Prevent the spread of germs on your children’s toys

Don’t forget the toy box when you are cleaning.

A child and a toy box.
Photo: Pixabay/Stocksnap.

As the weather begins to change seasons, it’s a good time to double check your cleaning routine at home. As flu season returns, you might feel like your home is full of germs. It is important to realize that young children are more at risk for developing serious illness when exposed to germs. Maintaining a safe, clean environment for children in your care is crucial to their health.

It is necessary to clean and sanitize frequently touched surfaces. Germs that cause illness can live on surfaces for several weeks. When contaminated surfaces are touched, the germs present can get on children’s hands and then end up being transferred into the mouth, to others, or to food.

Michigan State University Extension encourages parents and caregivers to follow the recommendations below from the Partnership for Food Safety Education to keep their children’s toys clean and germ free:

  • Toys should be cleaned and sanitized regularly.
  • Any plastic or rubber toy that enters a child’s mouth must be sanitized with 200 ppm bleach (1:250 dilution) and air-dried or washed at a high temperature (170 degrees Fahrenheit or 76.67 degrees Celsius). Be sure to check the manufacturer instructions to determine if the dishwasher will reach the correct temperature for the final rinse. If the dishwasher does not reach this temperature, then sanitize toys using a bleach solution.
  • Submerge, wipe or spray with a solution consisting of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach for every one gallon of warm water. Chlorine bleach is recommended since it is readily available, inexpensive, effective, and safe in proper dilution.
  • For toys that can be immersed, pour the sanitizing solution in a large basin or sink. Remove all visible debris from the surface of the toys and allow the toys to soak for one to five minutes to achieve sanitization.
  • For toys that cannot be immersed in sanitizing solution, clean all surfaces of the toy ensuring that clean cloths and solutions don’t become contaminated (do not double dip). Allow surfaces to remain wet for one to five minutes to sanitize.
  • For soft toys, pre-wash to remove visible debris. Then wash with detergent/bleach. Discard if necessary. Machine wash the soft toys in hot water (at least 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 to 71.1 degrees Celsius) using bleach if fabrics are white.
  • Dry toys in a dryer on the high heat setting.
  • Cleaning electronic items:
    • Use disinfecting wipes.
    • Wipe the entire surface, especially keyboards and buttons.
    • More than one wipe may be needed to keep the surface wet for the recommended amount of contact time.

Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces every day, even if they are not visibly dirty. If they become visibly dirty, clean the surfaces then sanitize immediately following this process:

  • Wash with a disposable towel dipped in detergent and warm water. Scrub vigorously to remove dirt and soil.
  • Rinse surfaces with warm to hot water to remove cleaning product.
  • Sanitize or disinfect using tested solution.

It does take extra time and planning to thoroughly clean and sanitize your children’s toys but doing so on a regular basis will help minimize the spread of germs and illness in your home. For more information on keeping your food safe, visit MSU Extension's Safe Food & Water website.

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