If your kids are like most, their toys go on adventures to some dirty places. Some are hiding in the dusty area under a bedroom dresser. Others may have been dunked in a pet’s water bowl, or even worse, taken an expedition through your cat’s litter box. And if you’ve got a newborn or infant, their toys are constantly in their mouths. The trips your children’s toys go on get even better once they become toddlers and a little older. A mud puddle near your home becomes a toy soldier’s paradise. Toy cars race down driveways and sidewalks. Plush toys and dolls have tea parties in the grass. Along the way, all those toys are picking up germs. When was the last time you cleaned all of them? If it’s been a while, there’s no need to panic. Below you’ll find everything you need to clean and disinfect all your children’s toys.
Do you Need to Clean or Disinfect Toys?The process you use to clean isn’t the same as disinfecting. When you clean, you wipe a surface with water and possibly a soapy solution, then wipe away the moisture until the object is dry. Disinfecting requires a chemical reaction and doesn’t rely on wiping anything. That may seem strange, but follow the reasoning in this example. When you use a spray disinfectant or disinfecting wipes, it’s not the action of wiping that disinfects. You need to keep the surface “wet” with the disinfection solution for a specific amount of time for all the germs to be killed. Then you wipe it off. Considering that a poll conducted for the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) found 4 in 10 Americans don’t properly allow disinfectant sprays and wipes enough time to kill viruses and bacteria, it’s important to always check the labels on your disinfecting products before using them.
Why Children’s Toys Should be DisinfectedThe primary way children are exposed to bacteria and viruses is their eyes and mouths. When their toys are dirty, germs get transferred to their hands, which are then used to rub their eyes or get put in their mouths. Since they’re young, they haven’t been exposed to enough germs to have natural defenses to most of them, so children tend to get sick frequently. Disinfecting toys will reduce the number of times your child will get sick each year. It’s not possible to avoid every bug that goes around, but disinfecting toys reduce how often and how much your kids are exposed to bacteria and viruses. Due to Covid-19, it has never been more important to disinfect toys, but there are plenty of other germs you want to avoid as well. For example, hand foot and mouth disease is one of the leading illnesses pediatricians see. It’s caused by a virus, and children who are teething or frequently put toys in their mouths are the most likely to get it.
Make a System for Separating Contaminated ToysThe best way to ensure you’re disinfecting all the toys that get touched is to separate them when playtime is over. Many families and offices that have toys for children use a large plastic container with a lid. Toys that need disinfection or cleaned are put in the container, then the lid is sealed so babies and toddlers can’t open it when no one is looking. Just be sure to label the container so guests and other family members know it’s not safe to use those toys until they’ve been disinfected. Using a system like this helps everyone keep track of which toys need cleaning and will go a long way toward reducing illnesses. What causes you to put a toy in the container is ultimately your choice, but here are a few recommendations for when you should do it:
- If another child visits
- If your child currently has an illness
- If someone in your family has an illness
- If a toy has been outside your home
- Any toys that are dropped on dirty surfaces
- When toys show signs of dirt or other contaminants
What Types of Toys can be Disinfected With Wipes?
The easiest and most convenient way to disinfect toys is with a wipe. As long as the surface is hard and non-porous (which means smooth), it’s safe to use wipes for disinfection. You’ll find that most of your children’s toys can be disinfected with wipes, but you shouldn’t use them on cloth or plush toys. Those require a different method. Toys made of plastic, silicone, wood, and metal are perfect for disinfecting wipes. Just be mindful of toys used in the bathtub. A lot of plastic bath toys have a tiny hole at the bottom that allows water to get in. Unless you’re able to thoroughly remove all the moisture, these toys tend to grow mold inside. It may be possible to mix a light bleach solution with water to put in the hole and swish around to kill the bacteria, but it’s usually best to throw those toys away if you see anything growing inside them. So before each bath, always look inside these types of plastic bath toys before giving them to your child.
How to Disinfect Toys Using SONO WipesSONO Disinfecting Wipes are EPA registered and safe to use on hard, non-porous surfaces, including toys for babies. They kill more than 47 pathogens, including the flu virus, MRSA, Salmonella, and SARS associated coronavirus. Hospitals and medical professionals depend on them, but they’re safe for everyday use, without gloves, in homes and offices. The steps to disinfect children’s toys are listed below:
- Step 1 (optional): If the surface of the toy is visibly contaminated, use one wipe to clean it off, then discard the wipe and get another one.
- Step 2: Wipe the entire surface of the surface to make it “wet” with the disinfecting solution.
- Step 3: To kill the strongest germs, keep the surface wet for 10 minutes. You may need to use more than one wipe to accomplish this. However, SONO Disinfecting Wipes are alcohol-free, so they won’t evaporate as quickly as other wipes.
- Step 4: Rinse the toy with water and dry it with a soft cloth or towel.
Be Careful Using Water to Clean Cloth and Plush Toys
The sections that follow discuss techniques that involve water to clean cloth and plush toys. Before using any of these solutions, always test a section of the toy first with a drop of water. If the color fades or starts to run, you may not be able to clean it.
How to Use a Dishwasher to Sanitize Toys
Always check the care label on toys, if they have one, before putting them in the dishwasher. Most plastic toys are safe to clean this way but don’t include any that have electronics or require batteries. If you have any doubts about putting a plastic toy in the dishwasher, then it’s probably best to just disinfect with a wipe. Depending on the setting you use, dishwashers get very hot, so it’s always possible a toy could melt. For any toys you are certain can be placed in a dishwasher, always put them on the top rack and wedge them into place so they can’t move around. The water jets are more forceful in the bottom and can damage toys, so keep them away from that area. Also, remember to use the normal or sanitize setting with heat dry. For any toys that are still wet when the cycle is over, use a towel to remove all moisture.
How to Sanitize Plush and Cloth Toys in a Washing MachineSome stuffed animals, cloth toys, and plush toys can be sanitized in a washing machine. Most of these types of toys have a care label, so be sure to read it before adding them to a wash. Just like a dishwasher, a washing machine can destroy items that don’t belong in them. After you’ve identified which toys can go in the washing machine, always put them in a pillowcase and tie off the end. This will help to both protect them and your washing machine if they start to lose their stuffing. That’s a mess you don’t want to clean up! Run the washing machine on a gentle cycle with warm water. Then dry them inside the same pillowcase in the dryer on a gentle setting with low heat. It’s ok to let them tumble, but it’s best if your dryer has a rack that will keep them from bouncing around. Once you remove them from the pillowcase, if they’re still wet, you can dry them with a hairdryer on a low setting.
How to Hand Wash Plush and Cloth Toys
For cloth or plush toys that can’t be cleaned in the dishwasher or washing machine, you’ll need to wash them by hand. Use a gentle dish soap diluted with water on a cloth to scrub any noticeable dirt or grime from the surface. It’s also possible to use a steamer to sterilize these toys, but be careful about getting burned. When you’re done, use a hairdryer on a low setting to finish the job.