Cleaning Wooden Toys - eco safely

Whether your little one's favourite wooden toy has collected a patina of banana and avocado or you are wanting to recycle some second hand toys, you may wish to clean them one day.
Some basic guidelines to caring for wooden toys
  • avoid leaving them outside - sun and heat causes the wood to expand and crack, rain causes the wood to swell and become rough
  • avoid submerging in water to clean - the wood will absorb the moisture and swell, damaging the toy
  • avoid applying heat to dry as it causes the wood to expand and crack
  • never put wooden toys in a dishwasher
  • never use furniture polish to clean wooden toys as it contains toxic chemicals

Unless a toy is designed to be put into a child's mouth (ie a wooden teether), avoid this from happening too often as the saliva can damage the toy, causing the wood to become rough and the dye (non toxic if it has been bought at Baby Gift Works) to come off. If your child enjoys mouthing their favourite wooden toy it may need to be put aside for a short time, a substitute found (organic cotton toy, silicone or rubber toy) then reintroduce the toy.

When should I clean wooden toys?

  • If toys look dirty 
  • Some people advocate cleaning toys every day. This is fine if you have the time but is unnecessary from a hygiene point of view.
  • If they have been played with by a child who has gastro as novovirus, which is highly contagious, can stay on surfaces for up to a month.
  • The flu virus cannot last for more than 48 hours outside the body so if you wish you could just quarantine the toy for a few days

How do I clean wooden toys?

  1. wipe the toy with a dry cloth. If it still looks dirty
  2. wipe with a damp cloth or sponge and allow to air dry
  3. ensure the toy is totally dry before use
How do I remove stains?
  • use a tiny amount of diswashing liquid on a damp sponge or cloth to remove the stain
  • rinse quickly. 
  • alternatively mix 1/2 water, 1/2 white vinegar (the cheap, large bottles are perfect for cleaning) in a spray bottle. Spray the toy and use a sponge to remove the stain. This will remove oil based stains such as crayon marks and avocado, is anti-bacterial, is odourless once dry and is completely safe for little one's mouths.
  • allow the toy to air dry fully before use

How do I kill germs?

  • this is not required routinely as most germs don't survive outside of the body for very long and your child has an immune system. Overuse of anti-bacterial cleaners causes more harm than good
  • vinegar is effective against bacteria and viruses such as the flu virus
  • vinegar and dishwashing soap are as effective as 'anti-bacterial' cleaners against the flu virus according to US research (ABC fact busters 2/2/2012)
  • the big exception to this is gastro caused by the novovirus. This nasty bug can stay on surfaces for up to a month and is highly contagious. Children can be immunized against it (highly recommended as it causes many hospitalisations and much misery) but it is not 100% effective.
  • if a child with gastro symptoms has been in your house clean all toys (not just wooden!) with a bleach solution. Mix 10 parts water to 1 part bleach. Apply to a damp cloth or sponge and wipe the toy clean. Lightly rinse the toy with water, dry with a cloth then allow it to air dry fully before use.

Hope this has helped! In reality wooden toys are no more difficult to care for than other materials and last a lot longer than cheap plastic! So here's to many happy years of your child playing with their wooden toys.

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