Baby's play space is a special little nook. It's where mom and dad laze around with baby on cold weather afternoons; where a lifelong love of literature is sparked during read-aloud story times; and where baby's imagination grows while he plays with toys of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Given its frequent usage, however, the play space is particularly privy to germs and bacteria. (In fact, one study found typical baby items are dirtier than the average pet bowl.) Given that baby's immune system is still developing, routine cleaning of his stomping—or rather, his crawling—grounds is crucial. Keep the play space a safe nook for baby to explore, learn, and grow with these eight tips for thoroughly cleaning it—no chemicals necessary.
1. Clean toys on a regular basis
What's a play space without toys? These beloved trinkets need regular debugging to keep them free of nasties that could get your child sick.
How often you wash baby's toys depends on their material and frequency of use; here's how to clean and disinfect different types of toys.
2. Wipe down any organizing tools
Have toy bins made of fabric? Spot clean as needed. For large spills, machine wash according to label instructions and let air dry.
3. Factor the floor blanket into your weekly laundry
Floor blankets are a great way to cushion baby's occasional falls. Similar to bed sheets and linens—which, for every family member, should be washed on a weekly basis—baby's play space blanket should be put in the laundry every week.
4. Disinfect gate handles every week
Like door knobs, gate handles tend to harbor a high number of germs. On a weekly basis, wipe down these handles, as well as any surfaces that baby frequently grazes with a multi-purpose spray and microfiber cloth.
5. Tend to interlocking foam play mats as needed
These colorful mats tend to wind up in baby's mouth as often as they do on the floor. And while you're likely already avoiding wearing outdoor shoes on or around them, they're still likely to pick up stray lint and the occasional flung food scrap—not exactly what you want baby to be chewing on!
Give the mats a good cleaning on an as-needed basis with regular soap and hot water. Let air dry.
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6. Tips for cleaning up after your little Picasso
As little ones get older, arts and crafts are excellent ways to let their imaginations run wild. The resulting mess, of course, is often something of a masterpiece in itself.
To clean crayons off your walls, try applying mayonnaise to the spot. Let sit for a few minutes, then wipe with a damp cloth. Scrubbing with a sponge may also help, but be careful not to let any abrasive material damage the wall.
For paint spills, a splash of rubbing alcohol and some paper towels may be all you need. Let the liquid sit on any paint marks for 30 seconds or so, then wipe with a paper towel. (Be sure to spot test this method first on any delicate or vintage flooring.)
Remove stains or spills—artistic or otherwise—from the carpet with our Puracy Natural Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo.
7. Be extra vigilant with second-hand toys
Whether it's a hand-me-down xylophone or Lincoln Logs from your own childhood, recycling toys is a wonderful way to reduce your family eco-footprint (and save some cash, to boot).
But no matter their origins, second-hand toys pose a unique challenge: They need to be thoroughly sanitized—ideally without the use of harsh chemicals—before they're safe for baby to play with. Since babies learn by exploring objects with their hands and mouths, you don't exactly want to immerse those vintage building blocks in toxins like bleach.
If the toy is stuffed or plush, stick it in the freezer for a few days to zap any dust mites. Then follow our guide for washing plush toys. For plastic toys, after following our recommended natural cleaning protocol, rinse and repeat as much as necessary.
8. Clean any outside play spaces and toys, too
Clean outside toys, like sporting equipment, bouncy balls, and playscapes, by wiping them down with a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and water.
In the summer months, baby pools are a fun, safe way for baby to cool off in warm weather. If left uncleaned, unfortunately, they're also a breeding ground for recreational water illnesses, such as those caused by E. coli.
To clean a kiddie pool, empty the water with a pump or by simply pouring it out. Before deep cleaning, spot dry any leftover water spots with a large rag, or let air dry.
Conventional pool cleaning methods call for bleach—but if you don't want to risk exposure to the chemical (for reasons ranging from skin irritation to lung disease), try sanitizing with hydrogen peroxide instead. Apply a 3% solution straight to the pool and let it sit for 10 minutes, then tackle surfaces with a large scrubbing brush. Rinse well before refilling the pool with water.
Baby-proofing goes beyond covering outlets and tucking away cords. These eight easy tips will ensure baby's play space fosters joy and creativity, not germs!