Babies are constantly exploring. They move through their environment touching everything they can, and many items end up in their mouths.
With so many toys and surfaces in your child’s playroom, the car, your home, or school, germs are everywhere. Drool, spit up, and more are also likely to wind up on their favorite toys.
When toys harbor unseen germs, your baby could get sick. No parent wants their child to deal with illnesses, so it is important to protect them by properly cleaning all of their toys.
Regularly cleaning your child’s toys with the proper supplies can ensure bacteria and germs stay away.
Keep reading to learn how to clean baby toys and let your little one enjoy their favorite toys with peace of mind.
How to safely clean baby toys
Baby toys come in all shapes and sizes. While some of those toys can easily be thrown into the washing machine, others take a little more work to disinfect.
The germs on your child’s toys can potentially spread viruses or illnesses to other children or adults, but properly cleaning techniques involve methods that do not ruin the toy or harm your child.
From battery-operated noise makers to a beloved stuffed animal, the proper way to clean each toy will differ.
Fabric or plush toys
Fabric is a favorite hideout for germs, so cloth toys need to be washed on a frequent basis. Each toy likely comes with its own set of care instructions on the packaging or label.
This information will let you know if it is safe to put the plush toy or stuffed animal into the washing machine.
It is best to use detergent that is safe on sensitive skin because the toy will come into regular contact with your baby. Also, many fabric toys require air drying over machine drying to avoid damage.
Before returning the fabric toy to your baby, check it for loose eyes or seams, pulled threads, or attachments that have come apart. These pieces could be choking hazards.
If a fabric toy is not able to go in the washing machine, you can wash it by hand. For this process, gentle dish washing liquid and a toothbrush can be used to scrub the toy clean.
Toys that are entirely made of plastic can often be boiled in water for five minutes. Make sure the toy does not have any neon colors that could fade or wash off before tossing it in the pot.
Remove the toys from the water carefully and allow them to cool off completely.
If the toy does not have any fabric components, batteries, buttons, or opening that would allow in water, you may be able to wash them in the dishwasher.
Try loading your baby’s plastic toys in the holder meant for silverware or collecting them in a lingerie bag to prevent them from falling through the rack.
Set your dishwasher to the gentlest setting and air-dry the toys.
Toothbrushes or toothpicks are great for cleaning dirt and grim out of the small crevices of plastic toys. You can easily scrub small spaces before putting the toy into the dishwasher.
If a toy is made of wood, it cannot be submerged in water. To prevent warping, you can wash wooden baby toys with a clean cloth that has been dipped in a solution of water and distilled white vinegar.
Many people ask how to clean baby toys with vinegar, and the answer is a 50/50 mixture. Dip the cloth into the mixture before wiping down the wooden toy.
You can also accomplish this with a mixture of mild soapy water. Wipe the toy down with the soap and water, then follow up with a damp towel to remove soapy residue.
If there are spots that are particularly dirty, try to clean them with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. Just don’t forget to wipe the wooden toy with a damp cloth again.
Sometimes family members and friends are able to make beautiful handmade toys. If your little one has a cherished toy made by grandma or grandpa, or something purchased off of Etsy, it is best to spot clean the toy.
Pay attention to the various materials used in the toy, and clean each section accordingly. These toys will likely take more time to clean, so the toy is preserved in the process.
Board books are an excellent way to introduce your baby to reading. However, they almost always end up in their mouth.
You can clean off board books by using the 50/50 mixture of water and distilled white vinegar. Wipe the books down with a damp cloth using the mixture.
When you are down, stand the books up and keep the pages separated to help them dry without damage.
It may seem like your child’s favorite bath time toys are cleaned every time they enter the tub. Unfortunately, they can still harbor germs among the baby soap.
Bath toys can soak in your 50/50 mixture of water and distilled white vinegar to help them stay clean. If a toy seems particularly dirty, it may be possible to run it through the dishwasher.
Common metal toys include cars and trucks. These toys cannot go into the dishwasher because the wheels are often made of rubber and will disintegrate in the heat.
Metal toys can be cleaned with a water and bleach mixture instead. You just need a tablespoon of bleach for a quart of water. Sanitize the metal toys and then leave them out to air-dry.
Dolls can be difficult to clean because many of them come with hair. From Barbies to My Little Pony figures, cleaning these toys takes a little bit longer.
The hair is typically made of thin strands of plastic. A little dish soap massaged into the hair and rinsed with water is usually enough to remove germs.
Brush out the hair once it is rinsed and let it lay flat to dry.
If the doll’s body is made of plastic, you can disinfect them with a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water.
The 50/50 mixture can be lightly sprayed onto the plastic sections and left to sit for a minute. Wipe the body with a dry cloth after the mixture sits.
Finally, any fabric or clothing on the doll can be washed with baby shampoo and water. Air-dry the doll and check for any missing or loose attachments before letting your baby play with it again.
Toys with batteries
Battery-operated or plug-in toys can be exciting for your baby, but they cannot be submerged in water.
When cleaning battery-operated or electronic toys, remove the battery or unplug it before getting started.
A clean cloth dipped in soapy water can wash the outside of the toy, but you should stay away from the compartment that holds the battery or the area near the wiring.
You can also use the 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and water to sanitize the exterior of the toy.
Best cleaning supplies for baby toys
When you clean your baby’s toys, you want to be sure that the supplies are safe for your child. In most cases water and mild soap will do the trick to clean and disinfect a toy, but sometimes a stronger cleaner is necessary.
Common cleaning supplies for baby toys include:
- Boiling water
- Dish soap
- Baby shampoo
- Hand soap
- Distilled white vinegar (mixed with equal parts water)
- Rubbing alcohol (mixed with equal parts water)
- Bleach (1 tablespoon of bleach per 1 quart of water)
- Disinfecting wipes (for surface cleaning)
The best cleaning supplies for your child’s toys will depend on the individual toy. As we’ve already seen, different materials require different methods of cleaning.
Note, if you use a mixture of distilled white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, or bleach, it is important to wipe the toy down with a damp cloth and let it dry completely before giving it back to your child.
Natural methods for cleaning baby toys
If you are not comfortable using high-powered disinfectants or harsher chemicals, there are natural options for cleaning baby toys.
These supplies are often more expensive, but they contain safe and natural ingredients. Look for these cleaning supplies if you want a natural alternative for cleaning baby toys:
- Products without bleach, ammonia, or toxins: Often plant-based, these cleaners are safe for your baby and will not irritate their skin
- Distilled white vinegar: Using a water and vinegar mixture offers a natural cleaning solution. The smell may not be the best though, so consider adding in a few drops of essential oil
- Wash with natural soap: If you have a favorite all-natural dish soap, shampoo, or hand soap, you can use it to clean baby toys
- Use a steam cleaner: Toys, high chairs, and playpens can be cleaned with a steam cleaner for a chemical-free solution
Is it safe to put baby toys in the washing machine?
If the label or packaging of a toy indicates that it can go in the washing machine, it is perfectly safe to wash the baby toy in the washing machine.
Follow the instructions to avoid damaging the toy, and leave it out to air-dry.
Before giving the toy back to your baby, it is important to check it thoroughly. Sometimes wash cycles can cause threads to pull or plastic eyes to come loose.
You should also make sure the stuffing is completely intact. Examining the toy after it is washed can prevent choking.
How to clean baby toys on a budget
Babies are adorable, but they are also expensive. Thankfully, cleaning your child’s toys does not have to break the bank.
If you are looking for ways to safely clean baby toys on a budget, use the 50/50 distilled white vinegar or rubbing alcohol solution when possible.
Also, bleach is a budget-friendly option because a little goes a long way. Fill a plastic spray bottle with one quart of water and one tablespoon of bleach for a cleaning solution that will last a while.
How often should you clean baby toys?
Keeping your baby safe is your top priority, so it is easy to go overboard when it comes to cleaning.
While it is important to stop the spread of germs and protect your child, you do not have to clean their toys every hour on the hour.
Your baby’s favorite toys or ones they play with every day should be cleaned once a week.
Dump out the diaper bag, go through the toy box, and dig toys out of the car seat each week to give them a good scrub.
Clean toys before and after play dates. This practice will ensure both your child and others are safe from the spread of germs or illness.
Also, look out for toys that get gummed up with food, drool, or messes and clean them as soon as you notice the buildup.
For toys or books that do not get played with often, disinfect them once a month. You can use a disinfecting wipe that is safe for babies or clean them with the 50/50 rubbing alcohol solution to remove germs from the surface.
How to clean baby toys after a child is sick
If your baby gets sick, it is important to clean their toys. Disinfect all toys after your child is ill to completely kill germs and protect your baby from getting sick again.
Follow the instructions above to properly clean each type of toy before letting your baby play with them again.
Quick tips for cleaning baby toys
While the task of cleaning all of your baby’s toys can seem daunting, you will likely develop your own cleaning routine over time.
Use these quick tips to make the process a little easier while protecting your baby from germs.
- For large toys, create a disinfectant spray with a 50/50 mixture of distilled white vinegar and
water. Spray the toy down and let it sit for a couple minutes before wiping it with a damp cloth
- Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your vinegar and water mixture to cut the harsh
smell of vinegar
- Keep disinfectant wipes on hand to wipe down toys that fall or get dirty when you are away from
- Use a spray sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, or hot water and soap to clean outdoor toys
- Clean all secondhand toys before giving them to your child, including toys from thrift stores, garage sales, or hand-me-downs
Toys are a wonderful way for babies to have fun, explore their world, and learn all kinds of things.
Because babies love toys, they tend to drag them or carry them around all over the place.
By using the tips and tricks in this article, you can help ensure your baby stays healthy and happy!