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New lease of play: cleaning and repairing your child's toys

Reuse is the absolute best thing we can do for our planet. So how can we freshen-up some much-loved but worn or broken toys?

How to clean my child's toys

Hard plastic and silicone toys - including bioplastic:

  • Top rack of dishwasher, no hotter than 60° C. Put smaller toys into a mesh bag so they don't get lost; or
  • Hand-wash in warm soapy water; or
  • Use a steam cleaner.

Hard toys you can't put in the dishwasher - electrical / electronic toys / metal / wood / mechanical / painted / dolls with hair:

  • Use a soapy warm cloth, followed by a clean water warm cloth and dry naturally.
  • Soap is usually enough but in case you feel the need to disinfect, use a cloth with:
  • Dolls' hair: If the hair is woven-in to the scalp, use your own shampoo on it with cool water (and don't blow-dry)
  • Remove "decorations" your child added with markers etc with a water or oil paste of baking soda on a cloth (it abrades-off the stain - don't use it on paint or features you want to keep like eyebrows etc). For tougher stains try nail polish remover on a cloth. Rinse and dry naturally.

Soft toys:

  • Check the label - you may be able to wash in your washing machine. Protect by putting inside a pillowcase or similar bag and knotting or tying the top.
  • But never immerse in water a toy with an electronic element, batteries, etc.
  • Can't machine wash? Use the vacuum cleaner, then a soapy warm cloth, followed by a clean-water warm cloth.
  • If the toy's fur/hair isn't plastic you can steam-clean but beware of melting if it is.
  • Allow to dry naturally.
  • Check that any buttons or other attachments are still secure, and any rips sewn-up, before giving back to your child.

Not sure? Too difficult? Asthma or allergies? Freeze it!

  • Kill bugs like dust mites on soft toys by putting them in the freezer overnight. (If you've received a used soft toy, best leave in there for 4 days to kill any bed bugs - yes, they are a thing!)
  • For asthma or allergies to dust mites, you can then wash the toy (as appropriate) to remove the dead mites and droppings.
  • Freezing does *not* kill microbes, bacteria, yeast or mold; they come back to life once they thaw.

    Watch out for:

    Bath toys with holes in them - the inside often gets mouldy. Shake the water out after bathtime and place somewhere they'll dry. Or better yet, don't buy them and warn family not to buy them for you.

    Killing COVID-19 on toys

    Freezing doesn't kill viruses like COVID-19.

    But soap does kill viruses including COVID-19 and it's the top-recommended product to use against it.

    So do diluted household bleach solutions, 70%+ alcohol solutions, and common household disinfectants.

    Washing hands after being out of the house is important to prevent the virus getting onto toys in the first place. And try to leave toys safe at home rather than bringing them to the supermarket, playground, or other busy public spaces.

    How often should I clean a child's toys?

    Not sure! People with a proactive-home-cleaning mindset say weekly, and more often when someone in your home is unwell. Others with a 'germs and dust in the home environment are healthy' mindset say less often to never!

    Repair broken toys

    Repair is the best thing we can do for our planet! Some ideas:

    • Sugru is an air-hardening silicone rubber that sticks to anything and you can mold into any shape
    • Superglue works - we haven't found an eco-friendly alternative to it yet!
    • Sew-up any tears in soft toys, this short video is helpful
    • Replace missing parts:
      • We offer a free part replacement for our board games and puzzles, and so do some other companies like Orchard Toys;
      • You can order missing parts of LEGO sets here (we don't love LEGO - it's a big polluter - we wish it were made of plants like BiOBUDDi rather than petroleum. But it's part of many kids' lives and there's no point wasting a set for the lack of a part.)
    • Visit a local repair cafe - check Repair Cafe Ireland or Repair Cafe International
    • Some nice specific toy-repair tips on WikiHow and Fix-It Club

    We'd love to hear what's worked for you! Comment below or send us an email.

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