Day cares share sanitizing tips for your kids’ toys

Photos by Chris Dunn

for Smart

If you’re in spring-cleaning mode, you’ve probably already steamed the carpet, scrubbed the baseboards and shined the windows.

But don’t put your rubber gloves away just yet. Lying dormant in your kids’ bedrooms and playrooms are brightly colored havens of grease, grime and germs — often neglected or outright ignored during annual cleaning frenzies.

We’re talking about toys, of course.

Much-loved playthings are subjected to all manners of grunge — between the grubby hands that play with them to the slobbery baby mouths that gnaw on them to the dirt-covered floors they’re left on.

No place understands how dirty toys can get better than a day care center, where they’re passed from kid to kid on a daily basis.

At Robin’s Nest Daycare and Preschool in Dover Township, toys are cleaned and ­sanitized weekly, if not daily, said director Amanda Schwab.

Any toys that have been in a child’s mouth are put into a dirty toy bin immediately to be cleaned before another child has the chance to chew on them, she said. Popular toys might get washed more often. The rest are cleaned on a weekly basis.

Toys sit in a bath of water and bleach solution.

Plastic toys are soaked in a bleach and water solution for 10 minutes, then rinsed with hot water and air dried. Seats for exersaucers and jumpers are thrown into the washing machine along with the few stuffed animals they keep on hand.

“We don’t keep a lot of the animals … they are big germ catchers,” Schwab said.

For quick, on-the-spot disinfecting Jackie Dailey, director and instructor at Hayshire UCC Preschool in Manchester Township, swears by disinfecting wipes. Hayshire keeps the wipes on hand to clean everything from toy food and phones to door handles and toilets.

Schwab says the wipes work great for cleaning electronic toys like LeapFrog LeapPads. Just make sure to follow the directions on the container for what to do after wiping the toy down, she said.

After using a disinfecting wipe, Clorox advises rinsing thoroughly with water anything that could come in contact with food or that might be chewed on.

As for the toughest toys to clean, both directors have contenders.

“The (play) food,” Dailey said. “It has holes — so you can’t soak them long because that can cause mold and it will have to be thrown away.”

Schwab said that anything with lots of crevices or that has lots of parts to it — like oversized interlocking blocks or toy instruments, for instance — can be challenging.

“We use toothbrushes to clean those little parts, too,” she said.

Robin’s Nest Daycare and Preschool teacher Yvette Leisenring and Director Amanda Schwab work together to sanitize toys.

Make your own cleaning solution

Mix bleach and water for an easy and cost-effective sanitizing solution. Clorox recommends using ¾ cup bleach per gallon of water for plastic toys and bath toys and 1 tablespoon bleach per gallon of water for infant teethers.

How to clean kids’ toys

Stuffed toys: Follow the instructions on the toy’s tag. Spot clean with a mild detergent or baby shampoo, then air dry. To sanitize, tie in a pillowcase or laundry bag and toss in the dryer on high for 15 minutes.

Bath toys: Make sure to squeeze all the water out of each toy after every bath. When cleaning, soak toys in bleach mix for five minutes, making sure to suck some of the cleaning mixture into each of the toys, swish it around and then squirt it out. Use a toothbrush to scrub off any visible mold. Rinse with cold water then dry completely.

Plastic toys: Plastic toys that don’t have batteries can be cleaned and sanitized in the top rack of the dishwasher with hot water and detergent. Or, use a clean sponge or dishrag, warm water, and soap to scrub visible dirt, dip in a bleach solution and air dry. For toys with batteries, use soap and water to clean the outside then wipe with a bleach solution and air dry.

Wooden toys and board books: Use a disinfectant wipe or a spray with bleach mixture then dry off quickly. Don’t get the toys or books too wet, which can cause them to warp.

— Source: Mother Nature Network and Fisher-Price

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