How to Clean Kids Toys (and the Health Risks if You Don't) (2023)

Kids— they bring life, energy, adventure, and joy to your life; but one thing they shouldn’t bring is germs.

Protecting your kids’ toyscan be a simple, effective way to keep germs at bay and keep kids safe from viral infections, bacteria, and contagious bugs.

When not properly cleaned, children’s toys can serve as a host for a wide variety of infectious diseases.

Kids and the Risks of Infected Toys

Kids tend to have weaker immune systems than healthy adults, which can make it especially easy for them to pass contagious germs amongst themselves. They cough and sneeze directly on toys, as well as put their hands in their mouth. These are all quick ways for germs to travel, making it critical to minimize the germ risk as much as you can.

How to Clean Kids Toys (and the Health Risks if You Don't) (1)

Children can pass any number of infections back and forth to each other, but here are thetop 10 disease offenders for children.

  1. Common Cold (Rhinovirus)
  2. Flu (Influenza)
  3. Strep Throat
  4. Gastrointestinal (Rotavirus)
  5. Pink Eye
  6. RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection)
  7. Chicken Pox
  8. Head Lice
  9. Pinworms
  10. Ear Infections

Toys can be an especially good harboring ground for these types of infections and contagious diseases since they are often used multiple times a day, and by many children at a time. As mentioned above, children coughing, sneezing, or putting their hand to their mouth are all potential ways for germs to quickly spread from toys to children.

Here are a number ofresources that outline some common infections that children are prone to, through the spread via infected toys, as well as how to recognize the signs of a dangerous play area.

  • Common Infection Illnesses– What could be lurking on your toys? Check out this table for common childhood illnesses, how they’re spread, how to prevent the spread, and any recommended incubation period.
  • How to Recognize Common Childhood Illnesses– This article includes an extensive list of common contagious infections in children and how to spot them.
  • Kids and Germs– This is a quick overview of what germs are, when to use soap vs. hand sanitizer, and other tips to stay healthy.
  • How Long Can Germs Hang Around?– This study finds that toys, books, and cribs can hold onto germs for much longer than expected, even without a human host.
  • Are Your Child’s Toys Making Them Sick?– This article outlines the risk for germ spread on plastic toys
  • Health Hints For Preventing Contagious Disease– In a childcare setting, children may be especially susceptible to catching bugs that are passed around the classroom. This article features ways to reduce the spread of contagious illness among children in daycare settings.

How to Prevent the Spread of Germs

As listed above, there are many diseases, viruses, and other infections that can be passed through children’s toys. Preventing the spread of germs around via children’s toys is a vital part of maintaining healthy immune systems in children.

There aremany ways to prevent the spread of germs, especially when it comes to children’s toys:

Wash Hands

Washing your hands with soap and clear, running water is one of the best ways to kill germs that are already on your hand. Use warm water and wash for at least 20 seconds, according to the CDC.

How to Clean Kids Toys (and the Health Risks if You Don't) (2)

Well-washed hands not only could keep you from spreading germs onto clean toys, but it also could protect you from germs already on the toys. Remember to wash your hands before and after using toys that other people have also used.

Stay Home When Sick

If you think your children may have a virus or other contagious disease, try to keep them home and away from other kids if possible. This is important todecrease the chance of the virus spreading.

Symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and a cough can all be extremely contagious, especially for children with these symptoms who share toys with others. When in doubt, it is usually best to keep your child home.

Clean Toys

Cleaning toys is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs in a childcare or educational facility. Toys go from hand to hand, and sometimes mouth to mouth, making it vital that they are cleaned every single day.

But what does that mean exactly?How do you clean toys?

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The process of cleaning toys involves three main steps.

  1. Clean– Wipe off dirt or debris with soap and water.
  2. Sanitize– Reduces the number of germs on any inanimate object to levels considered safe by public health codes or regulations.
  3. Disinfect– Destroys or inactivates most germs on any inanimate object, excluding bacterial spores.

Below are resources on how to, and the importance of, cleaning kids toys.

How to Clean Toys

Knowing the proper way to clean and disinfect toys is the first step in preventing the spread of germs.

Different toys may call for different cleaning techniques, so it may be best to sort through the types of toys before starting to clean.

Water + Soap Solution

Warm water with a splash of soap is a quick and easy way to clean and disinfect toys. In the same way as how you can wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs, using soap and water to clean toys can stop germs in their tracks.

How to Clean Kids Toys (and the Health Risks if You Don't) (4)

Use a bowl or clean sink to mix together the soap and water. You can wash the toys using a damp cloth and wiping it on or submerging the toy in the solution (if it’s 100% plastic with no electronic parts).

Water + Vinegar Solution

You can also try cleaning with one part white distilled vinegar and two parts water. You can mix the solution beforehand in a clear container or a spray bottle. Apply to the toys with a damp cloth, wiping down all surfaces of the toy. Disinfecting with vinegar is effective as vinegar is a natural disinfectant and is non-toxic.

Bleach Solution

Cleaning children’s toys with bleach solutions can be extremely effective at killing germs, but also potentially harmful, as bleach is toxic if ingested.If you do choose to clean with bleach, use a prediluted solution or make a solution at home using one-part bleach with 10-parts water.

Wipe down the toys with the solution using a cloth and then follow up using a damp cloth with just water to ensure that no bleach remains on the toys.

Always allow time for the toys to air dry after cleaning. As a precautionary tip, be careful when using bleach cleaners on colored toys, whether they be wood, plastic or otherwise. Cleaners with bleach or chlorine can take the paint off colored toys and ruin them.


Some toys can even be washed directly in the dishwasher. Place small plastic toys on the top rack of the dishwasher. If the toys contain small parts, consider placing them in a small silverware basket before starting the cycle.

Never use a heated dry cycle for children’s toysas the heat can release toxins from certain plastics or ruin the toy.


If you’re in a pinch and looking for a quick clean, you can also wipe down children’s toys quickly using wipes.Some baby wipes use all-natural ingredientsand natural disinfectants while others take slightly harsher approaches for a more antibacterial type of clean.

For specialty cleaning, there are cleaning wipes that contain bleach for the ultimate disinfecting properties. Of course, these are not considered “baby wipes” as it is never safe to use bleach directly on a child’s skin.

Cleaning Kids’ Toys by Type

Plastic Toys

Many toys that are 100% plastic can be washed using any of the methods listed above. Make sure that the toys have no electronic parts before putting the toys in the dishwasher or submerging in any cleaning solution.

Wood Toys

To clean wood toys, you can also use any of the cleaning methods above. You could also use a commercial wood cleaner to wipe down the toys. As a note, never use wood polish on children’s toys since these toys often end up in their mouth.

Fabric Toys & Stuffed Animals

For fabric toys, you can easilythrow these into the washing machine, on a gentle cycle.Use a detergent and warm water for best results.

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You can either air dry or pop into the dryer on low heat for 15-20 minutes. For sensitive toys, try putting the items in a pillow case or mesh bag so they aren’t damaged in the tumble. Of course, make sure that the fabric toys have no electronic parts or sound boxes, as these are not safe to launder.

Board Books

Board books can be cleaned with soap and water, water and vinegar, or cleaning wipes, for best results. Be sure to wipe down all sides of the book and interior pages and let them dry completely.

How Often Should You Clean Kids’ Toys?

Depending on the type of toy, you may need to clean it more often or less often.

Toys that children put in their mouth should be cleaned after each use. Other toys that have less contact can be cleaned less often. When possible, replacing inexpensive toys (like play dough, slime, or other sensory play items) is the best practice to keep germs from harboring.

Just as you clean kid’s toys, it is equally as important to clean the play area where you child spends their time.Vacuuming the carpets, mopping the floors, and disinfecting furniture and other surfaces are important parts of keeping your area clean and germ-free.

For reference, here are someresources forcleaning schedulesfor kid-friendly environments:

  • Child Care Cleaning & Disinfecting Schedule– This schedule breaks down how often to clean toys, play areas, sleep areas, feeding areas, and restroom / diaper changing areas.
  • Classroom Cleaning Checklist– For daycare centers or schools, this printable checklist walks you through each part of a classroom and how to make sure that the area is clean.
  • Whole Home Maintenance Checklist– A clean home can extend beyond the toys you put in it. Use this checklist to keep all areas of your house clean and well-maintained.

More Resources

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What is the safest way to clean kids toys? ›

Mix a bowl of warm water and hand soap (or dish soap). Dip a washcloth or sponge into the soapy solution and clean the entire toy. Follow up with a damp washcloth that's only wet with water (no soap). Allow the toy to air dry completely or blow dry with a hair dryer.

How do you disinfect a large amount of toys? ›

The best sanitizing agent for hard-shelled toys (i.e., plastic toys) is a mixture of water and bleach. The proper ratio of water-to-bleach for a safe sanitizing solution is 1.5 teaspoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water. A water/bleach solution is ideal because it is: Approved by state licensing/certification.

How do you disinfect toys after illness? ›

Mix 1 teaspoon of bleach with 5 liters of water and soak the toys in the solution for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly and let them air dry. For a natural disinfectant, try a mix of white vinegar and water. Just mix equal parts in a spray bottle and spritz it on the rubber toys.

What is the 3 step cleaning process for toys? ›

  1. Step 1: Clean. • Wash and scrub toys thoroughly with soap or detergent and warm water to remove. most dirt, grime, and saliva.
  2. Step 2: Rinse. •
  3. Step 3: Sanitize. •

How do you clean old toys without damaging them? ›

To give toys a wipe down, just make a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water (or just plain white vinegar if you don't mind the smell) in a spray bottle. Spray down toys, let sit for a few minutes, then rinse off and let air dry.

How do you disinfect toys naturally? ›

Vinegar is an all-natural disinfectant, making it perfect for cleaning kid's toys. Here's the best types of vinegar to use for cleaning. Fill your sink with equal parts vinegar and water, then place the toys in to soak. Allow them to soak in the mixture for 15 minutes, then drain the water and rinse the toys.

Is it safe to spray toys with Lysol? ›

For larger toys, use Lysol® All-Purpose Cleaner and then rinse with water after use. Whichever product you use, always remember to follow the label instructions. Ensuring baby's toys are sanitized is bound to be a high priority, but it needn't be a source of worry.

What do daycares use to clean toys? ›

If there is dirt or grime I the grooves, use a scrub brush to remove. Allow the toy to dry completely and then wipe the toy with a cloth that has been soaked in a disinfecting solution (ex. bleach and water solution or another EPA approved disinfectant.

What is the best thing to disinfect toys? ›

White vinegar is one of the best ways to sanitize toys. It's a safe, proven solution multipurpose cleaner; it's particularly good for disinfecting toys because of its high acidity.

How long can bacteria live on toys? ›

Previously it was believed that the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenes would not survive long on inanimate items like furniture, toys, or dishes. But a recent study from the University of Buffalo shows that this bacteria can actually live for weeks or even months on inanimate items.

How long does bacteria live on plastic toys? ›

Your preschooler is sick — again. It could be other kids spreading germs through close contact, but toys could also be the culprit. A new study from Georgia State University found that germs can survive on toys for up to 24 hours.

How do you disinfect used kids toys? ›

If you are washing toys and toys only, consider adding a half-cup of bleach to your dishwasher or washing machine. If you are soaking your toys in the sink, we recommend adding a half-cup of bleach per gallon of water. Let the toys soak for about five minutes, rinse and then air dry.

What age should kids clean up their own toys? ›

Most children are capable of cleaning up after themselves by 18 months, but children can be increasingly independent with age and practice.

How often do toys need to be sanitized? ›

Hard plastic and bath toys are the easiest to clean, so you should clean and sanitize them weekly (especially if they're played with daily). Toys that don't get played with as much and stuffed animals can be cleaned a couple times a month or as needed.

Can you clean toys with vinegar and water? ›

Simply combine equal parts vinegar and water or mix water with one tablespoon of baking soda to create a cleaning solution. Place solid plastic toys in the mixture, and let them soak before rinsing off and drying. For wooden or electronic toys, dampen a towel with the mixture and wipe down the toy's surface.

Is cleaning with vinegar safe for babies? ›

Vinegar: Make sure the vinegar you use states food grade; safe for pickles or made from grain on the label otherwise it is made from petroleum. Vinegar has been proven to kill more germs than bleach. Mix 1 part vinegar per 5 parts water to clean baby furniture and surfaces in the nursery.

How do you clean toys after mold exposure? ›

Mix together one gallon of water and ½ cup of white vinegar. Let the toys soak in the mixture for one hour. Squeeze them out and scrub them down. After letting them dry, if they still smell like vinegar, rinse them off and lay them out to dry again.

What is a natural disinfectant for children's toys? ›

Get 1/2 a cup of white vinegar and 1/2 a cup of distilled water. Add a few drops of tea tree oil and lemon oil (these essential oils are used to fight bacterial and viral properties). Once you have a batch mixed together, pour this into a spray bottle and wipe down the toys you want to disinfect.

Does dish soap disinfect toys? ›

Disinfect Plastic Baby Toys in the Dishwasher

You could also wash plastic baby toys by hand with an antibacterial dish soap, then submerge them in a solution of a one-quarter teaspoon household bleach and a one quart water.

Does hydrogen peroxide disinfect toys? ›

Disinfect toys and surfaces when you can. Dishwashers are a convenient and effective way to disinfect some toys. Chemicals such as ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and bleach are used to disinfect surfaces and objects.

Should kids use Clorox wipes? ›

Children should not apply disinfectants, including disinfectant cleaning wipes. All disinfectant labels include the statement “Keep Out of Reach of Children,” as children are considered a sensitive population.

How do you disinfect toys after hand foot and mouth? ›

Disinfect dirty surfaces and soiled items:

If you are able, first wash items with soap and water, then disinfect them with a solution of chlorine bleach (made by mixing 1 tablespoon of bleach with 4 cups of water) or a cleaning product that contains bleach.

What is a safe disinfectant for baby toys? ›

You likely own a number of cleaning products that are safe to use on plastic baby toys, such as Clorox or Lysol wipes, 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, and chlorine bleach.

Can I clean baby toys with Clorox wipes? ›

When used as directed, bleach and water solutions made with Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach will safely sanitize or disinfect hard non-porous surfaces in baby's room and around your home, including baby toys.

What is a non toxic disinfectant? ›

Use eco-friendly liquid castile soap diluted or at full strength to reduce the amount of all germs and chemicals. With proper washing, soap works well on most viruses, even better than disinfectants, wipes and gels containing alcohol, because soap dissolves the virus's fat membrane.

How do you disinfect toys without bleach? ›

Wipe each toy down with a solution that is equal parts white vinegar and water. Alternatively, you may substitute the vinegar with a couple of drops of a mild soap (like dish soap). Use a dampened towel to wipe away any residue. Allow the toys to air dry on a clean, dry towel.

Can I spray disinfectant on kids toys? ›

Or you could use a sanitizing spray like the Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface Spray. It's powerful enough to kill 99.9% of germs and gentle enough to use around kids. Ensure the toy is thoroughly wet and let stand for 2 minutes, then wipe it or let it air dry. There's no need to rinse.

How often should toys be cleaned in childcare? ›

Clean toys when visibly dirty and at least once a week. If toys are used a lot, clean them daily. Remove toys, that children have put in their mouths or that have other body fluids on them, from the play area until they can be cleaned.

Can you use Pine Sol to disinfect toys? ›

Pine-Sol can be used on plastic toys, home decor, and yard ornaments to clean and disinfect. Dilute ⅛ cup of Pine-Sol in a half-gallon of water and wipe down the surfaces with the mixture.

Can I get an infection from a toy? ›

Yes. An individual can become infected with an STD by an adult toy previously used by another person.

How do you disinfect non toxic baby toys? ›

Instead of using a harsh chemical like bleach, consider cleaning toys with an eco-friendly and chemical-free cleaning solution of vinegar and water. Create a mixture of one part water with one part vinegar (add an essential oil if you want to cut the smell of vinegar) and get to cleaning!

How long to soak toys in bleach water to disinfect? ›

Drop smaller toys into the bleach and water solution and stir with the spoon so all surfaces stay wet for 6 minutes. For larger toys that won't fit easily in the dishpan, use the sponge to apply the bleach and water solution to the toy. Reapply the solution as needed to keep the toy wet for 6 minutes.

Are old plastic toys harmful? ›

Toxic chemicals in most old toys

The hazardous chemicals that were discovered included phthalates and short chain chlorinated paraffins used as plasticizers and flame retardants in toys.

Are old plastic toys safe? ›

Playing with old plastic toys may not be good for your child's health. Toxins found in old toys and dress-up items made of plastic. Reuse and recycling of old products helps prevent environmental degradation and can significantly reduce air and water pollution.

Which bacteria kills plastic? ›

Ideonella is exciting because it's particularly adept at breaking down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – the plastic we use to make things like plastic bottles and synthetic fleece. In the right conditions, scientists have shown that these microbes can fully degrade PET in about six weeks.

How do you disinfect toys from a thrift store? ›

  1. Put them in a mesh bag in the washing machine (dry on low heat for just a few minutes if necessary). ...
  2. Put them in the top rack of the dishwasher (in a mesh bag if necessary) and do NOT use the heat dry function.
  3. Wash them in bleach water or soapy water in the sink or bathtub.
Jan 22, 2018

What is the 20 toy rule? ›

We can throw some things away and give some things away, but at the end of it all, you are only going to have 20 toys left.” We called it The 20-Toy Rule. 20 toys sounds like a lot… or maybe it doesn't. But you'd be surprised at how many things children can accumulate.

What age should you stop cleaning your child's room? ›

“My rule of thumb is, you let kids be responsible for their own rooms when you know they can do the job, because you've taught them how to do the job,” she says. If they can make a bed, put away clothes and pick up toys, you can hand over room responsibility (usually around age seven).

Should a 7 year old clean up after themselves? ›

Asking children to tidy up after themselves gives them discipline, skills, and a sense of responsibility and pride. These qualities will be useful as they grow older and become "messy" teenagers; they'll be much more likely to keep their things tidy if they've always had the responsibility to do so.

Can I spray stuffed animals with Lysol? ›

While it's tempting to use spray disinfectant to sanitize toys, especially in cold and flu season, the chemicals could damage the synthetic fur. Whether you're washing one or multiple stuffed toys, protect each by putting them in a zippered pillowcase or mesh bag.

What is the best way to clean kids toys? ›

Mix a bowl of warm water and hand soap (or dish soap). Dip a washcloth or sponge into the soapy solution and clean the entire toy. Follow up with a damp washcloth that's only wet with water (no soap). Allow the toy to air dry completely or blow dry with a hair dryer.

Can you use baby wipes to clean toys? ›

Clean toy tips

In a pinch, a disinfectant wipe, a baby wipe, or hand soap and water, can safely clean a toy that's dropped on the floor of a restaurant or at the playground.

Is it safe to clean kids toys with Lysol wipes? ›

Plastic baby and children's toys can be disinfected and sanitized with Clorox or Lysol wipes or a cloth wet with a mixture of 1/2 cup chlorine bleach and one gallon of water. Make sure you let the toys air dry for 30 seconds or more to let the cleaning solution do its work.

Can I use Lysol wipes on kids toys? ›

To sanitize hard, non-porous baby toys that have batteries or can't be washed in the washing machine, simply wipe down with a cloth using a solution of soap and warm water. Dry, and then wipe down with a Lysol® Disinfecting Wipe.

Are Clorox wipes safe for baby toys? ›

When used as directed, bleach and water solutions made with Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach will safely sanitize or disinfect hard non-porous surfaces in baby's room and around your home, including baby toys.

What products are best to clean kids toys? ›

Use these supplies to clean baby's toys at home or on the go.
  • Award-winning detergent. Dreft Stage 1: Newborn Hypoallergenic Liquid Baby Laundry Detergent. $20 See More.
  • Handy disinfecting wipes. Seventh-Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Wipes. $6 See More.
  • Fragrance-free soap. Babyganics Foaming Dish & Bottle Soap.
Apr 15, 2022

How do you disinfect kids toys without bleach? ›

Water + Soap Solution

Warm water with a splash of soap is a quick and easy way to clean and disinfect toys. In the same way as how you can wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs, using soap and water to clean toys can stop germs in their tracks.

Is it safe to spray Lysol on baby crib? ›

Make sure you thoroughly wipe the detergent from the crib mattress to ensure that no residue is left. Spritz the mattress all over with Lysol® Disinfectant Spray. This will ensure that mold and bacteria don't have a chance to latch onto the damp mattress.

Where should you not use Clorox wipes? ›

Don't use them on other absorbent surfaces.

Like most disinfectants, Clorox wipes are approved for disinfecting only non-porous surfaces. It's best to avoid unfinished, unsealed, unpainted, waxed, oiled, or worn surfaces.

How do you make non-toxic cleaner for baby toys? ›

Get 1/2 a cup of white vinegar and 1/2 a cup of distilled water. Add a few drops of tea tree oil and lemon oil (these essential oils are used to fight bacterial and viral properties). Once you have a batch mixed together, pour this into a spray bottle and wipe down the toys you want to disinfect.


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