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6 Simple Ways to Clean Your Baby's Bath Toys

by Vannessa Rhoades 03 Jan 2023
6 Simple Ways to Clean Your Baby's Bath Toys

Bath toys are amazing. They make bath time a far more enjoyable experience for little ones, as well as help them practice their dexterity. Because bath toys are splashing around in soap every night, many parents mistakenly assume they’re the cleanest toys in the house. Until one fateful evening, when you watch your little one pick up their rubber duck to happily squirt water across the tub – and a stream of black, slimy muck shoots out instead.

This can be more than a little concerning to unsuspecting parents. How do you kill germs and mold without harming your baby’s sensitive skin? Let’s take a look at how to clean bath toys safely and effectively.

Why Bath Toys Need Cleaning

The stuff that grows inside bath toys is truly horrifying. If you were to slice open one of your child’s bath toys (or if it’s a thin material and light in color, simply hold it up to the light), you likely find the interior coated in a slimy black substance known as biofilm. Biofilm is a complex bacterial and fungal structure that has an extremely high resistance to antibiotics and is a major cause of infection persistence.

In 2018, researchers conducted a study that revealed bath toys are extremely vulnerable to a "proliferation of opportunistic pathogens and unwanted organisms." Microbiologists studied bath toys that had been used for less than three months and discovered biofilm inside each and every toy. In fact, 80% of the toys contained at least one potentially harmful microorganism with the ability to cause eye, ear, gastrointestinal, and urinary tract infections. Researchers even identified bacteria that cause listeriosis and legionnaires disease.

When you stop to really think about it, it makes sense why. These toys soak in warm water for several minutes, almost daily. They’re stored in a humid bathroom, rarely dried off, and many trap water inside. It’s the perfect breeding ground for germs.

Little ones love to learn and bath - so why not extend teaching to the tub for double the fun with the Munchkin Learn Bath Letters and Numbers? This set of 36 floating letters and numbers comes in six fun colors, clings to bathroom walls when wet, and provides endless opportunity for bath time learning. You can help your child identify the alphabet, learn to count, spell simple words or group by color. An added bonus? The foam is soft, durable and non-toxic. So splish-splash, when they’re taking a bath... throw in a little education, too.

Munchkin Learn Bath Letters and Numbers

Munchkin Learn Bath Letters and Numbers

Should You Get Rid of Your Child’s Bath Toys?

Fortunately, healthy kids are tough and rarely contract severe illness from their bath toys. That said, babies, children with compromised immune systems, or kids who are allergic to mold may be more susceptible to asthma or lung infections sometimes triggered by the mold and bacteria. You don’t necessarily need to get rid of tub toys if your child has these issues, but you should use extra caution to disinfect them after use and prevent water from accumulating inside.

For lots of bath time fun and splashing! Here comes Sophie La Girafe Bath Toy again, this time as a floating, squirting toy for baby to play with in the bath. She squirts water when squeezed.

Sophie La Girafe Bath Toy

Sophie La Girafe Bath Toy

How to Clean Bath Toys

To keep your bath toys slime-free and healthy, there are a few daily and weekly cleaning tasks you should perform in addition to periodic disinfection. After every bath, take a few minutes to rinse toys with soapy water and completely squeeze out any water that may be trapped inside. Give the toys plenty of room to dry in a well-ventilated space. If your little one is vulnerable, consider also wiping them down with a disinfectant wipe. Then, once a week, take time to wash the exterior of the toys with soap and water, as well as disinfect them using one of the methods described below. It’s especially important to clean the inside of squirt toys to discourage the growth of any biofilm.

1. Disinfect with bleach

Bleach kills pretty much everything. Turn on your bathroom exhaust fan, open a window, and put on some gloves. Fill a large basin with a half cup of bleach and a gallon of water. Squeeze toys to suck up some of the bleach solution and allow it to set. Soak all toys for about 10 minutes. Then remove, squeeze out any remaining bleach solution, and rinse completely. Refill, swish, and squeeze empty multiple times to remove all traces of bleach. Allow toys to fully dry before reusing.

2. Disinfect with vinegar

While bleach is more effective, it’s also pretty harsh on the skin and can damage your clothing. Vinegar is another alternative for disinfection and has the benefit of being milder on the skin. To disinfect bath toys, mix equal parts of water and vinegar in a large basin. Some experts recommend using the vinegar at full strength to boost its effectiveness. Proceed using the same method – squeezing toys to suck up the vinegar solution and then submerging all toys for at least 15 minutes and up to 24 hours. Longer soaking time may also increase vinegar’s effectiveness. Remove, squeeze out excess solution, and rinse thoroughly.

3. Disinfect with hydrogen peroxide

Mix equal parts of water and 3% hydrogen peroxide. Squeeze each toy under the solution to fill them. Allow the toys to soak, fully submerged, for 15 minutes. Then remove, squeeze out excess solution, and rinse thoroughly.

4. Put them in the dishwasher

Placing bath toys in the top rack of the dishwasher is one of the simplest ways to prevent mold accumulation and kill germs in bath toys. Begin by checking the manufacturer's recommendations or doing a test run with one toy to be certain it can withstand the heat. Once you’ve determined the toys are dishwasher-safe, simply run a regular cycle and then allow the toys to dry completely. This method won’t remove any biofilm from inside your toys so you’ll need to empty each toy with soapy water first. However, you should only need to do this once, since a weekly washing cycle should inhibit new mold growth.

5. Use boiling water

Another natural method for cleaning bath toys is to simply boil them. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the toys using kitchen tongs. Boil for about five minutes then remove. Allow the toys to dry completely. The heat will keep biofilm from developing inside the bath toys and kills all germs.

6. Toss them in the washing machine

Similar to the dishwasher, it’s good practice to do a trial run with one bath toy first before putting them all in the washing machine. Once you’ve determined it’s safe, place your bath toys in a pillowcase or mesh laundry bag and run them through a regular cycle using your normal detergent. Do not add bleach unless you want a foamy, flooding mess in your house.

Keep baby’s bath toys contained with the OXO Tot Stand Up Bath Toy Bin. The 7.1-liter capacity can handle everything from rubber duckies to toy boats and a carefully sized hole pattern will dry them quickly. Soft, comfy handles make scooping up toys a cinch, and the elevated tray will catch any drips while drying. The Bin has a non-slip base for sturdy, upright storage. Bin and base separate for thorough cleaning. Dishwasher safe. PVC- and adhesive-free.

OXO TOT Stand Up Bath Toy Bin, Gray

OXO Tot Stand Up Bath Toy Bin

Preventing Mold Growth on Bath Toys

Cleaning bath toys after each bath definitely requires some extra effort, especially when you’re trying to chase down a wet, naked toddler at bedtime. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep your bath toys biofilm-free for longer: 

  • Seal the holes on squirt toys with a dab of hot glue. If you keep water out of toys entirely, mold can’t grow inside.
  • Allow toys to dry completely. Spread out on a towel or on a rack with proper drainage.
  • Select toys that are easy to clean and don’t have tiny holes that can trap water. Some squirt toys even unscrew for easier cleaning.
  • Use a well-ventilated storage container and consider storing toys in another room (instead of the hot, humid bathroom) when not in use.

Shop All Bath Toys


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