Cleaning Used Toys for Donation

Ah, it’s that time of year. With the holidays coming quickly, you’re doing all you can do to get the house in order for the family that’s soon to arrive. You already did your fall cleaning, but it seems like there is still so much clutter and things left to do. And your child’s room? Let’s just say… wow. Toys galore! How on earth can you even justify letting Santa bring more toys?

If your home is like most on Christmas morning, it looks like a flock of elves flew over the house and sprinkled holiday joy, sparkles, and new, unboxed toys everywhere. Lucky you. But, we have some good news. There’s something you can do this month to prepare for the chaos that we call the holidays. Not only will it leave your child’s room with a little less clutter, it’ll make the holidays pretty great for other kids in need. It might take you a little time, but we promise, it’ll be worth it in the long run.

The Used Toy Cleaning Marathon

Think of it as an exorcism for your child’s bedroom. Anyone with children will know exactly what we’re talking about…and why it’s necessary. These steps will help you decide what to keep and what to donate. Then, we’ll explore how to clean those used toys to prepare them for other children to enjoy when you donate them.

Let’s face it. Kids love to explore, get dirty, and play with friends. But they rarely wash off the dirt they accumulate, much fewer germs and bacteria. They play in sandboxes, crawl on dirty floors, chew on toys, and will pick up anything that catches their eye. Then they eat with their hands, and do it all over again.

Many of the germs your kids will encounter are harmless; some can even be helpful. But others can spread colds, the flu, COVID-19, and other illnesses. You can’t protect your children from everything, but you can minimize the germs and viruses that cause illness when you learn how to sanitize toys and keep them clean. Likewise, you’ll want to do the same for the children you’re planning to donate these toys to. Ready to get started?

Step 1: Separate all the toys.

When we say all the toys, we mean ALL the toys. Empty bins, storage containers, and check under the bed, in the closet, and any other place that your child might have stashed a toy. This step will probably take you the longest. Start with two large bins, and one large trash bag. If you don’t have bins, simple piles on the floor will suffice. Just make sure you have the trash bag. There are three categories for toys: keep it, donate it, and trash it. 

Start with the “keep it” category. This is a good time to involve your child in the process. Ask them to choose the items they absolutely cannot live without. Be careful here, because once they hear the word “donate,” they’ll try to keep more than necessary. Use a general rule – if they haven’t played with the toy in three months, it doesn’t belong in the “keep it” bin.

Next, move to the “trash it” category. Having the trash bag handy not only makes the process easier, it keeps your child from pulling items out of this pile once it hits the trash bag. Throw away any items that are broken, ruined, or otherwise simply cannot be cleaned or repaired enough to donate. No child wants to receive a broken toy. Also include items with crucial missing parts. If you have a puzzle that’s missing ten pieces, it’s probably best to get rid of it rather than donate an unsolvable puzzle.

Finally, what you are left with is the “donate it” bin. Do a final check when putting the items into the bin. Make sure the toys are in working condition, and group toys that have multiple pieces together. Lastly, make sure none of it was missed from the “keep it” category to avoid any unwanted tantrums later on.

Step 2: Clean and Disinfect the Toys

Use Your Dishwasher to Disinfect Toys

If the toy is dishwasher safe, run it through the dishwasher. This works great for rattles, plastic blocks, and certain bath toys. Put little toys in the silverware holder or a net bag so that they don’t fall through the racks. Don’t wash toys that contain fabric, buttons, or electrical components in the dishwasher.

Disinfect Toys Using Your Washing Machine

Stuffed toys, as well as blankets, pillows, and other fabric items can be disinfected in your washing machine on the hot cycle. To keep stuffed animals safe and sound during the wash cycle, put them in a pillowcase.

Disinfect Toys Safely Using Natural Ingredients

White vinegar is one of the best ways to safely sanitize toys that can’t be put into water. It’s a safe, proven solution multipurpose cleaner; it’s particularly good for disinfecting toys because of its high acidity. This versatile kitchen staple is safe for sanitizing most surfaces and can kill various food-borne pathogens such as E. coli. It’s important to know that white vinegar is not strong enough to kill most viruses.  Be sure to remove any batteries before wiping these toys down. And to kill other viruses, you can use a simple aerosol disinfectant. 

Finish It Off With a Little Sunshine

Sunlight is a natural killer of bacteria. When you’re finished with the cleansing part, open the window and let the sunshine in. UV rays will not only help to dry the toys, but also disinfect them. This is also a great way to freshen stuffed toys with lingering odors!

Step 3: Put It All Away

It’s common sense for some steps. Things from the “trash it” category go out to the curb. Be sure to recycle anything that can be recycled. 

Next, put toys and belongings from the “keep it” bin back into your child’s room. Here’s another chance to get your child involved. Have your child separate their toys by category. (i.e. stuffed animals, dolls, cars, etc.) Put each item in its designated area, and watch your child grow and develop organizational skills.

Finally, it’s time to figure out where the toys in the “donate it” category must go. There are places in every major city to donate toys. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Together, Inc. – They’re a homeless prevention organization.
  • The Open Door Mission – They provide shelter, meals, and help those in poverty.
  • Goodwill – Everyone loves Goodwill. They not only provide cost-effective toys, clothes, and household items, they also provide education, skills training, and jobs!
  • The Salvation Army – While they won’t take some stuff, they still take bicycles, stuffed animals, DVDs, clothes, and most household items.

Keep Toys Clean to Keep Kids Healthy

One of your most critical roles as a parent is keeping your children healthy—a challenging task that can seem like a full-time job! To understand how quickly and how far germs can spread, check out this chart from the EPA. Keeping toys clean is a critical first step for preventing the spread of bacteria and germs.

Involving your kids in this process will help them to know there are other children who are less fortunate. It’ll teach them values and show them how to provide support to your local community. And finally, it’ll teach them important life skills at an early age.

If you need help getting your home clean and healthy, cleaning for health is our specialty. Learn more about The Maids and our unique approach to residential cleaning.


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