As a parent, one of your most important jobs is to keep your child healthy and safe. This can be tricky for a variety of reasons: kids are constantly exploring, sharing with friends, putting things in their mouths, forgetting to wash their hands, eating with their hands, playing in sandboxes, crawling on dirty floors, chewing on their toys, and generally getting into all sorts of trouble. While many of the germs in a kid’s environment are harmless and even beneficial, others can spread colds, the flu, norovirus, and other dangerous illnesses. Learn how to disinfect toys and then put your newfound knowledge into action regularly to prevent the spread of germs.
When to Disinfect
Exposing your children to germs can help build their immune systems. So don’t worry too much about a dog licking your child’s face, a pacifier falling on the floor, or a little playtime in the mud (source). However, because children are such little explorers, it is important to disinfect their toys and other belongings in certain situations.
According to Dr. Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, a professor and children’s health expert at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, it’s a good idea to clean kids’ toys regularly, about once a month. Favorite toys that are used daily may require a weekly cleaning.
Disinfect toys when germs are prevalent or if you suspect bacteria or viruses may be present. For example, the following situations call for disinfection:
- Your child has been sick.
- Your child’s playmates have been sick.
- An illness is spreading at your child’s school.
- Food, milk, vomit, or mucus is on a toy.
Remember that there’s a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning refers to the physical removal of germs, dirt, and other impurities using soap (or detergent) and water. Disinfecting, on the other hand, refers to the killing of germs using chemicals. While both processes reduce the risk of an infection spreading, disinfection goes a step further than cleaning. Because disinfection doesn’t remove surface impurities, however, it is important to always clean before disinfecting.
How to Disinfect Toys
Did you know that the flu virus can live on a surface (and potentially infect someone) for up to 48 hours? Norovirus (a common cause of stomach bugs) can linger in a space for days or even weeks. Yikes! So if you find out that your child’s playmate has come down with the flu, don’t hesitate to clean and disinfect your child’s toys. And if you don’t know how to disinfect toys, don’t worry. It’s quite simple, though some toys are easier to clean and disinfect than others.
Take Advantage of Your Dishwasher
If a toy is dishwasher safe, throw it in the dishwasher about once a week for a deep clean. This is a great option for rattles, plastic blocks and shapes, and bath toys. Place small toys in the silverware holder or a lingerie bag so that they don’t fall through the racks. Be careful not to wash anything in the dishwasher that contains fabric, buttons, or batteries.
Don’t Forget About Your Washing Machine
Fabric toys (stuffed animals, blankets, cloth books, etc.) can be cleaned in your washing machine on the delicate cycle. Don’t launder any toys with battery packs or noise-makers, as this can damage the mechanisms. And if you’re worried about a toy not surviving the washing machine’s cycle, place it in a pillowcase before you launder it.
Washable, nonporous toys can also be cleaned with bleach. Simply remove excess grime with a wet sponge, place the toys in a bucket (or your sink), add 1/2 cup of bleach and 1 gallon water, and let the toys soak in the solution for 5 minutes. Afterward, rinse the toys with water and let them air dry. This is a good option for toys with metal parts, like trucks and trains.
Use Plain Old Vinegar and Water
A solution of vinegar and water is a time-tested, eco-friendly solution for washing toys and a great option for toys that are not dishwasher safe. For example, if you have any wood toys, create a 50-50 solution of vinegar and water, dip in a dishcloth, and wipe the toys with it. Don’t soak the toys in water, as the wood may warp or roughen. You can also use a vinegar solution to spot-clean fabric and plastic toys.
Utilize Natural UV Rays
Before cleaning products were ever invented, sunlight was killing bacteria around the world. On sunny days, set your child’s toys outside or lay them out in a room of your house that gets a lot of sunlight. Let the toys sit in the sun for a few hours, allowing the UV rays to disinfect them. This is also a great way to freshen stuffed toys with lingering odors.
Try a Germ Fogger
In between these other cleanings, use a germ fogger to disinfect the entire area where your child plays. The SafeSpace Disinfectant & Deodorizing Germ Fogger is a great option. It’s EPA-approved, doesn’t leave any residue on toys, and is nontoxic for children if ingested. Plus, it kills 99 percent of the germs responsible for the cold, flu, staph, MRSA, and more. After your child recovers from a nasty bug or when you hear the flu is spreading through school, activate the germ fogger to eradicate any lingering viruses and bacteria.
To use the fogger to disinfect toys, spread the toys out on the floor and set the germ fogger in the middle of the toys. Activate the fogger, and don’t let anyone into the room for at least an hour. Finally, return the disinfected toys to their toy box or shelves.
Children rarely remain clean for long – and that’s okay! By cleaning their toys from time to time and disinfecting their play space, you can help keep them healthy and safe.
And when it comes to fighting germs, you can rely on SafeSpace. For more than a decade, we’ve been working diligently to bring effective disinfecting innovations to health-conscious consumers. To learn more about our company and our products, visit our website.
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