Keep toys germ-free! Here's how.

how to spring clean toys
Clean and sanitise toysCatherine Falls Commercial - Getty Images

There's a sweet time in a child's life where their best friend in the world is their favourite toy, joining them everywhere from family outings to their bed at night. When you think about just how much Teddy goes through though, he's probably overdue a good wash — especially if your child has been sick recently.

We asked the experts at the GHI for their advice on spring cleaning a variety of toys. Here's what you need to know.

Soft toys

Once you’ve persuaded your child to entrust Teddy to your care, read the care label to find out if it can be machine-washed.

If the toy has been well-loved, check whether it needs any repairs first. You don’t want an ear going astray in the wash, and a few quick stitches now can prevent upset later. Pop the toy into an old pillowcase or a net laundry bag to protect it, then wash it on a delicates cycle at the lowest temperature possible. This won't get rid of germs, so add a laundry disinfectant to the wash like Dettol Anti-Bacterial Laundry Cleanser of Napisan for a more hygienic clean.

Alternatively, hand wash in lukewarm water with a little washing detergent added, rinse, and soak in a solution of Milton Sterilising Fluid for 15 minutes. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can without wringing, then press between two clean towels.

If the toy can’t be tumble dried, either hang it on the washing line using soft grip clothes pegs or leave to dry completely in the airing cupboard. It's crucial to make sure you leave it until it's really dry all the way through!

how to spring clean toys
Catherine Delahaye - Getty Images

Teething toys

Plastic teething toys can give temporary relief to sore gums but as they come into frequent contact with little hands and mouths – and are often discarded on the floor between bouts of frenzied chewing – they need to be cleaned often. Wash them using warm water and washing up liquid, rinse, then soak them in a solution of Milton Sterilising Fluid for 15 minutes.

Bath toys

Bath toys can be a magnet for mould. Wash them regularly in a solution of warm water and washing-up liquid, using a bottle brush to get into all the nooks and crannies. Rinse, then allow to dry naturally. After bathtime, squeeze until all the water is out and leave to dry thoroughly.

Grime can build up quickly inside squirty bath toys. If you see black flakes coming out with the water when you squeeze them, it’s time to replace them: even with thorough cleaning, you can’t be sure of removing every trace of mould.

how to spring clean toys
Catherine Delahaye - Getty Images

Lego and Duplo

You may have heard the cleaning myth about running Lego bricks through the washing machine, but the toy manufacturer advises against this approach. Instead, wash Lego – and its chunkier sibling, Duplo – by hand in warm water no hotter than 40°C, to which washing-up liquid has been added. Leave the bricks to soak for 10 minutes and scrub any grimy pieces using a toothbrush or pick dirt out of crevices using a toothpick. Rinse with clean water and allow to dry naturally.

Lego pieces with stickers or electric parts should not be submerged in water. Just wipe these with a damp microfibre cloth sprayed with Milton Sterilising Fluid instead. This is a good way to tackle wooden toys, or any plastic toy that can’t be submerged in water.

If you’re tempted to buy second hand Lego, beware. Scientists at the University of Plymouth have warned that Lego bricks dating back to the 1970s and 1980s may contain hazardous chemicals that could be harmful to health.

Storing toys

There comes a point in the life of every toy when it is played with less. If you can’t bear to part with your children’s old favourites, you might be considering rehousing them in the loft. Clean fabric toys first to discourage moths and dust mites and choose an airtight plastic container to store them in once completely dry.

Make sure you label each box so you can find everything again. One option is to photograph the contents, then print the image and tape it to the inside of a clear plastic box with the image facing out. For toys you intend to pass on to someone else at some stage or dig out again if you have another child, it’s handy to group toys together that your child enjoyed at a certain age, and label the box with this information.

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