Let’s not sugar coat it. Kids are gross. And their toys? Even worse.

Whether it’s in their mouth or on the ground, the average toy takes one hell of a beating.

And honestly? It’s a rare parent who hasn’t said ‘get that toy away from your bottom’ at least ONCE (#mumlife #blessed).

Toys can get pretty filthy, pretty fast. Capitalising on our fear-of-filth (FOF), a bunch of Swiss scientists recently cut open a whole bunch of bath toys. What they found wasn’t great. Basically, your average bath toy is coated with crap. And not just a light smear. We’re talking a veritable breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. How do you fancy THAT in your bathwater?

If you’re quietly gagging while running a mental inventory of all the places where germs may lurk, fear not! We’ve got the solutions to how to clean toys the right way – and pronto.

How To Keep Toys Clean and Germ Free

1. Bath Toys 

Let’s be real here. Bath toys can literally be full of shit. Of the mould/bacteria/fungi kind. All that liquid accumulating inside them is a breeding ground for germs who are having an absolute field day in that manky water.

The best way to clean your child’s bath buddies is with heat AND anti-bacterial solutions. A quick dip in a bucket of either diluted white vinegar or 3% hydrogen peroxide will stop mould, bacteria and fungi in its icky tracks. After a decent soak, pop your toys in the dishwasher (or even the washing machine, inside a pillow case, on a warm-hot wash) to clear out all those nooks and crannies. Final step? Whack em’ in the sun for a few hours.

And if you want to keep water – and mould – out of bath toys, go to town with a glue gun and seal those bottom holes up! Sure, they won’t squirt water anymore, but they won’t coat your kiddoes with bath gunk either.

2. Soft toys

There’s nothing quite like the scent of a teddy which has spent most of its life being sucked on/chewed/dribbled all over by a small child. It’s a pungency that you don’t quickly forget. All that damp fur and fabric provides the perfect environment for bacteria to flourish. A UK study found that 80% of teddies have bacteria lurking which could trigger food poisoning, while one in four bears contained – wait for it – traces of poo (refer back to the intro, we rest our case.) All pretty disgusting stuff.

A regular washing of soft toys is the best way to keep bacteria at bay. Most soft toys can be popped straight in the washing machine. A warm to hot wash is generally best. You can also pop a capful of an antibacterial laundry product  in with the wash to really get things sparkling. And hang your freshly laundered toys in the sun to dry.

 how to keep toys clean and germ free

3. Toys with hair

We’re looking at your Barbie. Betcha’ didn’t give this one a second thought, did you? But ‘hairy’ toys (for want of a better word) have a whole extra area for germs to stow away. Giving your Barbies/Chelsea dolls/Bratz/whatever the hell the kids on youTube have deemed cool, a good wash and rinse every couple of months is the best way to eradicate the problem.

You can use soap and water or a dab of your own shampoo. If you want to get rid of doll hair tangles, then diluted fabric softener in a squirt bottle is your friend. Rinse with warm water and run the hot tap over the hair to finish. Then place Babs and co. out to dry in, you guessed it, the sun.


4. Hard plastic toys

While these guys are less offensive that their porous peers, your average dump track/baby born/building block can still stash away some nasties. These guys are probably the easiest to clean. A quick wipe down with a soft cloth and antibacterial spray (this Resparkle Natural Nursery, Toy & Everyday Cleaner is a fab, non-toxic option) that will kill most bugs. You can also pop smaller toys (without batteries obvs) in the top rack of your dishwasher for a deeper clean.

Image via Fun Cheap or Free

5. Wooden toys

Similarly to their hard plastic counterparts, these Insta-worthy playthings aren’t usually teeming with bacteria but a quick spritz never hurt anybody. Wooden toys will warp if washed so avoid the sink or dishwasher and instead use a spray bottle filled with a mixture of white vinegar and water. This will kill anything lurking on contact without damaging the wood.

how to wash wooden toys

How often should you clean your toys?

When you’ve got a to-do list as long as your kids’ sandwich specifications (no crusts, no seeds, only wholemeal that isn’t ‘too dark’), adding another task isn’t exactly a cause for celebration. Cleaning frequency really depends on age and usage. If you’ve got babies or toddlers, it’s a good idea to give their teething rings and chew toys a good wash every week or so. Other, less frequently used toys or toys that older kids are playing with should be washed or wiped every month or so. And if your kid gets sick? Get cleaning. Clean every damn thing they’ve touched. Then put it in the sun, for good measure.

Need some more smart tips for keeping the place ship-shape now that you know how to clean toys? Check out these 10 smart cleaning hacks that’ll give you more time to put your feet up and drink wine.

(Top image via Reddit)


Naomi is 3/4 latte drinking, peanut butter obsessed former magazine girl who now does stuff with words for a living while juggling 2.5 kids, 2 cats, 1 rabbit, husband and an unhealthy obsession with slow cooking.

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