How To Clean Bathtub Toys

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 20, 2022
4 min read

If you’re a parent to a little one, chances are you’ve wondered about the cleanliness of the bath toys they keep shoving into their mouth. 

Some of these toys may have seen better days. You might have even noticed that some have started to become moldy. But chances are, if the toys have mold, you haven’t seen it. 

The first sign of moldy bath toys is usually when black fragments come out of them. Yes: the black fragments you see floating around in your child’s bathwater are none other than mold

Mold can be detrimental to your child’s health—especially if they have a mold allergy or a compromised immune system. That’s why it’s important to know the right steps to keep your child’s bathtub toys squeaky clean. 

Cleaning your child’s toys with bleach is the most effective method for how to disinfect baby toys and kill bacteria and mold. However, as good as bleach is at cleaning and disinfecting, it’s a harsh chemical that can damage toys. 

To clean the bath toys with bleach, you should first provide your room with some ventilation. Turn on the bathroom exhaust fan and open any windows in your bathroom. 

You’ll want to make sure you have the following supplies on hand: 

  • ½ cup of bleach
  • 1 gallon of water 
  • Gloves
  • Goggles (optional)
  • Facemask (optional)

Because bleach is such a harsh cleaning chemical, using gloves is necessary. While goggles and a facemask are both optional safety items, it might be wise to go ahead and slap them on, too. Then follow these steps to clean the toys: 

  • Add 1 gallon of water and ½ cup of bleach to a large tub.
  • With gloved hands, submerge the toys in the bleach and water mixture, giving them a squeeze.
  • Soak the toys for 10 minutes. 
  • Remove the toys from the bleach mixture and squeeze them to empty the bleach water from inside. 
  • Thoroughly rinse the toys by filling and emptying them several times with tap water. 

Your child’s bath toys should now be ready to be played with again. 

While vinegar isn’t the most effective solution out there, it provides a gentler cleaning experience than bleach does. 

For this method, you’ll need just vinegar and water. No safety gear is required, as vinegar is a gentle and natural cleaning method. 

The steps required to clean your child’s toys with vinegar are as follows:

  • Add equal parts vinegar to water in a large tub. 
  • Submerge the toys in the vinegar mixture, giving them each a squeeze as you do. 
  • Soak them in the solution for at least 15 minutes, but consider leaving them for 24 hours. 
  • Remove the toys and squeeze, emptying out the vinegar mixture. 
  • Use tap water to rinse them. 

Leaving them to soak for 24 hours can help the vinegar and water mixture be more effective in cleaning the toys, but 15 minutes may do the trick well enough. This method can even be used to clean wooden toys. 

This is possibly the easiest method for cleaning bath toys. Heat is a great sterilization method. If you have a dishwasher, you can place the toys on the top rack and use a biodegradable dishwashing detergent to run a cycle with the toys. 

However, not everyone has access to a dishwashing machine. If you don’t, then follow these steps to get the same results: 

  • Fill a tub with the hottest water possible, perhaps after boiling water on the stove. 
  • Add in a few drops of biodegradable dish soap. 
  • Wearing kitchen gloves, submerge the toys in the hot water. 
  • Leave them to soak for 15 minutes, occasionally moving them around. 
  • After 15 minutes, remove the toys and use a clean sponge or cloth to dry them. 
  • Rinse with warm water. 
  • Leave the toys to air dry. 

There are several other methods to achieving clean bath toys, too, such as: 

  • Equal parts water and 3% hydrogen peroxide 
  • Commercial products such as Milton Sterilizing Fluid 
  • Washing machine with an antibacterial laundry additive 

Sometimes, you may find yourself pressed for time and may not have the time or energy to dedicate to cleaning the toys. In that case, it’s important to prevent mold from growing to begin with. 

You can prevent mold from growing in your bath toys by preventing water from getting trapped inside, which is how mold forms in the first place. Consider the following:

  • Use hot glue to seal any holes on the bath toys. 
  • Choose bath toys that have no holes. 
  • Let the toys dry completely, preferably on a rack next to a window, before packing them away. 

Wet environments are a breeding ground for mold. When bath toys are left in damp places and have soapy bathwater trapped inside of them, mold is likely to occur. That’s why it’s important to prevent soapy water from getting trapped in the toys and to allow the toys to dry in a well-ventilated area before putting them away.

Cleaning bath toys is important. There are both daily and weekly tasks you should consider doing to your child’s bath toys to keep them mold-free. These tasks include: 

After each bath: 

  • Squeeze the toys to ensure no water is trapped inside. 
  • Rinse the toys with soapy water. 
  • Place the toys in a well-ventilated area to air dry. 
  • Wipe the toys with disinfectant wipes (especially important for children who are immunocompromised).

Once a week: 

  • Using a toothbrush or sponge, scrub the outside of the toy with soapy water. 
  • Disinfect the bath toys thoroughly. 
  • Clean the inside of any squirting toys carefully.

Bacteria, fungi, and mold can form inside bath toys that are not cleaned regularly. The bacteria and fungi that form can become resistant to cleaning and resistant to antibiotics. Listeriosis and Legionnaires' disease have both been confirmed to result from this type of bacteria. In addition, infections of the eyes, ears, gastrointestinal tract, and urinary tract can occur.