5 Easy Ways to Clean Your Baby's Bath Toys

When not cleaned properly, bath toys can be potentially harmful to kids. Here's how to clean bath toys, plus bath toy picks that are less prone to breeding bacteria and mold in the first place.

An image of a little boy in a bath tub playing with bath toys.
Photo: Getty Images.

A 2018 study found that bath toys, no matter how much soap they splash in each night, are quite susceptible to "the proliferation of opportunistic pathogens and unwanted organisms." Yes, organisms. Indeed, the same research found that every bath toy studied tested positive for the presence of mold and other "biofilms," including (gag) fecal matter.

Just about any tub toy can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew simply due to the nature of its use. Think about it: The toy soaks in warm water for several minutes, each day or every other day. Then, it sits around in a warm, humid bathroom without being dried off (thanks to the diaperless toddler who promptly went running down the hall post-bath) and possibly even with standing water inside it. It's an invitation for a host of germs. So are they harmful?

"Most children's immune systems should be able to fight off the pathogens found in bath toys," says Jennifer Foersterling, M.D., a Washington University pediatrician at Premier Pediatrics. "However infants, children with compromised immune systems, or those allergic to mold may be more affected. Mold and bacteria could cause serious respiratory illnesses like asthma and lung infections in those vulnerable groups."

Luckily, there are two easy things you can do. First, you can level up your toy cleaning regimen. And secondly, you can say sayonara to some of the worst germy offenders (Looking at you, rubber duckie!) and replace them with bath toys that don't attract mold quite as easily. Here's how to tackle both.

How to Clean Bath Toys

There are a number of different methods you can use to keep bath toys clean and safe for your little one. Find which works best for your routine.

Disinfect with bleach

Using diluted bleach is a great place to start for cleaning bath toys. "A 1:10 ratio is needed to fully disinfect," says Dr. Foersterling. If you're wondering how to clean the inside of bath toys, make sure to fill any places where water enters with the bleach solution. But remember to thoroughly drain and rinse any waterlogged toys to avoid having your child ingest the bleach mixture at their next bath time. "I would recommend rinsing off the bleach after cleaning, then allowing the toy to dry fully," Dr. Foersterling says.

Wash with vinegar

Not a fan of bleach? It's got its drawbacks: It's tough on your eyes and nose, it can diminish colors and patterns, and it's harmful if ingested. So if you're wondering how to clean bath toys with vinegar, it is possible, but Dr. Foersterling recommends using it at full strength: "Vinegar is not as effective as bleach and must be used full strength and allowed to soak for a longer period of time," she says.

Run through the dishwasher

If your day's about as jam-packed as it gets (trust us—we get it!), then you may be looking for a quicker, easier solution to this bath toy debacle. If that's the case, simply drop your little one's bath toys in the top rack of the dishwasher and run it on a hot cycle. Voila—clean toys! We recommend you check the manufacturer's recommendations before using this method since there are some bath toys that aren't compatible with the dishwasher.

Boil in hot water

Another method for sanitizing bath toys is simply boiling them in a large pot of water. This method works well for hard plastic toys as well as foam letters and numbers. Simply bring water to a boil, then add toys using a pair of kitchen tongs. Let the toys soak in the boiling water for a few minutes, then carefully remove them and place them on a towel to allow them to dry completely. Boiling can also be a great way to clean the inside of bath toys.

Clean with disinfectant wipes

Many of the easy-to-clean bath toys on our list below can simply be wiped down with disinfectant wipes in order to prevent mold growth and keep them sparkling clean for your little one. As long as there aren't places where water can get inside, "wiping toys down after bath and allowing them to fully dry between baths should be good enough," says Dr. Foersterling.

10 Mold-Free Bath Toys to Buy

"If water can get inside, then mold can, too," explains Abe Navas, general manager of Emily's Maids, a house cleaning service in Dallas. "And it's often difficult to see and remove." Keeping that in mind, the best solution is to skip toys where water can get in but that you can't get into in order to clean. Here are a few of our favorites.

01 of 10

Munchkin CleanSqueeze Bath Squirts

Munchkin CleanSqueeze Bath Squirts

These clean squeeze bath toys eliminate the issue most squirting toys have with trapping water with a twist-apart body that makes it super simple to clean the inside of the toy.

02 of 10

Dwi Dowellin Swimming Whales

Dwi Dowellin Swimming Whales

All the small animals in this bathtime fishing game are completely sealed, with no holes in order to prevent internal mold growth. What's more, they are dishwasher safe for quick clean-up.

03 of 10

Munchkin Little Boat Train

Munchkin Bath Toy, Little Boat Train

These adorable pastel boats are classic bath toys that can spark your little one's imagination. Link them together to form a train, or use them to dump soapy water on a sibling's head (more realistically). And this toy gets it right when it comes to easy cleanup. With no internal parts and very few nooks and crannies, your little one can safely enjoy these fun bath toys for years.

04 of 10

Boon Building Bath Pipes

Boon Building Bath Pipes Toy

This award-winning bath toy incorporates STEM concepts into bath time play. Quite the win-win, no? Plus, the pipes come apart completely, to make for super-simple cleanup.

05 of 10

Mele the Sea Turtle

Mele the Sea Turtle

Keep bath time chemical- and mold-free when you toss in this cute little turtle from CaaOcho. It's made from completely natural, phthalate-free materials, and is sealed to prevent mold and mildew growth. Note that this toy does need to be dried with a towel after each bath in order to prevent yuckies from growing on the surface. But, it can be wiped down with vinegar for added assurance.

06 of 10

Barnyard Bath! Book

Barnyard Bath! Bath Book

If you're looking for easy-to-clean bath toys, it doesn't get any better than a bath book. We love this classic story by Sandra Boynton.

07 of 10

Ubbi Interchangeable Critter Bath Toys

Ubbi Interchangeable Critter Bath Toys, Set of 4 Dishwasher Safe Baby and Toddler Toys

Ubbi toys are a popular brand of bath toy for good reason. These fun, interchangeable bath toys are dishwasher-safe and come apart both for easy cleaning but also for an added element of fun for your little ones at bath time.

08 of 10

Nuby Octopus Floating Bath Toy

Nuby Octopus Floating Bath Toy

This cute little octopus doubles as a bath time ring toss game. It's plastic but completely sealed on the bottom to avoid mold growth inside. This toy is dishwasher safe and can be soaked in bleach as well if you're wondering how to clean bath toys like this one.

09 of 10

Fat Brain Toys Waddle Bobbers

Fat Brain Toys Waddle Bobbers Bath Toy

Cute name aside, these fun little penguins are a great addition to any bath time, as they slide into the bubbly water. Plus, they're easy-to-clean bath toys that can also be popped into the dishwasher.

10 of 10

Munchkin Float and Play Bubbles

Munchkin Float and Play Bubbles Bath Toy

Great fun for the youngest crowd, these float and play bubbles are a great option if you're looking for easy-to-clean bath toys. The balls are designed without holes to prevent mold growth, but they still float and glide easily among the bathtime bubbles.

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