How to Clean Baby Toys and Surfaces Safely

cleaning a play area

The Spruce / Ana Cadena  

Toys and play area surfaces can be sources of germs swapped between babies, toddlers, and adults. While daycares and children's centers have specific guidelines for toy cleanliness, you can use practical solutions to clean baby toys safely and effectively at home.

Soap and Water

Simply washing hands with soap and water is a great way to prevent spreading bacteria and viruses, and it works for toys and surfaces as well. Toys such as plastic blocks, infant rattles, and teethers can easily be cleaned in the sink using dish soap and warm water.

However, it is never safe to wash any electrical toy that can be plugged in by submerging it or placing it in soap and water. Even toys that include batteries with lights and sounds should not be cleaned in soap and water. Any water that enters the electrical parts can lead to shorts and the toy may no longer work.

washing baby toys with soap and water
The Spruce / Ana Cadena  


Some toys may be labeled as being dishwasher safe. Infant rattles, plastic blocks, large plastic pegs, plastic shape sorter pieces, and some bath toys can be placed on the top rack of the dishwasher. The hot water and soap in the dishwasher will help sanitize and clean toys. The dishwasher is also great for certain bath toys, which can begin to develop mold and mildew over time.

baby toys in the dishwasher
The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

Environmentally Friendly Surface Cleaners

Some cleaners have harsh chemicals that will remove germs, but many parents do not want their children to come in contact with them. Look for baby toy cleaners that do not include dyes, are biodegradable, and are free of phthalates and parabens. Since babies and toddlers mouth toys (especially when teething), environmentally safe cleaners are preferred.

eco-friendly spray cleaner
The Spruce / Ana Cadena  

Surface Wipes

There are entire aisles in stores dedicated to disinfectant surface wipes. Surface wipes are a great way to clean plastic toys that have batteries and cannot be placed in soap and water or the dishwasher.

Wipe down the toy using a disinfectant surface wipe. Let it air-dry for several minutes before giving it to a child to play with.

For items such as pacifiers, there are also special pacifier wipes. These use food-grade sanitizers that are safe for babies who put items in their mouths.


Some toys have grooves that hold dirt or juice and food particles. To get rid of those particles, try using a soft brush to clear those out, or if it's a plastic toy, a toothpick works well to help you get into those tight spots.

using surface wipes on baby toys
The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

Cleaning Stuffed Animals and Baby Dolls

Many people clean stuffed animals and baby dolls by placing these toys in the washer and dryer. But without proper care, over time some stuffed animals and baby dolls will get ruined with repeated washings. To help the toy survive machine-washing, place it in a pillowcase before laundering.

You can also use a delicates bag to wash plush toys. Stuffed animals can be placed inside the bag, then washed on a gentle cycle in a front loader washer and dryer. Read the labels on stuffed animals before washing them. Some specialty teddy bears specifically state they cannot be washed.

After washing, check for any loose eyes, seams, threads, or other attachments to ensure the stuffed animal is still safe for your child to handle.

plush animals
The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
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  1. Frequent Questions About Hand Hygiene. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published October 14, 2020.

  2. Cleaning and Disinfection of Toys. Ottawa Public Health.