Every parent knows that keeping kids' rooms - and their stuff - sanitary can seem like a losing battle. Between the playdates, trips to the park and going back-and-forth from school to home, parents also worry about the amount of not just dirt, but also potentially harmful bacteria, living on all the toys, clothes and bedding in their children's rooms.
What are the best ways to make sure children's items are as clean and sanitary as possible? Here are some tips for sanitizing common, tough-to-clean items in your kids' rooms.
Baby's plastic toys
Babies put everything in their mouths. For the plastic toys your baby loves to carry, mouth and drop (not necessarily in that order), frequent cleaning is essential.
For completely plastic toys, with no other materials included, you could just soak and wash them in hot soapy water, rinsing well and air drying afterward. But to sanitize them, go a step further - put them through the dishwasher. Use the silverware holder or tie into a mesh bag to wash them on the gentlest cycle, then let them air dry. You may also want to wash plastic bathtub toys, which are not staying clean in the tub with your child. Distilled white vinegar diluted with water helps inhibit mold and mildew growth.
If your child has a favorite stuffed toy they love to live, play and sleep with, you know how hard it is to convince your child to part with it for a spin in the washing machine. But it's worth it to know that the stuffed toy they spend all their time with has been sanitized.
You may want to check the toy for rips or holes before washing, so no stuffing falls out. DIY expert Mandi Gubler shares helpful tips for sanitizing and repairing your child's favorite stuffed animals at her blog, Vintage Revivals.
Gubler recommends using Lysol Laundry Sanitizer, a one-of-a-kind product that's safe to use on washable fabric items. It kills 99.9% of bacteria, when used as directed, that regular detergents may leave behind. While washing stuffed animals with regular laundry detergent and cold water may clean dirt and add a fresh scent, it might not completely remove bacteria, including harmful bacteria that may cause illness such as staph infections. Add Lysol Laundry Sanitizer to the fabric softener compartment, following product directions, to help eliminate bacteria. Wash toys on the gentle cycle, and be careful not to launder toys with batteries or that make sounds.
Wash bedding in hot water for the best results, although it's a good idea to check care labels for warnings about water temperature, especially the first time you wash anything. Mattress pads, however, should be washed in warm water. For special blankets, such as homemade baby blankets, use the gentle cycle for extra care.
You can even wash children's sneakers in the washing machine. If you remove the shoelaces and soles, you can then wash the shoes in a mesh bag to launder using cold water. It's probably a good idea to use the gentle cycle and then allow shoes to air dry rather than putting them in the dryer.
If you have kids in sports, you know how dirty athletic wear items can get, and how it seems like the odors never quite go away, no matter how much you wash them. The odor molecules caused by bacteria can become trapped in the synthetic fabrics of most athletic wear, so it's best to eliminate the odors at the source. Traditional fabric softeners and dryer sheets just mask odors and might damage clothing, but Lysol Laundry Sanitizer Sport is suitable for most athletic wear fabric, leaving it smelling fresh and clean. You can add it to your athletic wear load according to directions and wash in cold water. Be sure to follow specific care instructions about drying athletic wear items.
There's no need to surrender in the battle against dirt and bacteria living in your children's toys, bedding and clothing. Set a regular schedule for washing and sanitizing these tough items to help freshen up your child's bedroom and keep it looking and smelling cleaner.