Angela, it’s good to keep baby gear and toys clean. Babies are constantly touching things and putting their hands and objects in their mouths, so they can pick up germs and illnesses easily. You can reduce your baby’s chance of catching illnesses by keeping your baby’s toys and equipment clean.
There are two basic steps to cleaning baby toys and equipment:
: That is, scrubbing with soap and warm water. It removes the grease and grime and washes off many germs. You don’t need to use anti-bacterial soap. Regular dish soap is fine.
: This is done with a sanitizing solution. It kills most of the dangerous germs. But the surface needs to be cleaned before it’s sanitised, since germs can hide in grease and grime. An inexpensive, effective and safe sanitizing solution can be made from diluting household liquid chlorine bleach—1 tablespoon of bleach in 1 quart of water or ¼ cup of bleach in a gallon of water. Properly diluted bleach is considered non-toxic and safe for cleaning children’s equipment since the chlorine evaporates within minutes. You can also use other approved sanitizing solutions if the label states they are non-toxic. Be sure to follow the directions carefully.
There are different ways of cleaning and sanitizing toys and equipment, depending on the size and the type of material:
- Small plastic toys:
- In the dishwasher: Plastic toys that don’t have batteries can be easily washed in the dishwasher with dish detergent and hot water. This cleans and sanitises them.
- By hand: If you don’t have a dishwasher, you can wash plastic toys in the sink with a clean sponge or rag, soap and warm water. Be sure to scrub off any dried food, grease and grime. After washing, sanitise the toys by dipping them in the diluted bleach solution, and let them air-dry in a dish rack. For toys with batteries, clean the outside with soap and water, then wipe with the bleach solution and let air-dry.
- Larger plastic, metal or wooden toys and equipment:
- Clean the surface with soap and water, then wipe with the diluted bleach solution and let air-dry.
- Fabric toys and equipment:
- Wash in the laundry with laundry soap and hot water.
How often should toys and equipment be cleaned and sanitised? You don’t need to drive yourself crazy cleaning your baby’s toys and equipment every mument. But it’s good to clean toys and equipment at certain times:
- When you notice they’re soiled, e.g., after food is spilled on the high chair tray.
- When your baby is recovering from an illness such as diarrhea or a cold.
- After a play date, when other children have put your baby’s toys in their mouths.
- On a regular basis, e.g., at the end of every month.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.