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How to Clean Your Children’s Toys

As well as cleaning up marks on toys, your job is also to wipe away germs. A child who plays with toys that were recently handled by another child can pick up rotavirus, the most common infant tummy bug in the world. Regularly disinfecting hard plastic toys can be helpful in preventing this.

The fastest way to kill germs is with a specialist spray cleaner. There are several brands that particularly target hygiene. However, good old bleach also does the trick. Clean with 30 millilitres (ml) (2 tablespoons) of bleach in 5 litres (1 gallon) of water, then rinse and dry.

During potty training, you need to be particularly alert to hygiene issues. Your child may forget or be too embarrassed to tell you that he peed in the pool or sandbox. Fill a watering-can with a solution of 30 ml (2 tablespoons) of bleach and 5 litres (1 gallon) of water and spray it onto the affected area. Keep your child off the sand whilst it dries out.

Clean hard toys

Scrub wooden toys with a wet brush that’s been dipped in your cleaning solution of choice; just don’t soak them in water lest they swell and crack or lose their adhesive. Use sandpaper to smooth away any nicks or splinters. If you can’t eliminate the risk of a splinter, throw the toy out.

Small rigid-plastic toys are likely to be dishwasher-safe. Make your own judgment by comparing the plastic to beakers (cups) that you already put into the dishwasher. Using the dishwasher has the added benefit of disinfecting toys by subjecting them to very hot water. If the plastic isn’t dishwasher-safe, hand wash in hot soapy water.

Brush out fur and soft-fabric toys

Unless it says machine or hand wash on the label, you can assume that surface sponging is as far as you should go with your child’s most precious fur and soft-fabric toys. Use the foam from a bowl of soapy washing-up liquid and scoop this onto a thick sponge. Dab gently all over the toy; following up with a dry cloth to blot up the wet.

If this isn’t enough, make your own decision about whether you can safely machine-wash the toy. Do a risk assessment based on how much your child loves that particular toy and whether it can be replaced. Shrinkage is likely to be a problem if the toy has long fur, which may mat, or if the toy is made from a combination of different fabrics that shrink at different rates.

Check and mend any tears first and wash toys inside a pillowcase, so there is no risk of them getting caught on a zip or button that’s also in the wash. You want to use a delicate cycle and non-bio washing detergent.

Soft and fur fabric toys attract dust mites. This is especially true for the ones that share your child’s bed. Machine-washing kills live mites, but the water temperature needs to be 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) to kill their eggs, which is more than most toys can bear. An easy alternative is the freezer. Pop the toy, in a sealed plastic bag, into the freezer for 48 hours.

Speed clean action figures and dolls

Use an old toothbrush dipped in undiluted washing-up liquid to scrub off dirt and pen and crayon marks on your children’s dolls. Sticky hair is easy – simply shampoo. Follow up with a wash-out conditioner, and your daughter can have more fun playing with a doll whose hair isn’t in scraggy tangles every time she takes out some braids.

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