I’ve been buying my kids toys at yard sales since they were born, so I’ve developed a system for cleaning everything that we bring home. It works for the germaphobe in me, so it’ll probably work for you, too. Take a look:
Hard Plastic Toys
Stick toys in the top rack of the dishwasher or wash them in warm, soapy water. Then, wipe them down with white vinegar (this will eliminate germs, without the use of toxic chemicals).
Exceptions: Toys with liquids inside them, stickers, seams where water could become trapped, glued on parts or electronic components shouldn’t go in the dishwasher (unless they say they’re dishwasher-safe). Wipe these items down by hand.
Soft Plastic Toys
Wash toys in warm, soapy water. Then, wipe them down with white vinegar.
Stuffed Animals, Cloth Books and Other Plush Toys
Stick them in the freezer for 24 hours to kill dust mites. This will kill bed bugs, too (so you can put your mind at ease about that). Then, clean the toy, using the care label as your guide. Some tags will recommend spot cleaning only; while others will give the okay on popping that toy in the washing machine.
Want to stick that “spot-clean only” toy in the washing machine? Just tie it up in a pillowcase; set the machine to the delicate cycle; wash in cold water; and it should come out fine. (To avoid color transfer and other laundry mis-haps, it’s best to wash stuff animals by themselves).
If the tag says it’s okay to run the toy through the dryer, go ahead and do it. Otherwise, take the safe route and air-dry it. Since air-drying often leave things feeling stiff, a good middle ground is to stick the item in the dryer for five minutes (just to fluff it up), and then to finish up with air-drying.
Exceptions: Plush toys with electronic components, squeakers or glued on parts should not be submerged in water. Ditto for any toys that are stuffed with Styrofoam beads or beans. Spot treat these items.
Wipe them down with white vinegar to sanitize them.
Wipe each page down with white vinegar to eliminate germs (avoid buying any books with tears or other signs of damage – these will be difficult to fully sanitize.