These Are the Safest Ways to Disinfect Your Kids' Toys

Kids' toys can be a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. Here's how to sanitize them.

To your kids, there's nothing as special as a shiny new toy. But as you come to find, the novelty wears off quickly—almost as quickly as the toy gets dirty. And while the toy might lose its immaculate sparkle, there's something more to worry about: It also becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. The key is to keep your kids' toys as clean as possible, so they can continue to play and stay healthy. We consulted the experts to learn the safest ways to clean toys—from the softest of stuffed animals to everyday baby toys (the ones that inevitably end up in their mouths at least twice a day). Keep reading and discover the most effective ways to disinfect kids' toys. And if you're wondering what products to use, here are 5 Disinfectants That Kill Coronavirus in 30 Seconds or Less.

Use your dishwasher.

Disinfecting toys in dish washer

The best way to clean your kids' toys: sanitize, and sanitize often—around once a week if you can. That's where your dishwasher comes in. "If your dishwasher has a 'sanitize' button or setting, you're home free," explains Curtis Eggemeyer, CEO of Lemi Shine. "Or just put everything on the top shelf and run a hot, short cycle to get rid of the gunk and germs."

Of course, this comes with its limitations. Always consider the toy's label to make sure it won't melt, discolor, or somehow get damaged by the wash, advises Jennie Varney, brand manager for Molly Maid. On the other hand, to go the extra mile with toys that are safe to toss in the dishwasher, consider using bleach. And to learn more about what can and can't be sanitized, check out our article: Is It Safe to Sanitize Your Phone? Here's What You Can't Disinfect.

Toss them in the washing machine.

Teddy bear in washing machine

For softer toys, such as stuffed animals, blankets, and fabric books, give them a run through the washing machine and dryer, using simple soap and water. "Chances are, they'll come out just fine," says Kadi Dulude, owner at Wizard of Homes NYC. "Just watch out for parts that are glued on or glittery. Don't wash those toys." If you're worried about tossing them in the dryer, you can line dry or lay flat—just keep them away from your kids until they're completely dry. And for more on doing laundry during the pandemic, make sure you know these 7 Coronavirus Laundry Tips You Need to Start Following.

Hand wash baby toys nightly.

Baby toy disinfecting machine

A weekly clean is fine for kids' toys, but baby toys are a different story. You'll want to wash anything they play with nightly. "Anything they get their hands on goes directly into their mouth," explains Jan M. Dougherty, author of The Lost Art of House Cleaning. "When my kids were babies, I simply washed all their stuff in the sink every night after they went to bed." Just use a gentle soap and water to create a bath for all the toys. And for more cleaning advice to follow, try these 15 Expert Tips for Disinfecting Your House for Coronavirus.

Wipe down all outdoor toys.

Girl washing play car

Sunlight might be called the best disinfectant, but that doesn't mean it's enough. With warmer days ahead, your kids will likely spend more time outside—in the yard, in the park, and certainly playing with outdoor toys. "Use wipes to quickly tackle bigger items like sand tables, bikes, and play furniture," suggests Eggemeyer. "Give balls, shovels, and small outdoor toys a regular wash down in a tub of warm water with a little concentrated dish soap." This will make sure they stay in tip-top shape, too, so they're safe to play with all summer long. And to make sure you're avoiding the wrong cleaning products, discover 7 Cleaning Supplies That Don't Actually Kill Coronavirus.

Toss the toys you can't disinfect.

Dirty toys to throw out

Some toys are past the point of no return—particularly the ones that can't be sanitized effectively. Instead of trying to clean them, it might be best to toss them and replace them with something safe and new. Ultimately, it's up to your discretion, but Varney suggests, "If the toy is broken and has a sharp edge, or has become a choking hazard, throw it away. If it simply looks dirty or ragged, but can still be disinfected, there's no need to throw it away."

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Jen Anderson
Jen Anderson is a health and lifestyle writer. Read more
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