A Parent's Guide: How to Clean Baby Toys

Here's how to keep your baby happy and healthy by effectively cleaning their favorite toys.

Sean Jackson
Sean Jackson is a creative copywriter living in Florida. He's had work published with Realtor.com, theScore, ESPN, and the San Francisco Chronicle. In his free time, Sean likes to play drums, fail miserably at improv and spend time at the beach.
Sean Jackson
6 min read
Hands in rubber gloves cleaning baby toys with a spray bottle and cloth
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Baby toys endure a lot, especially when they become your child's prized possession. Over time, that new, pristine doll slowly morphs into something that resembles a horror movie villain. While your impulse might be to throw it out, you know your baby values that grungy thing more than anything else.

It leaves you with only one option: cleaning these toys. Our guide tackles why you should clean them regularly and how to clean different materials. 

Why is cleaning toys important?

Think about all the germs your baby carries and how they interact with their toys. Toys get coated with spit-up, snot and other less pleasant substances. If you don't clean these toys regularly, they can harbor germs, bacteria and viruses that make your baby sick.

According to WebMD, babies are two to three times more likely to get the flu than adults. Dr. Neil Schachter of Mount Sinai explains in the article, "Their airways are narrow, so every germ gets stuck, and they have not yet developed immunity to many viruses." 

Furthermore, when children share toys with others during playtime, there's a higher risk of transmitting germs. Therefore, keeping toys clean is essential to reducing your child's likelihood of getting sick. 

Read more: Does Your Baby Need Toys? What Developmental Experts Say

How often should I clean my child's toys?

There are several factors you should consider. One, how often does your child play with that specific toy? They'll likely have their favorites, and these are the ones that never leave their side. 

You should also factor in the interaction your child has with the toy. The ones they put in their mouth require more regular cleanings. Here is a guideline for when you should clean each toy based on its material:

Plush toys:You can throw some plush toys into your washing machine, though you'll want to inspect the cleaning guidelines first. If you can, and your child sleeps with the toy, wash it every week to every other week, depending on use and condition.

Plastic toys:These toys are easier to clean. You can use wipes to clean and sanitize these toys weekly

Electronic toys:You have to be more careful with electronic toys, as you can clean and sanitize the screens only. Do this weekly or more often, especially if your child has been sick recently. 

Chew/teething toys:Any toy your baby puts in their mouth should receive a cleaning daily.

How to clean plush toys

A child's hand poking a toy in a washing machine

A washing machine is one of the five things you will need.

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Start by checking the cleaning instructions that came with the toy. Some plush ones you can toss in the washer, while others are spot-clean only. 

Materials needed:

  • Pillowcase (if the toy can go into the washing machine)
  • A vacuum cleaner with an attachment
  • Warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Clean cloths (two)

Steps for machine washing

Step 1: Group machine-washable toys in a pillowcase. Doing this prevents them from getting damaged during the cycle. Good Housekeeping recommends selecting the warm, gentle and slow spin on your washing machine. 

Step 2: Once they're washed, you can dry the toys by putting the pillowcase in the dryer on a low-tumble setting. 

Step 3: Alternatively, you can dry each one using a hair dryer on a low setting. For fluffy toys, add more heat to fluff them. 

Steps for hand-washing

Step 1: Create a sudsy solution by mixing an approved cleaning solution with warm water (your toy should have instructions indicating which cleansers are OK).

Step 2:Dip a clean cloth into the cleanser and wring it.

Step 3:Clean the entire toy, paying close attention to cracks and crevices.

Step 4: Next, take a clean cloth and run it under the water.

Step 5: Use the damp cloth to rinse the toy.

Step 6: Let the toy air-dry.

Step 7:Use the vacuum attachment on a low setting to remove dust and other accumulated particles. 

How to clean plastic toys

Person in rubber gloves cleaning a toy truck with a cloth

Use Clorox or Lysol to clean your baby's plastic toys.

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Some plastic toys are dishwasher-safe. These go in the top rack. Meanwhile, other plastic toys require a simple hand-wash, but you'll need a few supplies.

Materials needed:

  • Cleaning wipes (such as Lysol or Clorox wipes), or
  • ½ cup chlorine bleach if you don't plan to use wipes
  • Warm water
  • Mesh bag (for smaller dishwasher-approved toys)

Steps for dishwasher-approved toys

Step 1: Place smaller toys in a mesh bag on the top rack of your dishwasher. Larger toys can rest on the rack. 

Step 2: Select the regular cycle with heated dry on your dishwasher.

Step 3: Allow the toys to air-dry before giving them back to your child. 

Steps for hand-cleaning

Step 1:Rinse the toy thoroughly to remove any particles. 

Step 2: Wipe the entire surface of the toy with a cleaning wipe. You can mix a solution of 1 gallon of warm water with half a cup of chlorine bleach instead. When sanitizing, pay attention to the cleaning instructions from the toy manufacturer, as they indicate how long to sanitize the toy. 

Step 3:If you use a bleach-water solution, let the toy sanitize for at least 5 minutes.

Step 4: Rinse each plastic toy thoroughly with warm water to remove all cleaning solution.

Step 5: Let the toy air-dry.

Step 6: Inspect the toy for remnants of cleaning solution, and if you find any, repeat steps 4 and 5. 

How to clean electronic toys

Person in rubber gloves cleaning a toy's screen with a baby in the background

Sanitize the toy with disinfectant spray or wipes. 

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Electronic toys are often the most delicate because you can only clean the surface, and they may have screens, which require special care. Here are the materials you need and steps to make this kind of toy look as good as new.

Materials needed:

  • Warm water
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • 4 teaspoons of chlorine bleach (if you don't have wipes) or dish soap if approved by the manufacturer
  • Clean cloths (three)

Steps for electronic toys

Step 1:Power off the toy before you begin cleaning.

Step 2:Next, remove the batteries and reattach the cover. 

Step 3: Take a clean cloth and dip it in warm, sudsy water. 

Step 4: Wring out the cloth well and scrub every inch of the toy (except the screen if it has one, see above), paying careful attention to the areas most used and being careful not to get water in the cracks of the covered battery section. 

Step 5: Dampen another clean cloth to rinse the toy.

Step 6: Sanitize the toy with sanitizing or alcohol wipes. If you do not have either on hand, you can create a sanitizing solution by mixing 4 teaspoons of chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of warm water. 

Step 7: Run another clean cloth under warm water, wring it and then rinse the toy. 

Step 8:Let it air-dry. 

Tips for cleaning toys

Here are some things to consider when learning how to clean toys.

Read the instructions

Each toy comes with cleaning instructions. If you accidentally threw them away, you can find them online. Paying close attention to these instructions helps you learn the most effective way to keep the toy clean, the materials you can use to clean it and how often you should do it. 

Be careful with toys containing metal parts

Some plush toys come with noisemakers or battery packs. Don't put these kinds of toys in the dishwasher. Instead, spot-clean them using cleaning wipes. 

Prevent mold growth

Some toys have holes in them, and if they're submerged in water regularly, they could become susceptible to mold growth. Squeeze, shake and tip the toy upside down to remove as much water as possible, and allow them to air-dry between each use. This helps prevent mold growth from happening. If you do notice mold growing, toss the toy immediately.

Rinse toys thoroughly

If you're cleaning a toy your child likes to put in their mouth, consider giving it an extra rinse after sanitizing it to remove any remaining cleaning solution particles, preventing your child from ingesting them.

Store toys in a clean space

Unless you plan to give your child the toy immediately after cleaning it, store it in a dry, clean space. That way, it's ready to go and you don't have to give it another cleaning before use. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.