Toddlers and young children have a well-deserved reputation for being walking Petri dishes of germs! Toddlers love to put things in their mouth, which both leads to them frequently picking up germs and spreading them to others.
Health and safety are one of your top priorities as a parent. While toys bring joy and educational moments to your child’s life, they’re also a prime source of germs. Here’s our advice on how to safely sanitize your toddler’s toys at home.
How to Sanitize Plastic Toddler Toys
Before you get to any sanitizing, you’ll simply want to clean the toys first to remove any dirt. Wipe them down or place them in hot soapy water (dish soap is fine) and use a brush if needed to clean hard to reach places. Rinse them under clean running water before sanitizing, as soap may impact the disinfectant.
After you’ve cleaned them, either thoroughly wipe them down with a disinfecting wipe or soak them in a disinfectant, such as a mix of 2 teaspoons of household bleach for every 4 cups of water.
Check the disinfectant’s bottle for the contact time, which is how long the disinfectant needs to remain on the surface for it to be effective. For disinfectant wipes, this is typically ten seconds, for the provided bleach solution it is two minutes.
If you’re using bleach to sanitize toys (or well, anything!) you must never mix it with other household products as this can create a toxic reaction between the chemicals.
Check the label of the disinfectant to see whether it requires rinsing or not. Afterwards, let the toys thoroughly air dry before letting your child play with them again.
Plastic toys with holes in the bottom, such as bath toys or ones that squeak, can be problematic to clean and should be done with caution. Water and sanitizing solutions can get inside the hole and become trapped. When this happens, this presents the risk of your toddler ingesting cleaning solution that hasn’t evaporated or mould could start to grow.
When sanitizing these toys, be sure to squeeze and shake them to get out as much water as possible and then let them thoroughly dry before letting your child play with them again.
Looking to save some time on cleaning? Use your dishwasher! Solid plastic toys can be placed in the top rack of the dishwasher. When you turn on the dishwasher, select either the normal or sanitizing cycle along with heated drying. Ensure they are thoroughly dry before you let your child play with them again, either by letting them completely air dry or wiping them dry with a clean towel.
How to Sanitize Plush Toddler Toys
Plush toys that don’t contain any sort of battery or electrical component can simply be washed in the washing machine. Check the care label to make sure, but the vast majority of plush toddler toys are safe to clean this way.
Simply place the toys in the washing machine, add your preferred detergent and run them on a gentle cycle with hot water. For added protection, you may want to place the toys in a pillowcase or mesh bag to prevent them from being thrown around too much.
When the wash cycle is complete, place them the dryer. For delicate or extra sentimental toys you may want to dry them with a hairdryer.
Once the toys are completely dry, they are sanitized and ready to be played with again. You should never use a disinfectant on the surface of a plush toddler toy.
How to Sanitize Electronic Toddler Toys
While the hard plastic surface of electronic toddler toys needs adequate sanitizing, it’s important to never soak or submerge them in water or a disinfectant. This will not only ruin the electrical components but also puts you at risk for electrocution.
In this case, you’ll want to take the same steps as cleaning other plastic toys but only wipe them down. Begin by wiping them down with hot soapy water (wring out the cloth first so it’s damp and not dripping). Pay extra attention to remove dirt that may have formed around buttons, screens or any other hard to reach place.
Once the dirt has been removed, use either a disinfecting wipe or a cloth dipped in a bleach solution (2 teaspoons of household bleach for every 4 cups of water) to wipe the toys clean. Once again, ensure the solution remains on the toys for the proper amount of contact time.
If the instructions say so, wipe the toys clean with a clean damp cloth. Once the toys have been left to completely air dry, they will be safe for your toddler to enjoy again.
How Often Should I Sanitize My Toddler’s Toys?
How often you should sanitize your toddler’s toys at home ultimately depends on how often they’re played with.
Generally speaking, you should sanitize toys that are used on a daily basis once a week. You should spot clean or wipe them down more frequently if your toddler often places them in their mouth or they fall on the floor in highly trafficked areas of your home.
If there is an illness going around in your home or community, you should sanitize every few days or even every day if needed.
Extra Points to Keep in Mind
Don’t forget to clean the bin, shelf or drawer that toys are stored in too! There’s no point in spending the time to sanitize toys if you’re just going to put them back into a dirty storage area.
Please keep in mind that these tips are provided for household use only. If you run a daycare, school or any other activity that’s publicly available to children, please follow the cleaning guidelines of your organization or local health authorities.
Sanitizing your toddler’s toys on a regular basis is an important step to keep your whole family healthy. Looking for help with keeping the rest of the house clean? Check out Sheiner’s Cleaning Products to help keep your home sparkling while protecting your family and the environment.