I don't think it was a coincidence that after a trip to a local children's museum with a lot of hand-on activities that my son came down with the vomiting flu the next day. Have you ever wondered how to clean toys effectively and safely?
Lots of babies and infants engage with toys by putting them in their mouth or drooling on them. Older toddlers and preschoolers like to play with manipulatives such as blocks and trains. However, children can spread sickness to others simply by touching and playing with toys other sick children have previously come in contact with, especially during group playdates. Daycares and children's centers have their own specific guidelines for toy cleanliness. However, these are some practical solutions for parents so they can keep their childrens' toys clean at home.
It is a pretty well known fact that washing your hands with soap and water is a great germ deterrent. Some toys like plastic blocks, infant rattles and teethers can easily be cleaned in the sink using dish soap and warm water. It is never safe to wash any electrical toy that can be plugged in by submerging it in soap and water. Even toys that include batteries that activate lights and sounds should not be cleaned in soap and water because it could impact the future use of the toy.
Some toys may be labelled as being dishwasher safe. Many times I have placed infant rattles, plastic blocks, large plastic pegs, plastic shape sorter pieces and some bath toys on the top rack of the dishwasher. The heat from the water from the dishwasher can help sanitize toys. The dishwasher has been especially great for bath toys that begin to develop mold and mildew overtime.
For those of you who are looking for environmentally friendly cleaners, companies such as Dapple(compare prices) and BabyGanics (compare prices) have developed specific wipes and sprayable surface cleaners that are baby safe. They do not include dyes, are biodegradable, and free of phthalates and parabens. These would be a great solution for infant toys and toddler toys, as children this age are more apt to mouth toys and drool due to sickness and teething.
These days there are entire aisles in stores dedicated to disinfectant surface wipes. I like this method the best when cleaning those plastic toys that may have batteries. Simply wipe down the toy using a disinfectant surface wipe and let it air dry for several minutes before giving it to your child or another child to play with. For items like pacifiers, make sure to look for pacifier wipes, because they have been developed using sanitizers that are food grade and safe for babies that are placing items in their mouth.
Lots of people throw their stuffed animals right in the washer and dryer. Some place them in a pillowcase. However, I have heard some opinions that over time stuffed animals and baby dolls can get ruined with repeated washings.
Teddy Needs a Bath(compare prices) is a large zipper bag. Stuffed animals can be placed inside the bag, then washed on a gentle cycle in front loading washers and dryers. Make sure to read the labels on your stuffed animals before washing them, there are some specialty teddy bears that specifically state they can not be washed.