Have you ever taken a moment to watch a baby or child play with a toy? To us it might be “that thing that keeps them quiet for a while” – but to them, it’s a portal to a world of imagination. Just watch them play pretend, or make up stories with it. A toy is clearly something magical.

But a toy can also be a very dangerous source of illness, if not taken care of properly. Because they go everywhere, can pick up anything, harbour germs and bacteria for a long time, and go into babies’ mouths and come into contact with little kids, they require frequent cleaning to make sure they’re safe enough for your baby or child.

When to Clean

When should you clean your kids’ toys? It depends. If the toys go along to childcare, it’s a good idea to clean them every day because they get touched and held by other children who could be sick. If they get used in the park, clean them once you’re back home to get rid of dirt that accumulated during play. If you carry the toys around in your bag and they use them outside, clean them at least once to twice weekly.

If the toys remain in the playroom, you can clean them less often, such as once a week, as long as they don’t roll under furniture or have not been used in a long time. If your baby has been sick recently however, with a cold or diarrhoea, it might be a good idea to up the frequency of cleaning his or her toys for a week or so, just to be on the safe side.

How to Clean

How you clean them depends on the type of toy. If the toy comes with specific manufacturer’s washing instructions, try and follow them, because it will ensure the longevity of that toy for your kid’s long-lasting enjoyment (not to mention, save money)!

With stuffed animals or plushies, or any type of fabric and cloth books and toys, you can simply throw them into the washing machine for a gentle spin with a little baby-safe laundry detergent. You’d want the stuffed toys that your kid hugs everyday are free of leftover bleach or harmful chemicals that will harm their sensitive skin and cause irritation. If you want to kill any dust mites that might be lingering in there, put them in an airtight bag and pop them into the freezer for a few hours before washing. To ensure the stuffed animals come out of the washing machine with all the arms and legs they went in with, you can toss them into a giant pillowcase first and then into the wash. (Or get a cheap washing net, which is also great for keeping your bras together when they go on spin cycle!)

What if the toys are made of plastic, wood, metal or rubber, or any other type of material that isn’t suitable to throw into the washing machine? If they’re all plastic, you could possibly clean them in a dishwasher, or soak them in a tub of soapy water. But if the toys you’re looking at can’t be soaked, then give them a good “once-over”. Soak a cloth in washing-up water and wipe down all the toys thoroughly and leave them to air-dry. For both soaking and wiping, make sure you use a baby-safe washing-up liquid, because as much as you want to get rid of the germs, we’re sure you don’t want any leftover bleach or other harmful chemicals going into Baby’s mouth either! (And this product is so safe, you can even wash Baby’s milk bottles with it!)

How to Make It Fun

If you have a toddler on hand, you can make toy-cleaning a fun activity you can do together instead of a chore Mum has to do on her own. First, put a waterproof tablecloth or plastic sheet on the floor, because you know it’s going to get messy! Get a big basin and fill it with washing-up liquid, and place it on a thick towel in the middle of the plastic sheet. You can drop in some food colouring just to make things interesting. Plop all the toys in, and hand your child a dish towel. Say, “We’re going to give all your toys a bath now!” After each of the toys has taken a “scrubby bath”, have your child dry them with the towel and place them onto a big towel to further air dry. You never know, it might even become a weekly activity your child looks forward to!