When Was the Last Time You Cleaned Those Bath Toys?

How Often Should You Clean Bath Toys, and Why?

  • Cleaning your child(ren)’s bath toys at least monthly, or when showing signs of visible dirt/discoloration, makes sense. Although we equate bath time with “clean”, the moist environment of the bath provides a fertile breeding ground for growth of mold and mildew – both on the outside (and more commonly on the inside) of toys. Softer, spongier bath toys, especially the squeaky variety (with an air intake vent) collect water inside (a perfect culture media for germs), and molds and mildew can embed in the soft more permeable material of the toys. Additionally, airborne bacteria from flushing feces (aka poops) from a toilet in proximity to the bath tub, can populate the surface of your child’s bath toys and potentially grow both on the surface, and inside! So, if a child is vulnerable to the negative effects of molds/mildew (i.e. allergies) or susceptible to infection (compromised immune system), dirty bath toys (what an oxymoron) can pose a potential health hazard.

So, at this point, most readers would be more apt to chuck all of their kids’ toys and give up, right! Here’s some help to prolong the life of treasured bath toys, and help kids enjoy their favorites, safely:

  • Hard Bath Toys (without air vents, squeakers) are the easiest to clean as they are the least permeable, and don’t allow germs inside.
    • After each bath, rinse them in hot water, leave to dry upright on a clean towel and open the bathroom door to decrease ambient humidity (this will discourage growth of molds and mildew).
      • If there is visible mold (a slimy surface to your touch, or grey/black discoloration) scrub with a firm brush or toothbrush and use kosher or sea salt (they have no additives) to coax molds and mildew off the surface. If cleaning a “pod” that holds other bath toys, remember to scrub the inner surface as well. Rinse with clean, hot water, dry with a towel or blow dryer, and store outside of the bathroom for a day so that molds and mildew don’t hop right back on.
      • For general monthly cleansing, soaking hard toys in a solution of ½ white vinegar (to dissolve soap scum and calcium in bath water) and ½ hot water with 1-2 drops of dishwashing soap for 10-15 minutes will remove most grit and grime. Get out that brush and give hard toys a once-over, rinse with hot water, and store as above.
  • Soft Bath Toys are of course, usually the favorites of our kids (as they are so chewy and squeaky), but they are more challenging to clean due to their porous surfaces, and the likelihood of collecting germy bath water within. After each bath, rinse in hot water, squeeze dry to expel bath water, as firmly as possible, and leave to dry on a clean towel outside the bathroom overnight.
    • For general monthly cleansing, pour full strength white vinegar in a bowl or bucket, and then submerge foamy or squeaky toys beneath the surface, squeeze out all air and water, release your grip to “fill” them and leave overnight. In the morning, submerge in a basin or bucket of clean water, squeeze and release multiple times to purge the inner mold and mildew. Repeat the process with another load of clean water. Hold hollow or squeaky toys up to light – if you see dark patches, give them a decent burial and replace with hard surfaced bath toys.

Don’t forget the net – if you drain your child’s bath toys in a fabric net, put it in the wash monthly to purge its inhabitants.

What Are the Best Cleaning Products to Use?

  • Inexpensive and accessible ingredients like sea salt/kosher salt (devoid of additives) and white vinegar (cheap, but oh so effective and NEVER harmful) are our best allies for keeping bath time a healthy and happy experience.

4 Tips & Tricks for Parents

  1. Bath time is a wonderful, bonding, fun and relaxing experience – you are not submerging your child in a toxic dump if you are just aware of a few simple tips
  2. Purchase hard bath toys from the get-go – if toys aren’t hollow or spongy/porous, then your job to maintain a clean/safe bath environment is easier
  3. If you LOVE squeaky toys in the bath, don’t spend a lot of $$ and replace frequently!
  4. Make sure your toys have a chance to drain and have air circulate around them: store them in mesh bags or well drained pods, monitor for slime or visible mold, and just get into a routine of monthly cleansing.

And most importantly, climb in the bath tub with your child and HAVE FUN!!!!!!!




About Dr. JJ Levenstein

Dr. JJ Levenstein is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and in 2012 retired from her thriving private pediatric practice in Encino, California. She served on the staff of CHLA and Encino Tarzana Hospitals for 20 years and was consistently voted one of the Best Doctors in America® from 2003 through 2012. Drawing from her experience as a pediatrician and mom, Dr. Levenstein serves as president and co-founder of MD Moms, makers of Baby Silk, the first personal care line for babies developed by pediatrician moms. She serves on the board of United Cerebral Palsy LA, is an active writer and sits on the advisory boards of several child-centered websites. She is an accomplished chef and completed culinary school in 2013! She has had a lifelong interest in child nutrition and all things related to preventive health.

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