The way babies and toddlers play, it is a wonder they are healthy for one day in their little lives. Everything – from dust particles to dog food to corners of books – goes into their mouths. They also drool constantly, pick their noses, touch public surfaces and engage in various other questionable behaviors. It’s no wonder, then, that their toys are riddled with germs.
How best to clean baby toys in order to keep their little owners as healthy as possible? It depends on the toy itself.
Often, instructions for cleaning stuffed animals are found on the sewn-on label. Typically they include spot cleaning with water and baby shampoo or mild detergent, and allowing to air dry. If you want to sanitize your child’s favorite teddy, put the bear in a tied-up pillowcase in the dryer on high for about 15 minutes.
For Barbie dolls and others with plastic body parts (such as baby dolls with soft bodies), dab benzoyl peroxide on any ink or stains on the plastic, and leave in the sun for a few hours (covering unaffected areas so as not to bleach them out). Nail polish remover also may work on ink marks. For dolls with soft bodies, clean the soft parts as you would a stuffed animal, but do not put the doll in the dryer; air dry instead.
Sticky doll hair can be tricky, but typically, washing it with a capful of baby shampoo mixed with water can help retain the doll’s lush tresses.
These can be the grimiest toys in the home since they typically are stored in wet conditions, which multiply germs and mold. First, squeeze excess water out of each toy. Then fill the tub with a three-quarter cup of bleach for every gallon of warm water, and soak all bath toys and vinyl bath books for about 5 minutes. Suck some cleaning mixture into the toy, swish it around and squeeze it out. Then run each individual piece under cool water, scrubbing remaining noticeable mold with a toothbrush. Dry each completely.
To prevent mold from forming, be sure all bath toys are dried after use and stored away from water.
Plastic toys and teethers
Toys that are meant to go into babies’ mouths often are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher. Be sure the heated dry setting is on. You can also wash with a mixture of white vinegar, soap and water, or diluted bleach and water. If you use your own solution, be sure to rinse and dry the toys thoroughly.
Wooden toys and board books
Babies also are fans of chewing on board books and gnawing on wooden toys, which cannot be sanitized as easily as plastic. Disinfectant wipes, or a spray of white vinegar and water quickly dried off, work well on wooden toys. You also could dampen a new scrubbing sponge and rub them down, making sure not to get the toys too wet and warp them.
Clean toy tips
In a pinch, a disinfectant wipe, a baby wipe, or hand soap and water, can safely clean a toy that’s dropped on the floor of a restaurant or at the playground.
Clean all toys if your child is sick, and again once she is better, so as not to re-infect her or other children.
Don’t be a germaphobe! Cleaning and sanitizing toys regularly is ideal, especially if your child plays hard with them, but you can overdo it.