How to disinfect toys

How to disinfect toys

How to disinfect toys

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How to disinfect toys

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Toys and play area surfaces can be sources of germs swapped between babies, toddlers, and adults. While daycares and children’s centers have their specific guidelines for toy cleanliness, you can use practical solutions to clean baby toys safely and effectively at home.

Soap and Water

Simply washing hands with soap and water is a great way to prevent spreading bacteria and viruses , and it works for toys and surfaces as well. Toys such as plastic blocks, infant rattles, and teethers can easily be cleaned in the sink using dish soap and warm water.

However, it is never safe to wash any electrical toy that can be plugged in by submerging it or placing it in soap and water. Even toys that include batteries with lights and sounds should not be cleaned in soap and water. Any water that enters the electrical parts can lead to shorts and the toy may no longer work.

How to disinfect toys


Some toys may be labeled as being dishwasher safe. Infant rattles, plastic blocks, large plastic pegs, plastic shape sorter pieces, and some bath toys can be placed on the top rack of the dishwasher. The hot water and soap in the dishwasher will help sanitize and clean toys . The dishwasher is also great for certain bath toys, which can begin to develop mold and mildew over time.

How to disinfect toys

Environmentally Friendly Surface Cleaners

Some cleaners have harsh chemicals that will remove germs, but many parents do not want their children to come in contact with them. Look for baby toy cleaners that do not include dyes, are biodegradable, and are free of phthalates and parabens. Since babies and toddlers mouth toys (especially when teething), environmentally safe cleaners are preferred.

How to disinfect toys

Surface Wipes

There are entire aisles in stores dedicated to disinfectant surface wipes. Surface wipes are a great way to clean plastic toys that have batteries and cannot be placed in soap and water or the dishwasher.

Wipe down the toy using a disinfectant surface wipe. Let it air-dry for several minutes before giving it to a child to play with.

For items such as pacifiers, there are also special pacifier wipes. These use food-grade sanitizers that are safe for babies who put items in their mouths.

How to disinfect toys

Cleaning Stuffed Animals and Baby Dolls

Many people clean stuffed animals and baby dolls by placing these toys in the washer and dryer. But without proper care, over time some stuffed animals and baby dolls will get ruined with repeated washings. To help the toy survive machine-washing, place it in a pillowcase before laundering.

You can also use a delicates bag to wash plush toys. Stuffed animals can be placed inside the bag, then washed on a gentle cycle in a front loader washer and dryer. Read the labels on stuffed animals before washing them. Some specialty teddy bears specifically state they cannot be washed.

After washing, check for any loose eyes, seams, threads, or other attachments to ensure the stuffed animal is still safe for your child to handle.

How to disinfect toys

Infants and young children share toys and often place them in their mouths. This increases the risk of spreading infections. To reduce this risk, play areas and storage spaces should be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis. Ensure that the disinfectant is safe and suitable for use on toys. Consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for dilution and contact times for these disinfectants.

Cleaning and disinfecting hard plastic toys

  • Remove toys from the play area after use and place them in a collection box for cleaning and disinfection
  • Clean and disinfect the collection box at the same time that toys are being cleaned and disinfected
  • Clean toys in hot soapy water prior to using a disinfectant
  • Use a brush to clean crevices or hard to reach areas
  • Rinse toys well under running water as soap may neutralize the disinfectant
  • Soak toys in an appropriate disinfectant for required amount of time (contact time)
  • Use a solution of 10 ml (2 tsp) sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) per 1 liter (4 cups) of water as a disinfectant. This solution requires a contact time of 2 minutes. Only mix bleach with water and never with other disinfectants or cleaners
  • In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be reasonable to instead use a mixture of 20 mL of bleach with 1 litre of water (or 4 tsp of bleach with 4 cups of water) to disinfect hard surfaces with 1 minute of contact time. It is important to remember to make a fresh bleach solution each time you disinfect, or at least everyday. *Note:The contact time, also known as the wet time, is the time that the disinfectant needs to stay wet on a surface to make sure it can kill all the germs. It is the length of time you leave the solution on the surface before wiping it down.
  • Rinse toys with clean water to remove any disinfectant solution, if indicated on the label; bleach does not require rinsing
  • Clean and disinfect dishwasher-safe, hard plastic toys in a commercial dishwasher with a sanitizer or a hot rinse cycle
  • Completely air dry toys before they are returned to use
  • Keep a record of when toys were cleaned and disinfected

Cleaning and disinfecting soft, porous toys or dress up clothes

  • Launder fabrics or plush toys in a washing machine with hot water, and dry in a clothes dryer on a hot cycle
  • Avoid using disinfectant products on porous surfaces

Cleaning other items

  • Clean and disinfect other items (e.g., scissors, puzzles, storage bins, etc.) when they are visibly dirty
  • Items such as books and some craft equipment may be difficult to clean, so consider discarding them once they are soiled
  • Avoid sensory play during an outbreak, such as activities using play dough, sand or water
  • Clean and disinfect computer keyboards, mice and other electronics between uses

Follow instructions

It might be tempting to mix cleaning products to make sure your facility is germ-free — but don’t. Mixing some cleaners and disinfectants (like chlorine bleach and ammonia) can be harmful, even deadly. Others can irritate your eyes, nose, or throat and cause breathing problems.

For more information, call Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744.

How to disinfect toys

As any parent knows, kids are pretty gross. (Adorable, but gross.) If they’re not eating bugs, then they’re forgetting to wash their hands or playing with trash. And their playthings typically bear the brunt of this filth. That’s why we tapped Melissa Maker from the wildly popular Clean My Space for her top tips on how to disinfect toys and keep the playroom just a little less icky.

Cleaning Versus Disinfecting

There’s a difference between cleaning and disinfecting, Maker tells us. “If you’re cleaning a toy, you’re just wiping it down either with plain water or water and soap.” Maker’s preferred method for cleaning toys is to wet a microfiber cloth and simply wipe the item. This will remove a good amount of germs, dirt and other residue. Disinfecting, on the other hand, means using an EPA-registered disinfectant to kill germs. (More on that below.)

When to Clean Toys

Some experts recommend cleaning toys about once a month, but Maker says not to worry about sticking to a regular schedule. “Generally speaking, if your kids are healthy, I would say clean toys when they look dirty or when they feel gross,” she tells us. The reason being that a lot of the germs in your kids’ playroom are actually pretty harmless or even good for them by helping to build their immune systems. So don’t fret about the dog licking your child’s Paw Patrol van or a Lego-themed sippy cup falling onto the floor. “If they have friends over, you can be mindful about cleaning the toys afterward if you want to do that,” she adds.

When to Disinfect Toys

You’ll want to bring out the big guns when you suspect that bacteria or viruses may be present. Say, for example, your child has been sick or a bug is going around school. Here’s a pro tip: If your kids are sick, give them a handful of toys to play with while they’re not feeling well. “That way you don’t have to clean everything in the toy room, which would take you at least 45 minutes.” Instead, just have ten toys or so that you know your kids like and let them play with those while they’re ill.

But there’s no need to go crazy, says Maker. “Let’s say your kid had the flu a week ago—it’s not like you need to go and do a massive cleanup now, since that virus won’t survive that long.” (Per the CDC, the flu virus can live up to 48 hours on surfaces.) Disinfect anything that’s being actively touched or actively used, she advises.

If vomit or excrement is on a toy, then it’s a good idea to disinfect it. But because disinfection doesn’t remove any surface impurities, you should always clean before disinfecting.

How to Disinfect Toys

Plastic toys: Maker’s recipe for cleaning plastic toys is to use two cups of water to half a teaspoon of dish soap. “Soap and water is great at getting rid of bacteria—not everything, but it will get rid of a lot,” she says. If you don’t want to use dish soap, castile soap is another great option. To disinfect plastic toys, use an EPA-registered disinfectant. (Maker doesn’t love using vinegar, which she says may damage toys over time.) “I recommend spraying or wiping the disinfectant onto the toy and letting it sit on the surface for 3 to 5 minutes or however long the product suggests. Then wipe it off and give it a rinse, because the toy will probably end up going to go back in your kids’ mouths.” If washing by hand sounds like too much of a hassle, stick any plastic toys without batteries in the top rack of the dishwasher.

Wood toys: If the wood toy is varnished, then you should be OK using a disinfectant on it. Otherwise, gently wipe down the surface with a damp microfiber cloth to remove any dirt or grease.

Plush toys: Read the fabric’s cleaning label—some stuffed animals without batteries can be tossed into the washing machine and then the dryer. Otherwise, you can wipe it down with a damp cloth with either plain or soapy water. Less is more when it comes to soap since you don’t know how much you’ll end up leaving behind. “If the toy isn’t machine washable but you have a steam cleaner, you can use that to loosen the fibers and then use a cloth for a follow-up wipe.”

What About Bath Toys?

The biggest concern with bath toys is soap scum, so it’s important to let toys dry after use. Hang a mesh bag with suction cups and place the toys in there to dry. “If they do need a cleaning, either soaking in or wiping with vinegar is going to be really great in this situation because vinegar cuts soap scum,” says Maker. When it comes to squirt toys, they’re hard to clean properly, so once they start looking grimy, it’s best to just toss them out, she advises.

Is Mr. Ducky looking a bit worse for wear? Now is a great time to clean him and his fellow toy friends. Here are some practical tips.

As every mom knows, babies and toddlers often put toys in their mouths – and they’re not particularly concerned that those toys may have been rolling around on the floor and are now covered in germs.

While many of these germs are harmless or even helpful, there are also those that spread sickness – like colds, flu, and norovirus.

That’s why it’s a good idea to frequently clean and disinfect your little one’s much-loved toys.

When to Clean and Disinfect Baby Toys

Dr. Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, a professor and children’s health expert at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, recommends cleaning baby toys regularly, perhaps once a month. Even spot cleaning helps combat unwanted cooties. But remember that certain situations call for an extra cleaning, or even disinfecting, such as:

  • Your child or their playmates have been sick.
  • You’ve had a playdate where other children are putting toys in their mouths.
  • A child has gotten food, milk, vomit or mucous on a toy.
  • A toy falls on the ground.

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting: What’s the Difference?

Before you begin, it’s important to understand the differences among cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains how these practices work together to help stop germs from spreading:

  • Cleaning physically removes germs by using soap (or perhaps detergent) and water to wash away surface dirt and grime.
  • Disinfecting kills most germs on objects like baby toys, or stops germs from reproducing.

Remember that cleaning should always come before disinfection. Start by cleaning baby toys to remove any visible dirt and grime, then rinse with water and apply disinfectant (see directions below).

How to Clean and Disinfect Baby Toys

Not all toys are alike. How you go about cleaning and disinfecting your baby’s toys will depend on the size and material of each cherished plaything.

Follow toy manufacturer guidelines when cleaning or disinfecting. Check to see if the toy is dishwasher safe. If so, place it on the top rack of your dishwasher and wash using regular dishwasher detergent, which typically includes a disinfectant. Set your dishwasher on the normal cycle. Use the heated cycle to dry toys, which will help prevent mold and bacteria. If your dishwasher includes an option for a sanitizing cycle, you can use it to help zap germs, especially during cold and flu season.

Larger plastic toys, as well as those with batteries, can be cleaned with soap and warm water, wiped with a diluted bleach solution using a clean sponge or cloth, and left to air dry. It’s best to take the batteries out before cleaning the toy to prevent corrosion and damage.

Combat Cooties Using a Germ-Busting Bleach Solution

Diluted bleach is a safe and inexpensive way to disinfect baby toys.

  1. Clean non-absorbent toys with soapy water, rinse with clear water, and wipe dry with disposable paper towels.
  2. Disinfect with a chlorine bleach solution of one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water.
  3. Lay out toys to air dry.

Keeping everything clean isn’t easy – and sometimes feels impossible. But considering how much well-loved toys are handled by your child, taking a little time to clean and disinfect them is a great strategy for helping to keep your baby healthy and happy.

For a printable poster with tips for cleaning toys, click here.

How to disinfect toys

Proper cleaning of sex toys is essential to avoid bacterial infection or transmission of STIs. While some STIs die once the fluid they live in dries, others (such as hepatitis and scabies) can live for weeks or months outside of the body. If you want to prevent pregnancy, it is also important to be remove sperm that may be on the sex toy before using near or in the vagina. It’s important to keep the instructions for cleaning the sex toy and to follow them carefully. If you feel that cleaning the toy properly would be too time consuming or unrealistic for you, think about buying a different toy. The information provided below gives a general overview for cleaning different types of toys and isn’t meant to replace the manufacturer’s instructions.

For basic toy care, remove any batteries. Never submerge electrical components in water. Use a damp, soapy washcloth to clean your electric toys, preferably with anti-bacterial soap. Keep toys stored in a container or pouch (to keep them clean) and in a cool, dry place.

Cleaning non-porous materials: glass, stainless steel, hard plastic, and silicone

Glass: Wash glass toys with soap and water. Pyrex toys are dishwasher safe. Do not expose glass to extreme temperatures.

Stainless Steel: If attached to an electrical device, use warm soapy water, being careful not to submerge any electrical components. If there are no electrical components you have 3 options: Boil or soak in a 10% bleach-water solution for 10 minutes, or place it in the dishwasher.

Hard Plastic: Clean with anti-bacterial soap and water. Do not boil.

Silicone: You can choose from 3 options to clean a silicone toy. Either boil for 5-10 minutes, put it in your dishwasher (on top rack), or wash with anti-bacterial soap and warm water. Do not boil silicone vibrators because you will destroy the vibrator mechanism.

Cleaning porous materials: rubber, vinyl, cyberskin, nylon, and leather

Rubber materials: Rubber materials are porous and difficult to clean. In addition, their composition is not always known or may contain phthalates, chemicals which have been shown to be harmful to your health. For these reasons, it is recommended to use condoms with these types of toys.

Cyberskin and Vinyl: Cyberskin is soft and porous, often used for dildos. Wash cyberskin and vinyl toys delicately with warm water only. Air dry and powder a small amount with cornstarch to keep them from getting sticky.

Nylon: Nylon harnesses and toys can be machine or hand washed with a mild anti-bacterial soap.

Leather: Wipe leather products with a damp, soapy cloth or with leather cleaner. Do not soak leather. After cleaning, you may recondition your toy using a leather conditioner. Protect metal parts from tarnish by applying a coating of clear nail polish.

How do you clean a wooden toy ?

Before going into the steps, lets ask why is it important to clean a toy ?

From their early age, children develop a natural need to put everything in their mouth by tasting their toys.

These ‘tasty’ toys will surely go from the ground to their hands and after to their mouths.

Well. This is a natural behaviour, we’ve all been through this, because it’s the way children are exploring the world.

In fact, young children don’t really know what’s dirty and clean, notion of hygiene will be learned by growing and participation of the daily home tasks.

As we want to protect our children from germs and dirt, it’s important to clean their toys.

How to disinfect toys

Guide to clean your wooden toys.

Wood is safe, natural and durable, but it’s also porous. The washing process will be totally different from cleaning tissue, plastic or metal.

However, wood will not be as effected by germs as plastic toys, because of their natural antibacterial quality.

How to disinfect toys

How to clean wooden toys ? :

    • Never soak or immerse a wooden toy in water, it might swell, change shape and loose the colours.
    • Use a cloth and warm water to wipe your wooden toys, then air dry, or wipe with a dry cloth for a basic cleaning.

    How to disinfect toys

    • You can use a mild soap and well rinse with a sponge, to clean painted or varnished wooden toys.
    • Use white vinegar or apple cider diluted with water, to disinfect your wooden toys, then air dry or well wipe with a cloth.

    How to disinfect toys

      To moisturising you wooden toys, depending on the type of wood, you could also use olive oil.

    How to disinfect toys

Finally, to avoid any infection, never use a cleaning product for wooden furniture, or disinfectant wipes. These products would be toxic for your child.

The best way to clean and disinfect safely your wooden toys, is to use a 100% ecological vinegar, diluted in water.

Wooden toys can have a very long life if they are well maintained.

Since you know they could end up in your child’s mouths. Just remember to wash them frequently, and you’ll not have to worry.

Last Updated: February 25, 2021

Toys go through a lot, so we’ve listed our best toy cleaning tips to keep them looking their best and your little one’s hands germ-free.

How to disinfect toys How to disinfect toys

How to disinfect toys

  • Tips for cleaning and disinfecting toys.
  • Baby toys
  • Plastic toys
  • Stuffed animals and plush toys
  • Wooden toys
  • Electronic toys
  • Metal toys
  • How often should you clean toys?
  • Resources

Kids spend a lot of time touching their toys as they play, so it’s important to keep toys as germ-free as possible, especially in a day-care facility or other group environment. Because toys have different types of surfaces, cleaning methods will vary.

Baby toys

Babies put their toys in their mouths as they explore them. It’s also common for babies to drop their toys on the floor repeatedly. These factors make it important to wash baby toys frequently.

  • Mix one-half cup of chlorine bleach with one gallon of warm water. Saturate a cloth and wipe all surfaces of plastic baby toys. Allow the toys to air-dry for 30 seconds, then rinse away the bleach solution completely.

Plastic toys

Hard plastic toys need regular sanitizing, even for older children who may not put their toys in their mouths as frequently as babies do. Disinfect plastic toys at least once a week.

  • Use a sanitizing wipe or a cloth saturated in a bleach solution to wipe down all surfaces of plastic toys. Rinse away the cleanser completely.
  • Wash plastic toys without crevices and screws in the gentle cycle of the dishwasher in a mesh bag.

Stuffed animals and plush toys

Clean stuffed toys about once a week if children sleep with the toys or twice a month if not. Check instruction tags for plush and stuffed toys.

  • To wash stuffed toys in the washing machine, place them in a mesh bag or pillowcase and close it. Set the water temperature to warm. Dry the toys in the dryer on high heat.
  • Stuffed toys with electronic components need to be surface-washed only. Using natural household cleaners is best. Pour a half-cup baking soda into a plastic garbage bag and add several stuffed toys to the bag. Squeeze out the excess air, seal the bag, and shake the toys vigorously for a minute or two. Leave the toys in the bag for 15 minutes to allow the baking soda to deodorize the toys. Remove the toys, shake off the excess baking soda, and vacuum away any lingering baking soda.

Wooden toys

Wooden toys need to be sanitized periodically. However, you can’t submerse these toys due to damage that will occur to the wood.

  • Mix four parts water and one part distilled white vinegar and pour into a spray bottle. Spray the mixture onto the surfaces of wooden toys, then wipe the toys dry with a clean cloth.

Electronic toys

Always follow manufacturer instructions regarding cleaning of electronic toys. If you don’t have an instruction manual, try to find one online.

  • Remove the batteries or unplug the toy. Wash the outer surface with an alcohol-based cleaning wipe, but don’t allow moisture to enter areas where electrical components are housed. Wipe down the surface with a water-dampened cloth, and allow the toy to dry completely before replacing the batteries or plugging it back in.

Metal toys

Disinfect metal toys carefully to prevent rust. Don’t place these toys in the dishwasher, especially if they have rubber components.

  • Mix a half-cup of chlorine bleach with one gallon of warm water and use this solution to moisten a clean cloth slightly. Follow the procedure for cleaning plastic toys.

How often should you clean toys?

Any favorite toys that a child plays with daily need to be disinfected at least once a week. This is also true of toys a child sleeps with. Toys that children often put in their mouths need to be cleaned every one or two days. Toys children play with less frequently may only need to be cleaned once or twice a month.

  • If you find unknown substances on toys, clean them right away.
  • If your child, anyone in the household, or someone your child has contact with is sick, disinfect toys as soon as possible.


  • Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Sanitizing Children’s Toys and More
  • How to Clean and Disinfect Toys, According toCleaningExperts
  • Child Safety: Washing Toys to Prevent Germs
  • Prevent the Spread of Germs on Your Children’s Toys
  • Are You Disinfecting Your Baby’s Gear Correctly?
  • Child Safety: Washing Toys to Prevent Germs
  • Properly Cleaning Kids’ Toys
  • Cleaning and Disinfection of Toys
  • How to Clean and Disinfect Toys to Keep Your Kids Healthy
  • CleaningToys Is Important
  • Keep Baby Toys Germ-Free With These Cleaning Tips
  • Cleaning Toys Helps Prevent Disease
  • Cleaning Children’s Toys
  • Kids, Germs, and Handwashing
  • Handwashing: Why It’s So Important
  • Hand Hygiene
  • Handwashing: A Family Activity
  • Teaching Kids to Wash Their Hands
  • The Importance ofHandwashingfor Kids
  • How to Make Handwashing Fun

Looking for more home advice, cleaning how-tos, and sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered with our buying and cleaning guides. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you’re ready to make the transition to natural cleaning products, shop Grove Collaborative’s cleaning essentials for the cleaning tools to tackle the job.