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Child Safety: Washing Toys to Prevent Germs

Topic Overview

Why it is important to clean toys and surfaces

Washing and disinfecting toys and surfaces helps reduce the spread of germs, especially in child care settings or other areas where many children are together.

Have a bin for dirty toys that is out of your child's reach. When a toy becomes dirty, such as after a child has played with it and put it in his or her mouth, put it in the bin. If you can't wash the toys right away, set them aside to wash later.

Surfaces that are likely to collect germs include diaper-changing areas, potty chairs, crib rails, or areas where food is prepared or eaten.

How to clean toys and surfaces

Clean

Scrubbing with soap and water effectively removes germs from surfaces. This method is recommended for surfaces where chemical disinfectants are not appropriate, such as some furniture.

Disinfect

When possible, toys and surfaces should also be disinfected. Dishwashers are a convenient and effective way to disinfect dishes and utensils. Chemicals such as ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and bleach are used to disinfect surfaces and objects. You can find a wide variety of brand-name products with varying ingredients. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions exactly as printed on the label.

You can make your own disinfectant with bleach and water, although it quickly loses its strength. It should be made fresh daily. Use the following ratios of bleach to water, depending on the strength needed.

  • For a strong bleach disinfecting solution (to clean bathrooms, diapering areas, and other surfaces): Add 0.25 cup (60 mL) household bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) to 1 gal (4 L) cool water, or add 1 Tbsp (15 mL) bleach to 1 qt (1 L) cool water.
  • For a weaker bleach disinfecting solution (to clean toys, eating utensils, and other items handled by young children or put in the mouth): Add 1 Tbsp (15 mL) household bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) to 1 gal (4 L) cool water.

Do not mix bleach with other liquids or cleaners because the mixture can produce a toxic gas. Bleach should be mixed only with fresh tap water. Keep all chemicals out of reach of children.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised January 22, 2013

Last Revised: January 22, 2013

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