Baby toys have a rough life.
They get tossed around. Rolled around in the dust and dirt.
Drooled on. Stepped on. Thrown up on.
And no matter how dirty they get, babies want to put them right back into their mouths!
So it’s no wonder that keeping baby toys clean and disinfected is a pretty important job. But how exactly do you clean baby toys? What do you clean baby toys with?
The easiest and safest way to clean most baby toys is to wash them with gentle dish soap and warm water. Then let them air dry completely before you put them back.
But there are lots of intricacies for certain kinds of toys, and plenty of other options. So let’s dive in a little deeper.
Keep going for instructions and how to sanitize:
- Rubber, plastic, and silicone toys
- Toys with batteries
- Wooden toys
- Plush toys and stuffed animals
- Plus, whether you can clean baby toys in the washing machine or use essential oils.
How often should you clean baby toys?
Do you need to clean your baby’s blocks, books, and teethers every day? Every week? Every month?
The answer really depends on a lot of different factors, as well as the kind of toy.
In general, it’s probably less often than you think.
Here are just a few of the reasons you might want to stop what you’re doing and clean off your child’s favorite toys ASAP:
- Your baby or another kid playing with the toys has been sick
- A kid other than your own has put the toy in their mouth
- The toy is visibly or obviously dirty or dusty
- It’s been a really long time since you cleaned it
Outside of those core reasons, which are pretty self-explanatory, most experts and pediatricians agree that you don’t need to be overly diligent about regular cleaning.
A good cleaning and disinfecting once a month or so should be plenty for most baby toys.
If it’s a toy your baby uses (and mouths, and drops on the ground) pretty much every day, clean it more regularly. Once a week should be good.
How to clean rubber and plastic baby toys (plastic blocks, teethers, etc.)
Most toys that are made completely of rubber or hard plastic can be hand washed in the sink with hot water and a gentle dish detergent.
If you’re worried about the detergent, just remember you’re probably already washing baby’s:
- sippy cups
- and dishware with it!
One option for more cautious parents is to buy a special dish soap that’s meant for baby bottles, dishes, and toys. Babyganics is a solid and trustworthy brand, and they’ve got a really gentle and effective dish soap for this exact purpose (link will take you to Amazon).
A lot of hard plastic baby toys can also be run directly through the dishwasher, which is awesome for completely sterilizing any and all germs.
(Most toys should say either directly on them or in the packaging/instructions whether they are dishwasher safe.)
If you don’t have a dishwasher, many hard plastic and some rubber toys can be boiled in a pot of water for about 3 minutes. Again, it should say on the packaging if the toy is safe to be boiled.
A couple of important notes to remember:
- If you dishwash baby toys, secure them in a bing or the silverware holder before running the load
- Don’t put electric toys or toys that use batteries through the dishwasher!
- Always check to make sure a toy is dishwasher or boiling water safe before you do it
- It’s probably best to use a new or dedicated sponge just for baby toys, and not the same old one you use for household dishes
How to clean baby toys with batteries
If some of your baby’s toys use batteries (electronic sound/light boards, noisemakers, etc.), running them through the dishwasher is a no-go.
You can gently handwash them with soap and water, but you’ll want to be really careful about submerging them.
The better option would be to wipe them down with a washcloth dipped in a diluted bleach solution then let them air dry fully.
You’ll want to heavily dilute any bleach before you apply it to a baby toy. Use a mixture like:
- 1-2 teaspoons of bleach
- 1 gallon of water
Or an equivalent ratio.
How to clean and sanitize baby toys without bleach (non-toxic)
If you don’t like the idea of using even a heavily diluted bleach solution, there are other options for cleaning and disinfecting your toys.
You can use a 50/50 mixture of water and white vinegar instead.
Apply this directly to the toys with a washcloth and let it air dry.
How to clean wooden baby toys (blocks, puzzles, etc.)
Some of my daughter’s all-time favorite toys have been heavy-duty wooden ones, especially puzzles. She’ll spend huge chunks of time on her own working her way through progressively harder and harder puzzles!
(Check out my Stuff I Can’t Live Without page for my favorite puzzle set for toddlers)
Wooden toys won’t do well in the dishwasher and shouldn’t be submerged in a sink full of dishwater.
Toys like these are great candidates for being wiped down with the diluted bleach solution or white vinegar mix I showed you above.
You can also take a damp (not wet, damp!) cloth with warm soapy water and give them a quick wipe down before letting them dry.
And finally, Babyganics also makes a really gentle, non-toxic line of surface wipes that are really great for wiping down pretty much any baby toy without getting it too wet.
You can grab a two-pack of them right here on Amazon.
How to clean baby toys with plush or fabric (stuffed animals, etc.)
Plush toys and stuffed animals are a favorite of babies and toddlers.
My daughter had a Lovey blanket that she took EVERYWHERE with her for a solid 3 years straight.
(We may have lost it a few times along the way and replaced it with an imposter. Shh… don’t tell her!)
Cleaning these kinds of toys is usually pretty straightforward, but you do have some options for tough cases:
- Most stuffed animals and fabric or plush baby toys can simply be thrown in the washing machine
- Use a gentle cycle and baby-friendly detergent
- These kinds of toys almost always need to air dry
- Check the label on the toy first, though, to make sure it’s safe!
If the toy can’t be washed, or you’re worried it might ruin it, OR you just don’t feel like going through that process, you have some other options:
- Spot-scrub the toy with a toothbrush dipped in a gentle warm water and soap mixture, then let air dry
- Vacuum the toy to remove dust and dirt
- Spray lightly with Febreeze to “freshen it up”
- Or sprinkle with baking soda to kill odors
How to clean baby bath toys
Bath toys soak in soapy water almost every night. So they’re good, right?
For the same reason you need to regularly clean your tub and shower, you need to clean bath toys like rubber duckies, floats, and wall-stickers often to prevent germs.
These are actually some of the germiest toys in the whole house!
So how do you clean them?
You’re going to want to let bath toys soak in a cleaning mixture for about 10 minutes. Use a roughly 50/50 mixture of warm water and white vinegar for a good, non-toxic solution.
Pro Tip: If the bath toys soak up water (like little bath squirters, for example), the insides can get extremely moldy and disgusting. Use the toy to soak up some of the cleaning solution, swish it around, squirt it all completely out, and let everything air dry.
Again, once a month or so should be plenty.
Washing or cleaning baby toys in the washing machine
It’s not just stuffed animals and blankets that can go through the wash.
You’ll want to use some kind of mesh laundry, lingerie, or delicates bag, preferably with a zipper and small enough holes in the lining so the toys stay put and don’t fall out.
(Check out a good set of different sized bags on Amazon.)
The key is you’ll want to use the sanitize cycle if your washer has one (it basically just soaks everything in hot soapy water without a spin phase).
Once they’re clean, let them air dry completely before putting them away.
Don’t put baby toys through the dryer!
Can you use essential oils to clean baby toys?
The science behind essential oils is murky at best.
But you can’t deny that they smell absolutely fantastic. And the anecdotal evidence about their calming and medicinal effects is strong.
Most advice I’ve seen about using essential oils to clean baby toys revolves around using the oils to sweeten the smell or freshen up the scent of a clean toy.
The basics still apply. Use diluted bleach, gentle soap and detergent, or a white vinegar solution to clean and disinfect toys.
Adding a few drops of essential oils to an already clean toy can give it a really pleasant smell.
Better than vinegar anyway!
But it likely won’t do much on its own.
Cleaning baby toys is a pretty important task, but at the end of the day, it’s probably not as complicated or rigorous as you might think.
As far as frequency, you should probably clean the “everyday toys” once a week or so. These are the ones that float around in your diaper bag, roll around on the floor, and spend the most time in baby’s mouth.
As for the rest, you only really need to clean them when they’ve been handled by other kids, exposed to germs, or have been collecting dust for too long. Once a month or less is plenty for these.
In general, most of your baby’s toys can just be washed with warm water and gentle soap. For toys that can handle it, just wash them in the sink like a dish. For more delicate toys, wipe them down with a damp soapy cloth and let them air dry.
For a more powerful sanitizing effect, you can use a heavily diluted bleach solution (just a teaspoon or two of bleach per gallon of water), or an equal mixture of water and white vinegar. Both can be dapped or wiped on and left to air dry.
The washing machine can be a great tool, too! Especially for plush toys. But with a lingerie or toy bag, you can wash almost anything in the washer, provided it has a sanitize cycle without spin.
Most plush toys can just be freshened up with a vacuum and some baking soda, though.
Hope this helps, parents!