Cleaning And Disinfection

Is Mr. Ducky looking a bit worse for wear? Now is a great time to clean him and his fellow toy friends. Here are some practical tips.

As every mom knows, babies and toddlers often put toys in their mouths – and they’re not particularly concerned that those toys may have been rolling around on the floor and are now covered in germs.

While many of these germs are harmless or even helpful, there are also those that spread sickness – like colds, flu, and norovirus.

That’s why it’s a good idea to frequently clean and disinfect your little one’s much-loved toys.

When to Clean and Disinfect Baby Toys

Dr. Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, a professor and children’s health expert at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, recommends cleaning baby toys regularly, perhaps once a month. Even spot cleaning helps combat unwanted cooties. But remember that certain situations call for an extra cleaning, or even disinfecting, such as:

  • Your child or their playmates have been sick.
  • You’ve had a playdate where other children are putting toys in their mouths.
  • A child has gotten food, milk, vomit or mucous on a toy.
  • A toy falls on the ground.

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting: What’s the Difference?

Before you begin, it’s important to understand the differences among cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains how these practices work together to help stop germs from spreading:

  • Cleaning physically removes germs by using soap (or perhaps detergent) and water to wash away surface dirt and grime.
  • Disinfecting kills most germs on objects like baby toys, or stops germs from reproducing.

Remember that cleaning should always come before disinfection. Start by cleaning baby toys to remove any visible dirt and grime, then rinse with water and apply disinfectant (see directions below).

How to Clean and Disinfect Baby Toys

Not all toys are alike. How you go about cleaning and disinfecting your baby’s toys will depend on the size and material of each cherished plaything.

Follow toy manufacturer guidelines when cleaning or disinfecting. Check to see if the toy is dishwasher safe. If so, place it on the top rack of your dishwasher and wash using regular dishwasher detergent, which typically includes a disinfectant. Set your dishwasher on the normal cycle. Use the heated cycle to dry toys, which will help prevent mold and bacteria. If your dishwasher includes an option for a sanitizing cycle, you can use it to help zap germs, especially during cold and flu season.

Larger plastic toys, as well as those with batteries, can be cleaned with soap and warm water, wiped with a diluted bleach solution using a clean sponge or cloth, and left to air dry. It’s best to take the batteries out before cleaning the toy to prevent corrosion and damage.

Combat Cooties Using a Germ-Busting Bleach Solution

Diluted bleach is a safe and inexpensive way to disinfect baby toys.

  1. Clean non-absorbent toys with soapy water, rinse with clear water, and wipe dry with disposable paper towels.
  2. Disinfect with a chlorine bleach solution of one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water.
  3. Lay out toys to air dry.


Keeping everything clean isn’t easy – and sometimes feels impossible. But considering how much well-loved toys are handled by your child, taking a little time to clean and disinfect them is a great strategy for helping to keep your baby healthy and happy.

For a printable poster with tips for cleaning toys, click here.