cases, they can lose their shape entirely.

  • You can wipe them using a 1:1 vinegar and water solution. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.
  • You could also soak them in warm soapy water using a mild detergent or disinfectant for about 30 minutes.
  • Rinse them thoroughly in clean, running water and dry them completely.

Wooden toys

Toys such as building blocks, kitchen sets, and rocking horses are made of wood. Some of these wooden toys might have grooves in which dirt and germs can accumulate.

Wooden toys are a bit tricky to clean. If they become too wet, their outer layers might distort as the toy dries out. Wood is also porous, so though the toy might look completely dry from the outside, there might be moisture inside. This, in turn, can lead to mold formation, and the toy may eventually become brittle and break with impact.

  • To clean wooden toys, use a 1:1 water and vinegar mixture. Next, dip a cloth and squeeze out the liquid completely before wiping the toy. You may also use an old, clean toothbrush to clean out grooves.

Dolls

Dolls are made of different materials and might take some extra effort to clean.

  • Plastic dolls can be wiped with hot water and detergent. Their clothes can be put in the machine for a gentle spin with a mild detergent.
  • You can ask your child to wash their doll’s hair using baby shampoo. Washing, drying, and combing out their doll’s hair can be an entertaining activity for your children.
  • Stuffed dolls can be washed in the same way stuffed toys are washed.

Ride-on toys

Ride-on toys are active breeding grounds for all sorts of microbes. As they are all over the place, ride-on toys are also responsible for spreading diseases.

However, they are relatively easy to clean.

  • All you need is some warm water, strong detergent or mild disinfectant, and a wipe cloth.
  • Wipe all over the ride-on thoroughly. Do not forget to clean the wheels well. Let it dry naturally.

How To Disinfect Baby Toys?

Disinfecting baby toys is very important to ensure your baby remains healthy. However, you cannot use very strong disinfectants as these toys are directly handled or mouthed by babies. Here are some mild disinfectants you can make at home:

  • Vinegar solution: Use water and vinegar in a 15:1 ratio. Add a few drops of rosewater to this mixture for a pleasant smell. You can dip your child’s plastic and rubber toys in this solution for 30 minutes and rinse thoroughly. You can also use this solution as a spray for wiping down toys, spot cleaning, or even wiping surfaces that babies often touch, such as highchair tables and play tables.
  • Bleach solution: Bleach is a very strong disinfectant. However, it can be used in a diluted form to clean baby toys. Ensure you test it on a small area of a toy first because bleach can change the color and texture of some toys.

Keeping your baby’s toys clean isn’t easy. With a baby or a toddler, you already have your hands full, so cleaning toys might not be your utmost priority. However, with these handy tips, you could easily keep them clean and germ-free. Remember that the cleaner the toys, the lesser the chance of your baby falling sick.

References:

1. Are dirt and germs as bad as we think?; Edward-Elmhurst Health
2. THE TERMS OF GERM INACTIVATION; Water Quality and Health Council,
3. How To Clean and Disinfect Schools To Help Slow the Spread of Flu; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention