Parent’s guide: how to clean baby toys


Baby toys endure a lot, especially when they become your child’s most prized possession. Over time, this immaculate new doll slowly transforms into something resembling a horror movie villain. Although your impulse may be to throw it away, you know your baby values ​​that dirty thing more than anything else.

That leaves you with only one option: clean those toys. Our guide explains why you should clean them regularly and how to clean different materials.

Why is it important to clean toys?

Think about all the germs your baby carries and how they interact with their toys. Toys are coated with spit, snot and other less pleasant substances. If you don’t clean these toys regularly, they can harbor germs, bacteria, and viruses that can make your baby sick.

According to WebMD, babies are two to three times more likely to catch the flu than adults. Dr. Neil Schachter of Mount Sinai explains in the article: “Their airways are narrow, so every germ gets stuck, and they haven’t developed immunity to many viruses yet.”

Also, when children share toys with others during playtime, the risk of transmitting germs is higher. Therefore, keeping toys clean is essential to reduce the risk of your child getting sick.

How often should I clean my child’s toys?

There are several factors you should consider. First, how often does your child play with this specific toy? They will probably have their favorites, and those are the ones that will never leave them.

You should also consider your child’s interaction with the toy. The ones they put in their mouths require more regular cleanings. Here is a guideline for when to clean each toy based on its material:

plush toys: You can throw stuffed toys in your washing machine, but you’ll need to check the cleaning guidelines first. If you can and your child sleeps with the toy, wash it weekly to every two weeks, depending on use and condition.

plastic toys: These toys are easier to clean. You can use wipes to clean and sanitize these toys weekly.

electronic toys: You need to be more careful with electronic toys, as you can only clean and disinfect screens. Do this weekly or more often, especially if your child has been sick recently.

Chew/teether toys: Any toys your baby puts in their mouth should be cleaned daily.

How to Clean Stuffed Toys

A child's hand pushing a toy into a washing machine

A washing machine is one of the five things you will need.

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Start by checking the cleaning instructions that come with the toy. Some stuffed animals can be thrown in the washer, while others are only cleaned in place.

Materials needed:

  • Pillowcase (if the toy can go in the washing machine)
  • A vacuum cleaner with an accessory
  • Hot water
  • Dishwasher soap
  • Clean rags (two)

Machine wash steps

Step 1: Group machine-washable toys in a pillowcase. This prevents them from being damaged during the cycle. Good Housekeeping recommends selecting the hot, gentle and slow spin on your washing machine.

2nd step: Once washed, you can dry the toys by putting the pillowcase in the dryer on low heat.

Step 3: You can also dry them with a hair dryer on low heat. For soft toys, add more heat to fluff them up.

Steps for washing hands

Step 1: Create a soapy solution by mixing an approved cleaning solution with warm water (your toy should have instructions on which cleaners are suitable).

2nd step: Dip a clean cloth in the cleaner and wring it out.

Step 3: Clean the entire toy, paying particular attention to cracks and crevices.

Step 4: Next, take a clean cloth and run it under running water.

Step 5: Use the damp cloth to rinse the toy.

Step 6: Let the toy air dry.

Step 7: Use the vacuum attachment on a low setting to remove dust and other accumulated particles.

How to clean plastic toys

Person wearing rubber gloves cleaning a toy truck with a rag

Use Clorox or Lysol to clean your baby’s plastic toys.

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Some plastic toys are dishwasher safe. These go in the top rack. Meanwhile, other plastic toys require simple hand washing, but you’ll need a few supplies.

Materials needed:

  • Cleansing wipes (such as Lysol or Clorox wipes), or
  • ½ cup bleach if not planning to use wipes
  • Hot water
  • Mesh bag (for small toys approved for the dishwasher)

Steps for Dishwasher-Approved Toys

Step 1: Place small toys in a mesh bag on the top rack of your dishwasher. Larger toys can rest on the stand.

2nd step: Select the regular cycle with warm dry on your dishwasher.

Step 3: Allow toys to air dry before returning them to your child.

Steps for cleaning by hand

Step 1: Rinse the toy thoroughly to remove all particles.

2nd step: Wipe the entire surface of the toy with a cleaning cloth. You can mix a solution of 1 gallon of warm water with half a cup of bleach instead. When disinfecting, pay attention to the toy manufacturer’s cleaning instructions, as they indicate how long the toy should be disinfected.

Step 3: If using a bleach solution, allow the toy to sanitize for at least 5 minutes.

Step 4: Rinse each plastic toy thoroughly with warm water to remove all cleaning solution.

Step 5: Let the toy air dry.

Step 6: Inspect the toy for remnants of cleaning solution, and if you find any, repeat steps 4 and 5.

How to clean electronic toys

Person wearing rubber gloves cleaning the screen of a toy with a baby in the background

Disinfect the toy with disinfectant spray or wipes.

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Electronic toys are often the trickiest because you can only clean the surface, and they can have screens, which require special care. Here are the materials you need and the steps to make this kind of toy look like new.

Materials needed:

  • Hot water
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • 4 teaspoons bleach (if you don’t have wipes) or dish soap if approved by the manufacturer
  • Clean rags (three)

Steps for electronic toys

Step 1: Turn off the toy before you start cleaning.

2nd step: Then remove the batteries and replace the cover.

Step 3: Take a clean cloth and soak it in warm soapy water.

Step 4: Wring the cloth well and rub every inch of the toy (except the screen if it has one, see above), paying close attention to the most used areas and being careful not to get any water in the cracks of the covered battery section.

Step 5: Dampen another clean cloth to rinse the toy.

Step 6: Disinfect the toy with disinfectant or alcohol wipes. If you don’t have any on hand, you can create a disinfectant solution by mixing 4 teaspoons of bleach with 1 gallon of warm water.

Step 7: Run another clean cloth under lukewarm water, wring it out and then rinse the toy.

Step 8: Allow to air dry.

Tips for cleaning toys

Here are some things to consider when learning how to clean toys.

Read the instructions

Each toy comes with cleaning instructions. If you accidentally threw them away, you can find them online. By paying close attention to these instructions, you’ll learn the most effective way to keep the toy clean, the materials you can use to clean it, and how often you should clean it.

Beware of toys containing metal parts

Some plush toys come with noisemakers or batteries. Do not put these kinds of toys in the dishwasher. Instead, clean them with cleaning wipes.

Prevent mold growth

Some toys have holes in them and if regularly submerged in water they could become susceptible to mold growth. Squeeze, shake and invert the toy to remove as much water as possible and let it air dry between uses. This helps prevent mold growth. If you notice mold growing, discard the toy immediately.

Rinse toys well

If you’re cleaning a toy that your child likes to put in their mouth, consider giving it an extra rinse after disinfecting it to remove any remaining cleaning solution particles, preventing your child from ingesting them.

Store toys in a clean space

Unless you plan to give the toy to your child immediately after cleaning it, store it in a dry, clean place. This way it is ready to use and you don’t need to clean it again before using it.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.


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