The hidden hazards of bathtime playthings.
Credit: Sang An

Q: I've noticed that water gets trapped in a lot of my baby's bath toys. It seems unsanitary. Is this a health concern?

A: It is unsanitary. "Besides water, what's getting trapped inside is a combination of shed skin cells and fecal contamination, since it's virtually impossible to prevent some microscopic remnants from remaining after cleaning a baby's bottom," says Philip Tierno, Ph.D., director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center in New York City. The skin cells and fecal material in the water act as breeding grounds for a variety of bacteria that can cause infections. Toys that don't trap water are safe as long as they dry out between uses -- bacteria can't live on dry material. (You should rotate floatable bath books so they have a chance to dry out.)

To reduce the possibility of illness, Dr. Tierno advises cleaning water-retaining tub toys after each bath with a mixture of one part 0.5% chlorine bleach to 15 parts water. The weak bleach mixture is perfectly safe and becomes even more diluted after rinsing.

Squeeze out as much of the dirty bathwater as you can, then allow the toy to "suck in" as much of the cleaning solution as possible. Swish the water around, then let the toy sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse well, making sure the toy pulls in clean water.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.