Toys are a great way to stimulate babies’ brain development since they provide sensory stimulus through colors, textures, and sounds and urge the little ones to practice their hand-eye coordination, among many other benefits.
This is most likely why friends, relatives, and parents simply love giving babies many different kinds of toys to play with -plushies, puzzles, miniatures, blocks, books, and many other toys that come in different sizes, shapes, colors, and materials.
You can bet that birthdays, holidays, and other occasions that call for gifts will certainly multiply your baby’s toy count exponentially. At a certain point in time, you will find yourself dealing with a mountain of toys that you have to store and maintain.
One main challenge with having plenty of baby toys around the house is getting them cleaned. This is because babies have far less developed immune systems than adults or bigger kids, making them more prone to communicable diseases that can be passed directly through contact or indirectly through objects like toys.
It’s inevitable that babies throw these toys around or put them everywhere, most especially in their mouths. That is why it is of utmost importance that babies’ toys are clean and free from potentially sickness-causing germs.
If you are a new parent and the cleanliness of your child’s toy is a concern, but you still feel amiss or confused as to how to get started with cleaning, below are a couple of methods you can apply to make cleaning more organized and less confusing for you.
1. Cleaning by Material:
Sort the toys by determining which materials they are made out of and have a separate cleaning method for each type.
You can have separate bins for different materials like specific bins for plastics, fabrics, wood, and others.
The most classic example of fabric-made toys is the good old Teddy bear. Other stuffed animals, cloth books, and mobile plushies are among this group. Unfortunately, they are usually most prone to dust, odor, and even mold.
This is not good news if you have a baby with allergies, asthma, or other respiratory-related conditions. You may opt-out of these types of toys if your baby is super sensitive, but if your baby tolerates them well enough and you want to keep it clean to make sure diseases are at bay, usually the recommended cleaning method for these types of toys are placed on a tag that is sewn onto the toy itself. You can simply read the instructions there and follow through.
The instructions will often include laundering these toys while enclosed in a laundry bag or pillowcase to avoid damaging the fabric.
Choose a gentle wash cycle and dry them in the spinner while still enclosed in the bag or pillowcase in moderate heat for ten to fifteen minutes.
For as long as the toys in question do not operate with batteries, you can easily hand-wash plastic toys with hot soapy water in a tub using a washcloth or a toothbrush to rub the places that need rubbing or to reach crevices that your finger can’t reach.
If you feel like you haven’t got the time for manual washing, simply pop the plastics in the dishwasher and set them on a gentle cycle.
Just make sure to place them in a compartment where they won’t fall off. Otherwise, you can place them in a colander or in a netted bag before putting them in for washing. Afterward, air-dry the toys completely.
You can do this by laying them out on a rack or hanging them out in the netted bag to let the air flow through and dry the plastic material.
You can speed up the drying process by giving the toys a good wipe with a clean towel before laying them out to dry completely.
Make sure that they are absolutely dry in all corners and crevices before storing, or else they can develop odors or grow mold.
Rubber, Wood, and Board
These toys generally do not do well with water. As a rule, these toys must be kept as dry as possible at all times. Rubber might melt, discolor, or be disfigured in hot water.
Wood becomes warped and rough, and your baby’s cute little board book with the cute little alphabet animals will most likely end up into a soggy paper mache by the end of the wash.
The best way to go about these types of toys is by wiping them down with a disinfecting solution of diluted rubbing alcohol.
Simply mix equal parts of clean water with rubbing alcohol, dampen a clean lint-free cloth with this solution and allow them to air-dry.
Outdoor toys can be made of either wood, plastic, or metal (like little shovels and tin cups). If you have a lawn or a spacious yard and you want your little one to get in touch with nature, chances are, you might have purchased a few outdoor toys here and there.
These kinds of toys need special attention since they are exposed to soil, dirt, sand, and other external elements. For example, if you have a sandpit, the best way to keep mold at bay is to keep the sand dry by covering the pit when not in use.
Outdoor play equipment can be scrubbed with a detergent and water solution before being hosed down to rinse, then wiped with a clean towel and left to air dry.
All toys need to dry completely to discourage germ growth and avoid rusting for metal toys.
2. Cleaning Methods:
Conversely, you may also opt to sort the toys by the way that you wish to clean them.
This will work well if you have many toys to go through, such as when you are doing some general cleaning. Just as above, you can also place separate bins for washing, wiping, and sterilizing.
Before proceeding with this method, make sure that the toys you plan to wash are not battery-operated or degrade with water.
As mentioned above, you may use the washing machine for fabric-made toys, a dishwasher for plastic toys, or a good old basin and scrub to hand wash if you’ve got the time.
When washing with soap and water, make sure the water has some heat to cut through the dirt and grime that the toys usually have. It will also help if you use a disinfecting detergent or soap to kill bacteria and viruses that may be lurking around and inside your child’s toys.
Simply make sure that you rinse it off properly and adequately since residual soap on a child’s toy may pose a health hazard to your kids since they might place toys in their mouths and unintentionally ingest the leftover soap.
In the event of spills or accidents, you can simply wipe off the dirt or the spill to preserve much of the cleanliness of your baby’s toys. You can do so with a dry towel to absorb the liquid spill or stain.
However, for stains where a dry cloth simply can’t cut it, dampening a rag with a cleaning solution might be apter.
For smaller toys, you can do a 50-50 solution of water and rubbing alcohol to treat stains and sanitize.
For larger toys and play area surfaces, you can mix a tablespoon of bleach for every gallon of water. This will remove stains or odors and kill germs as well.
Wiping is also a great cleaning method for toys that contain batteries since these types of toys get easily damaged when washed.
If you feel that your baby’s toys need some serious sanitizing, you may opt to sterilize them. In addition, a slightly stronger bleach solution might be needed for playpens and large toys and areas.
For toys considered heat-safe, you may pop them into a large pot of boiling water for 10-15 minutes.
Sanitizing can be tricky if you are looking at different toys made up of different materials. However, the most modern way of sanitizing toys is UV sterilizers that are efficient in almost all materials.
These devices are either handheld and hovered over the materials or enclosed and cabinet-like in nature where you put in the things to be sterilized for a period of time.
UV sterilizers do not use heat or chemicals, so it is generally safe for use to nearly all types
3. When it’s time to clean:
Establish the frequency with which you should clean your toys. For example, you can do immediate spot-treatments, routine cleansing, an annual deep-cleaning, or better yet, a combination of the three.
When there is noticeable dirt/grime
You don’t really have to wash your baby’s toys after every use; otherwise, you’ll be spending half your child’s life cleaning their toys.
You may simply check the toys every day and spot ones that look extra grimy with dirt, food, dust, or saliva and have those cleaned as needed.
Routinely scheduled cleaning
If you want a more regular routine with cleaning those cute little toys, a good rule of thumb is to follow a weekly schedule for the most frequently used toys, such as those you bring about in daily trips with your baby or those that your baby is particularly fond of. The rest of the less-played toys can pass through a monthly or bi-monthly clean-up.
When or after your kiddo’s been sick
Sick babies usually do not have the appetite for play, but they might feel better with a toy or two on hand to keep them entertained while they recover.
It is important to ensure the cleanliness of these toys since they will most likely harbor the bacteria or virus that your child is currently recovering from. It will help your baby recover faster if all of their items, toys included, are clean and free from germs, which is why it is advisable to clean and disinfect these toys daily.
Choose a gentle way to disinfect these items since subjecting them to harsh heat or chemicals on the regular may damage them over time.
After play dates
Babies can have their own set of pint-sized visitors, too, so you may have to clean up before and after these visits.
Before the playdate, you may simply do a spot check to see which toys are too dirty to be shared and give them a good wipe or wash. This will ensure that none of your baby’s play dates contract anything from your play area.
Afterward, it is a good idea to clean all toys which have been used as your baby, or their friends may have put them in their mouths.
It is also possible that your baby’s little visitors might be sick but not showing it yet, so they might be contagious even if it is not obvious, so it is best also to disinfect the toys after the visit.
My Conclusion – Material, Method, Moment
Having a baby in the home means that cleanliness is among your top priorities. It goes along with other important matters like nutrition and the safety of your baby.
New parents might be overwhelmed by the amount of attention to detail that cleanliness may entail, and the sheer importance of clean toys, as well as the health risks associated with poor toy cleanliness, may seem daunting.
However, with these guidelines, you can simply put to mind three important things to organize your baby toy-cleaning routine: the type of material that the toy is made out of, the kind of cleaning method you can apply to a certain toy, and the right moment to clean.
Hopefully, you can have more confidence and efficiency in the future to clean your baby’s toys so that your little one can focus on growing and developing through play in a safe and clean environment with safe and clean materials.