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The Basics of Toy Cleaning

July 23, 2014

toycleaningLet’s face it. Toys are a germ factory. Your little one transports germs from one stuffed animal to the next on an hourly basis and, unfortunately, illnesses from shared toys result.

You don’t have to launch a spring cleaning routine, though, to keep those toys free from germs and ensure your little one stays healthy. Simple tips to spruce up those treasured toys can keep your little one happy, safe and physically well.

Know the Risks

The risks of unclean toys are obvious. Germs are passed from that favorite teddy to the treasured toy train when children are simultaneously playing, sneezing, coughing and mouthing toys.

Stuffed toys can pose an even greater risk, as they often pass on bed bugs and lice. It’s no secret that your child can catch a cold or an illness when sharing toys with others.

Cleaning Basics

According to Leslie Reichert, cleaning coach and author of The Joy of Green Cleaning, the Board of Health recommends a diluted combination of bleach and water to clean toys. However, if you use bleach, you must let the bleach sit on the toy for 20 minutes and then rinse the toy. “You don’t want your children ingesting the bleach,” she says.

Many parents and nannies, though, favor a more natural route when sprucing up those stuffed toys and playground slides. “I prefer using rubbing alcohol and also hydrogen peroxide,” says Reichert. “Both need to be rinsed, but don’t need to sit on the toy for 20 minutes.”

Getting Down and Dirty

Each toy, though, may require a different cleaning method. Reichert recommends the following approach when freeing your child’s toys from germs and dirt.

Cloth Dolls: Fabric toys are difficult to clean, but should you want to try washing it, Reichert recommends a gentle laundry soap made from soap flaxes, baking soda and a touch of borax. “Place the doll in a lingerie bag and wash on a very gentle setting,” she says. Allow the cloth doll to air dry. You can also just spot wash the dirty areas with the same type of soap mixture, but make sure you dilute it and wipe it off with a microfiber cloth.

If you just want to kill the dust mites, Reichert recommends placing the dry doll in the dryer inside a pillowcase. “Just let it toss for a couple minutes and it will come out dust mite free,” she says.

Plastic Toys:  To clean the inside of plastic toys, Reichert recommends using a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol. Put the mixture inside the toy and swish it around. The alcohol and peroxide will take care of the germs, she says.

You can also put some plastic toys in the dishwasher. “You have to be careful they won’t melt or have the paint washed off, but the hot water will sanitize the toys,” says Reichert.

Stuffed Animals:  The key safety concern with stuffed animals is dust mites. To free the toy from germs and dust, Reichert recommends finding a washing machine safe or lingerie bag to run the stuffed animal through a drying cycle. “Find a fabric bag big enough for the stuffed animals, take off anything that could melt with the heat and place them in the dryer for 10 minutes,” says Reichert. “The heat from the dryer will kill all the dust mites.”

Large Teddy Bears or Stuffed Animals: You can spot wash your stuffed animals with simple soap and water. If something is really stained or ground in, use pure bar soap and a fingernail brush, recommends Reichert. Wet the brush and rub it on the bar of soap. Create a nice lather and scrub the stuffed animal. Wipe the area with a wet cloth until all the soap has been rinsed off. Let it air dry and then fluff with a dry towel or hair brush.

Rusty Toys: It’s clearly a safety hazard to have your little one play with old or outdoor toys that have developed rust. If your child just cannot let go of this treasured toy, Reichert recommends soaking the rusted toy in Coke. “Let it sit overnight and the rust will be gone,” she says.


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