Most soft toys are made from materials that can easily be washed in any type of washing machine. This method saves time and ensures that the toy is thoroughly cleaned. However, our children have plenty of other toys that we can’t simply toss in a washing machine. In this instance, most mothers start asking themselves, “How do I clean and disinfect toys that are made of plastic or wood?”
If we look in our children’s playing room, we can find many toys that are dirty and worn down from hard daily use. We might even find mud on them from when your kiddo took it outside and the dog helped him or her drag it through your garden or flower bed.
Of course, if we prohibit our children from taking their toys outside we can help reduce germs and bacteria that build up on the toys, but we also negate a precious learning process children go through when they are freer to roam and imagine their toys doing things in every type of environment. However, as we all know babies love to put things in their mouths when they are teething, so how do we keep their toys clean and safe?
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Because these toys spend a good portion of their time in our baby’s’ mouths, they can easily contract a number of diseases and illnesses if the toys are not properly cleaned. So, today I am bringing you some of the best methods to clean and disinfect toys made out of plastic, wood, metal, and fabrics.
Firstly, inspect the toy to see if it has any batteries, mechanisms or fabric that can be damaged by water. If not, then take a large bowl and add hot, soapy water. Drop the toy in and start scrubbing! Rinse well afterward. If the toy will not be damaged by high water temperature, toss it in the dishwasher on a regular cycle. If you have several smaller pieces, use the tableware holder or a lingerie mesh washing bag to keep them all together.
Don’t forget to let them air dry so as to avoid mildew or mold build-up. If the toy has any crevices that you think might need extra rubbing, take a toothbrush and dip it in baking soda for some added cleaning power.
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Toys that are made out of natural wood, such as building blocks will become rough if washed in water. Instead, I suggest you wipe them using a microfiber cloth first and then finish off with a lint-free cloth sprayed with a mixture of white vinegar and water in a 1:1 proportion.
Never forget to remove the residue by wiping the toys with a damp towel. If you find spots that are too dirty, you might tackle that spot with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Don’t worry about the strong smell of vinegar and rubbing alcohol; both will evaporate cleanly.
Toys that are made out of fabric are the easiest to clean because you can toss them in the washing machine; however, some toys are made from fabrics that will get ruined if washed in a washing machine. Instead, it’s best to spot treat these fabrics using a baby wipe or a cloth dampened in vinegar.
Remember, to always remove stains as they appear as this will save time cleaning stains that have already set deep into the fabric. White vinegar can also be used to brighten and whiten the fabric and does a great job of neutralizing bad smells.
Vomit and bloodstains are best cleaned using a hydrogen peroxide solution. As the hydrogen peroxide reacts, it lifts the stain from the deep layers of the fabric without damaging the threads.
4. Board Books, Toys and Rubber Animals
Eliminate stains right away with a dry cloth, then wipe with another one dipped in diluted white vinegar. Dry books in a standing position and don’t forget to separate the pages as they dry.
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5. Bath Toys
These toys need your attention more often than you think, because, contrary to popular belief they are not getting cleaned every time your little baby takes a bath. Bathtubs are best cleaned every week in a bowl with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and soapy water.
However, you will still need to wipe them dry after every use so as to prevent mold and mildew build-up. Also, avoid keeping them on the rims of the bath since most water tends to collect there. Instead, wipe and place them in a designated bucket after every use.
Metal toys such as trucks and trains are often made having plastic wheels that melt if placed in the dishwasher. Instead, I suggest you disinfect them using a mixture of light bleach and water.
Use 1 tablespoon of bleach without ammonia per 1 gallon of water, and let the toys air dry after rinsing.
7. Toys with Batteries and Other Mechanisms
With battery operated toys look for whole battery compartments that can be removed. If not, just remove the batteries. Then, fill a bucket with clean, hot water. Add a sensible amount of dish soap or mild laundry detergent. Dub a cloth in the solution and spot clean the toy. You could use a nail brush to scrub the stubborn spots. Rinse by dubbing a clean, dry cloth in plain water.
If the plush toy has absorbed some sort of unpleasant smell, put it in a bag with a generous amount of baking soda. Close the bag tightly and leave it for at least a few hours. Then, brush the soda off and vacuum to get the last bits out.
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How Often Should I Clean the Toys?
Yes, germs and bacteria are dangerous to the tender immune system of your little one. However, don’t go crazy just yet.
Most toys would need cleaning once you realize that there is a decent buildup of food residue, saliva, and other dirt. Toys that you frequently carry around in the diaper bag or the ones your little one plays with on a daily basis are best cleaned every week.
When Should You Clean the Toys Immediately?
Clean the toys daily if your child has had;
- Cold, flu or diarrhea
- After you had other children around and they played with the toys
- If the toy has been lying around for some time
What to Avoid When Cleaning Toys Without Washing
Avoid using products that have laureate sulfate in them, parabens, SLS and ammonia. Not only are these products harmful to the environment, but they are also harmful to the child as well.
Moreover, avoid putting these toys in a bowl with whatever solution you choose:
- Toys that are made out of fragile material
- Toys with batteries and battery compartments
- Toys that have a talkative or moving mechanism in them
- Soft toys that are filled with foam pallets
In all other cases, I suggest you thoroughly read the instruction label on the toy to see what cleaning method might be best for it.
In conclusion, I would also suggest you keep a spray bottle nearby for easy and quick cleaning.
Here are some mixtures that work great for most toys:
Mix equal parts of distilled water and white vinegar, add few drops of lemon juice to add a pleasant scent. Alternatively, you could add a few drops of tea tree or peppermint essential oils if your child is older than 24 months. If your child is younger, I would suggest you consult a doctor first because some children can have an allergic reaction to these essential oils.
2. Hydrogen Peroxide
Take half a cup of hydrogen peroxide and half a cup of warm water. Dub a cloth in this solution and rub the toy throughout the surface area. Wait until the liquid stops fizzing then rinse and dry with a dry, lint-free cloth. Hydrogen peroxide does not affect the paint as much as alcohol does. Still, I suggest you do a small spot test for reassurance.
3. Bleach Solution
When I say bleach, I strongly suggest you use one without the ammonia because ammonia tends to give harmful and odorful fumes that linger long after you stop feeling them. For disinfection purposes, vinegar can do a great job.
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For a more powerful effect, you could use full-strength vinegar without diluting it in water. However, if you must use bleach then always mix it with only water. Never add anything else because bleach can react with other chemicals and produce lethal fumes. The best solution can be obtained mixing a teaspoon of bleach with a liter of clean water.
Always thoroughly rinse the toys afterward. Lastly, soft toys can be disinfected by placing them in plastic bags and putting the bags in the freezer for at least a day. The freezing temperature will kill most harmful bacteria and germs.
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