Millions of people saw that viral video of a parent cutting their child’s rubber duck bath toy in half to reveal it was full of mold. I was one of them, and after I saw the black moldy spots lurking inside the rubber duck in question, I immediately conducted an experiment of my own. Sure enough, even though I always made sure my toddler’s beloved bathtime squirt toys were left to drain after use, lo and behold I was face to face with some mystery gunk once I cut into one of them.
Why Do Bath Toys Mold?
One 2018 study concluded that “the flexible plastic material that is releasing AOC and therefore favoring microbial growth” is one of the main factors of the toy developing complex bacterial and fungal communities. That, combined with the microbiome of the tap water, nutrients in the dirty bathwater, and any other bacteria introduced into the environment are what’s to blame for the toy’s hidden gunk. It happens because some of these plastic materials can absorb organic matter, which enables biofilm to form. That same study states “bath toys from real households are colonized by dense biofilms with complex bacterial and fungal communities.”
I was on a mission to boot these “communities” out of my child’s bath time routine, without forcing her to give up bath toys entirely. Getting your toddler into the bath can be difficult enough, and bath toys provide a real incentive for them to cooperate. So since there was no living without them, I asked myself how do we live with them safely? Soap and hot water clearly weren’t helping. Not only did I go on a mission to brush up on my cleaning techniques, but I was also on a mission to find bath toys that don’t mold.
How To Clean Bath Toys With Bleach
I opted to go the bleach route this time and followed The Maids instructions for doing so. I simply put 1/2 cup of bleach in a 1-gallon bucket and let the toys soak in it for 10 minutes, then rinsed them vigorously. You don’t have to go this far, but I also threw out many of the toys I now know are riskiest for mold growth. If I can limit the number of hours I spend washing, rinsing, and repeating, I’ll be happier for it.
How To Clean Bath Toys Without Bleach
Google led me to Martha Stewart’s advice on this subject. Martha’s article recommends a monthly soak in vinegar for your child’s bath toys. Her instructions say to “add 1/2 cup white vinegar per gallon of warm water in a bucket. Soak the toys in the solution for about 10 minutes, then rub them gently with a sponge. To clean the inside of squeeze toys, suck up the solution, shake, and squeeze out. Let air-dry.” This natural method is simple and elegant— classic Martha. My little one will be thrilled the squirt toys may actually live to see another day around here.
Other experts recommend parents clean bath toys with disinfectant wipes and rinse them once a week. Depending on the type of toy, it doesn’t get any better than boiling them or even throwing them into the dishwasher.
Which Bath Toys Don’t Mold?
So are there bath toys that don’t mold at all? Sure are! I found some really cute mold-free bath toys that I’m excited to start adding to our collection!
Shop Mold-Free Bath Toys
The key to the Skip Hop Pull & Go Submarine’s ability to resist mold is its design. The holes in the bottom allow for proper drainage, which makes it tricky for mold to spread.
According to Amazon reviewers, Boon’s MARCO Light-Up Bath Toy is beloved for its ability to resist mold and easily clean.
There are holes in each boat that make draining the water out part of the fun, which is also a fantastic sensory activity all while allowing them to stay dry and mold-free between baths.
The Octopus Hoopla shows up on almost every list of this kind, and the manufacturer attributes its ability to stay mold-free to its clever design. Without holes for water to hide in, parents don’t have to worry about hidden mold lurking in this toy.