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Playtime & Toys

The Best Way to Clean Baby Toys

From plastic to fabric, here's how to clean baby toys of all types

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Babies explore their environment by touching and tasting-so you can bet that every single toy in her room has been chewed or drooled on at least once. And because things constantly end up in their mouths, babies can easily pick up germs and illness. Here are the best ways to clean baby toys and keep baby toys safe:

Plastic
Submerge those neon-colored playthings in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes, says Jamie Novak, a cleaning and organizing guru and author of Keep This Toss That. "Carefully remove them from the water and allow them to cool off," she instructs. You can also run them through the dishwasher if they are made completely of plastic (no fabric, batteries or things with buttons that might not be water tight). Load toys in the silverware holder, a colander, or a lingerie bag to keep them from falling off the racks, use the gentlest cycle, and allow to air-dry, she explains. "If you need a little help with the cleaning, a toothbrush works to scrub small places," adds Heather Walker, founder of Functional Spaces Organizing. "And toothpicks are great for getting into tight crevices, too."

Wood
Toys made from natural wood will warp and become rough if dunked in water; instead, wipe them with a clean, lint-free cloth dipped in either a 50/50 mixture of distilled white vinegar and water or mild soapy water (think dish soap, hand soap, or a baby variety). Follow soapy cleansers with a towel dampened with plain water to remove residue (water and vinegar evaporate cleanly). "Tackle very dirty spots or stains with rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and then wipe with a damp cloth after," suggests Novak.

Fabric
Stuffed animals, cloth books, tummy time blankets, and other knitted toys can be spot cleaned with a baby wipe or put in your washing machine, recommends Novak. "For a deeper clean, pop fabric toys in a pillow case or lingerie bag and spin in the clothes dryer on medium heat for 15 minutes," she says. But don't launder plush toys that have a battery pack or make any kind of noise. (The water and vigorous spinning of the machine will render them silent!)

Board Books and Rubber Toys
These can also be cleaned with a cloth moistened with that same 50/50 mixture mentioned above. Stand up books and separate the pages while they dry.

Bath Toys
No, these objects aren't getting 'clean' each time your tot sits in the bubbles, so they do need attention more often than you think. "Soak bath toys in a 50/50 mixture of hot water and distilled white vinegar every week," says Novak. If they need more thorough cleaning, run them in the dishwasher (see 'Plastic', above).

Metal
Trucks, trains, and other metal playthings often have rubber wheels, so skip the dishwasher here because the heat may break down the material. Instead, sanitize them in a mixture of bleach and water. "Use a tablespoon of bleach diluted in a quart of water and allow the toys to air-dry," says Walker.

How often should you clean toys?
Don't go crazy scrubbing your baby's toys and other play equipment too frequently, but be sure to give them a good once-over when you notice they're particularly gummed up with food or saliva. "'Everyday toys,' which means those you carry in the diaper bag or your baby's favorites, should be cleaned weekly," says Novak.

You should also clean her toys thoroughly in the following instances:
• When your baby is recovering from an illness like diarrhea or a cold
• After a play date since other children have put your baby's toys in their mouths
• If the toy hasn't been played with in awhile (it's still probably harboring bacteria!)