Written by Stacey Kelleher. Reviewed by Sean Busch.

As we stay closer to home these days, many of us have found creative ways to spend our free time. And as children reach for their favorite toys – and maybe rediscover some that have been forgotten about – it’s important to step up our cleaning game. 

Here are some simple tips to keep your children’s toys and play areas clean, eliminate dirt and germs, and encourage good hygiene habits. 

Unseen Germs Lurking in Your Home

Even if you’re meticulous about keeping your home neat and tidy, there’s probably some unwanted guests you don’t see hanging around. The most germ-laden spots in your home include kitchen surfaces, couches, carpeting, and kids’ toys.

These are some of the most common germs on children’s toys and play equipment: 

COVID-19 on Children’s Toys

In addition to these common pathogens, COVID-19 can live on surfaces (like plastic, steel, and cardboard) from a few hours to a few days. 

COVID-19 on kids toys

Tips on Keeping Your Child’s Play Area Clean 

Whether your children have a favorite spot in their room to read and play – or have an entire room dedicated to playtime – it’s important to keep this space organized. This helps ensure that it’s free of clutter, dirt, and germs. 

Get Rid of Broken/Unused Toys 

Make it a point to go through your kids’ toys a few times each month to discard broken toys. If some unused toys are in good condition, consider donating them to charity or giving them to younger children (after thoroughly cleaning them, of course).

encourage toy donation

This is a great task for families to tackle together, and it encourages children to be more charitable and less focused on material possessions.  

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Keep a Few Toys Out at a Time 

Allowing a few toys out at a time helps keep clutter to a minimum. It also makes clean-up much easier. If kids want to play with new toys, make sure they put their other ones away first. 

Require Washing Hands Before (and After) Playing 

To reduce the spread of germs throughout the play area and your home, children should wash their hands before and after playtime. The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. That’s about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice, or the first 3 verses of Baby Shark (with Baby, Mommy, and Daddy).

teach kids to wash hands

If your children are playing outside – or soap and water aren’t handy – hand sanitizer is the next best choice. To properly use hand sanitizer, use enough to cover all surfaces on both hands and rub hands vigorously together for 15-20 seconds.  

How Often Should I Clean My Children’s Toys? 

Cleaning toys should be a part of your weekly cleaning routine. Normally, we recommend doing so at least once a week. But at a time when we’re all trying to reduce the spread of illness, it doesn’t hurt to clean and disinfect toys (and other high-touch areas in your home) more often.

How to Naturally Clean Children’s Toys

how to clean kids toys

To reduce the accumulation of bacteria, mold, and fungi on playthings, you need to clean them regularly. Different types require different cleaning and disinfecting methods, but we’ve covered the most common – and safest – methods for cleaning toys.

How to Clean Wood Toys

Avoid dunking wooden toys in water or they may warp over time. Instead, use a gentle microfiber cloth sprayed with Puracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner (or dampened with soap and warm water). Allow them to air dry after cleaning. Since younger children tend to put toys in their mouths, avoid using wood furniture polishes because they may contain harsh chemicals. 

How to Clean Plastic Toys

how to clean bath toys

Most plastic toys can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but always check the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure they’re dishwasher-safe. 

Pro tip: We recommend putting smaller toys in a colander on the top shelf to keep them from warping. 

If you’re unsure whether certain toys can be run through the dishwasher, a solution of hot, soapy water works well. An old toothbrush and Puracy Dish Soap is ideal to get into those tiny nooks and crannies that collect dirt and germs. Using an aerated faucet, rinse toys thoroughly with cold water to flood the surface and remove water and soap residue. Squeeze or shake toys over the sink to get rid of remaining water droplets. Air dry toys on a drying rack or towel to prevent bacteria growth.

How to Clean Stuffed Animals and Other Plush Toys 

clean stuffed animals naturally

It may be tough to pry your child’s favorite teddy bear away from them, but it’s necessary to wash away unwanted dirt and germs. First, spot-treat stains with Puracy Plant-Based Stain Remover, as directed. 

Depending on the label instructions, you may be able to pop stuffed animals, blankets, and other soft toys right in the washer with a gentle laundry detergent. Always check for loose parts or tears in the fabric before washing (you want Teddy to come out of the wash in one piece). A mesh laundry bag is an excellent choice if you’re concerned about a plush toy’s durability. 

Pro tip: For more delicate toys that can’t be machine-washed, follow the directions on our natural stain remover. 

Why Disinfecting Toys Is Important 

While cleaning is necessary to remove germs, it doesn’t kill them. That’s why you need to follow cleaning with disinfecting.

You can use a diluted bleach solution (4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water) to disinfect and kill germs on hard/non-porous surfaces. To disinfect toys with bleach, either spray them with bleach solution and let them sit for five minutes. Otherwise, soak them in a basin full of bleach solution for five minutes. Afterwards, thoroughly rinse with water and let the toys air dry.

It can’t be stressed enough: When using powerful disinfectants, you need to follow manufacturer instructions and thoroughly rinse all surfaces to remove any remaining soap, bleach, or other residue.   

For soft/porous materials like stuffed animals, It’s recommended to shampoo or launder these items using the hottest water possible. 

Keeping Outdoor Toys Safe and Clean

keep outdoor toys safe and clean

To ensure the safety and cleanliness of toys, don’t forget about those kept outdoors, like swing sets, bicycles, and sports equipment.

Carry out routine checks to make sure toys and equipment aren’t broken or missing parts. As long as you follow product instructions, you can clean outdoor play equipment just like indoor toys. 

Pro tip: For extra-dirty outdoor materials, first clean them off with a garden hose. Use a soft-bristled brush and Puracy Dish Soap, then follow with the other cleaning steps outlined above. 

Avoid Sandboxes (or Keep Them Covered)

Sandboxes are a magnet for curious little ones, but they’re also one of the dirtiest spots on the playground. Sandboxes can contain dangerous parasitic germs like ringworm, toxoplasmosis, and C. diff bacteria transmitted especially by animals depositing waste in the sand.

keep sandboxes clean

Unless you’re certain about the hygiene of your local sandbox, it’s best to steer children away from them. If you have a sandbox at home, keep it clean and germ-free by: 

  • Checking diapers for leaks before children enter the sandbox. 
  • Making sure children don’t eat the sand. 
  • Washing kids’ hands immediately after they play in the sandbox. 
  • If sand gets wet, allowing it to dry in direct sunlight before recovering. 
  • Keeping sandbox covered when not in use. 

4 Tips for Limiting the Spread of Playground Germs 

Once we get back to enjoying playgrounds, parks, and beaches, there are a few simple ways to continue avoiding germs and illness: 

1. Carry Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer 

When you’re away from home and unable to wash hands with soap and water, use an antibacterial sanitizer. Unlike other hand sanitizers, Puracy Foaming Hand Sanitizer and Puracy Gel Hand Sanitizer are ideal for little hands. Within 15 seconds, they both kill 99.9% of germs without burning, drying, or irritating skin. Plus, they’re full of plant-based moisturizers that leave everyone’s hands soft and smooth.

natural hand sanitizer product

Teach children how to use hand sanitizer effectively: 

  1. Pump a small amount of sanitizer into their hands. 
  2. Rub sanitizer over every part of both hands. 
  3. Rub hands together until dry (at least 15 seconds). 

2. Encourage Good Hygiene

We can’t wipe down every single playground surface, but we can teach children to keep their hands off their faces and out of their mouths. This is one of the best ways to avoid spreading germs – especially when kids are back in daycares and schools. 

Remind kids that when they have to cough or sneeze, they should turn away from the playground and any people who are in close proximity. Teach them to cough or sneeze into their elbow and then wash that area (with soap and water) as soon as they can get to a sink. 

3. Implement Bath Time When You Get Home 

Instead of tracking germs through your house, have kids remove their shoes, immediately throw clothes into the washing machine, and march up to the bathroom to wash up. A rich, sudsy bubble bath isn’t just the perfect way to end playtime – it washes away dirt and grime without drying or irritating even the most sensitive skin.

natural baby bath products

4. Hold off on Playdates 

As we eventually transition out of shelter-in-place, some habits are worth continuing going forward. If children aren’t feeling well or showing symptoms of illness, hold off on playdates until they feel better. 

Always consult your physician for individual care, but the following guidelines are typically recommended:

  • Children with flu-like symptoms should stay home. 
  • Children with fevers should remain at home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medications.)
  • Children who are immunocompromised may need to stay home longer. 

Anyone who’s had a stomach bug go through the family knows just how unpleasant – and contagious – they can be. Your child may not want to forego the fun, but remind them that it’s both necessary (and temporary) and to keep everyone healthy. 

Puracy Plant-Based Cleaners Are a Part of A Healthy Home 

Cleaning your body and home are the first steps to reducing exposure to illness, and Puracy products are designed (and proven) to remove life’s messes without harsh cleaners. 

For more tips on keeping a healthy home, check out these earlier posts: 

How to Keep Your House Clean with a New Baby

7 Tips to Protect Yourself from the Flu and Coronavirus in 2020

The Most Virus- and Germ-Laden Spots in Your Home (and How to Clean and Disinfect Them)