Rubber ducky and all his pals make bath time extra fun for kids, but constant exposure to water, dirt and body oils means bath toys get dirty fast. You may be wondering how to clean your little one's favorite bath time friends. The dishwasher is a quick and viable solution to this dilemma. Simply toss the toys in, run a cycle and they're clean. Make sure you squeeze all the water out of bath tub toys. Otherwise, mold can grow inside the toys and contaminate bath water.
Before you wash any bath toy in the dishwasher, read the label to ensure it's dishwasher safe. Most plastic toys fare well in the top basket of the dishwasher, says Leslie Reichert, organic cleaning expert and author of "The Joy of Green Cleaning." To avoid damaging toys, though, use a regular dishwasher setting and don't wash fragile toys with loose or moveable parts.
To wash toys in the dishwasher, place them in a lingerie bag or a plastic dishwasher box, suggests Reichert. Make sure you put them on the top shelf and use a regular dish washing detergent. Use a heated cycle to dry the toys. Once the cycle is complete, lay the toys out on a clean towel to dry completely before putting them back in the bathtub. Any remaining moisture can cause mold growth.
Washing toys in a dishwasher cleans them, but it may not kill every germ. If your dishwasher offers a sanitizing cycle, use it to zap tough germs, especially during cold and flu season. A dishwasher's sanitizing cycle kills germs through high heat, so be careful with plastic toys.
Another option, notes Reichert, is to sanitize bath toys with chlorine bleach. She prefers to avoid using bleach when possible but offers the following directions: Combine 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach with 1 gallon water. Spray toys thoroughly or submerge them in a bleach-water solution. Allow the solution to remain on the toys for at least 2 minutes before rinsing and drying thoroughly. Reichert says hydrogen peroxide can also be used to sanitize toys. Spray a solution of one part water to one part hydrogen peroxide on toys and wait 10 minutes before rinsing.
Depending on state regulations, most child care centers are required to sanitize plastic toys at least once per week. Although homes usually harbor fewer germs than a day care facility, cleaning plastic bath toys (and other toys) once per week is still advisable, says Reichert. "People think that bath toys stay relatively clean since they are in soapy water all the time," notes Reichert, "but bath water quickly gets dirty and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria."
Carefully cleaning bath toys won't do a bit of good if they're improperly stored. Mold thrives in dark, moist conditions. Whenever you empty the tub, lay the toys out on a clean towel and allow them to dry out completely, suggests Reichert. Store them in an open bin and avoid overcrowding them. Place them in an open area where air circulates freely, rather than in a stuffy, closed cupboard.