29 December 2014

Cleaning and disinfecting toys using your washing machine and dishwasher

Almost every parent has been there. Winter is the season for colds, the flu, pink eye – and the list goes on. Not only are your children sick but now you also have to wash and disinfect everything in your household, to prevent further outbreaks with other family members or reinfection. “Sigh”…

Here are a few tips that you may not know about that will help you to easily clean and disinfect your children’s toys during this year’s cold and flu season. You can generally toss small stuffed animals and dolls made from cloth into the washing machine with a small amount of detergent and wash on a regular cycle. A mesh laundry bag can help protect them. These can usually go into the dryer as well, as long as there are no plastic parts like noses or arms. Sometimes the doll’s hair or fur will come out a bit less lovely after washing and drying, but it will be clean!

Many small plastic and Legos-style toys can also go in your clothes washer. Just add about a 1/4 cup of bleach and run the cycle on hot. For easy clean up place all small items in a mesh laundry bag. When the load has completed lay the toys out to dry. They will have water in cracks and crevices, you can put them into an empty bathtub or shower to let them dry out, or lay them out on a towel. Do not attempt to dry your toys in the clothes dryer!

Metal toys like small toy cars do well in the dishwasher. If they fall through the holes also use a mesh bag or lay them on top of a spaghetti strainer inside your dish washer.

Toys with batteries or any electronic parts cannot be safely submersed in water. These cannot be put into the washing machine or the dishwasher. Your best choice for cleaning and disinfecting this sort of toy is to wipe them down by hand with a sponge and bleach water. Use 2 tablespoons of bleach for every gallon of water. After wiping down with bleach water, wipe down again with clean water, and allow to dry.

If you have toys that cannot be cleaned in any reasonable manner, you can quarantine the toys. Simply place anything you can’t wash in the washing machine, dishwasher or by hand in a trashbag and put the toy away for at least 17 days. ( This is how long the strongest flu virus is thought to survive on a surface.)   If you are very concerned, you may want to think about putting toys that can’t be disinfected in quarantine for even longer.

*Note: This article was written by a mother. I am not a doctor or a scientist. This knowledge was a composition of things I find useful for my own family. Please use your own good judgement on how to care for your children and personal items.

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