Cleaning wooden toys: Tips for disinfection and maintenance

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Cleaning wooden toys

Wooden toys are safe, natural and sustainable. But to make sure it lasts for a long time, you need to maintain and clean it properly.

This is important because children, especially babies, put toys in their mouths. In addition, they play with it a lot and touch it after which they put their hand in their mouth or use it to eat.

When cleaning wooden toys, you should note that the washing process is completely different from cleaning plastic, mainly because it is porous. This means that you can wash it with water and vinegar, but you cannot submerge it.

So always clean raw wood with a cloth and some warm water and make sure that the varnish and paint on the toys do not come off when scrubbing too hard.

This way you can disinfect, sanitize and properly maintain and condition it.

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Why is it important to clean wooden toys?

From an early age, children develop a natural need to put everything in their mouth by tasting their toys.

These "tasty" toys more often than not go from the floor to their hands and then to their mouths. This is how our toddlers learn to explore the world! 

In fact, young children do not really know what is dirty and clean, they will only learn the idea of ​​hygiene by gradually participating in the daily household chores.

Since we want to protect our kids from germs and dirt, it's important to clean their toys.

Dirt and bacteria can also accumulate with wooden toys – just as with plastic toys. Although wood is not as affected by germs as plastic toys due to its natural antibacterial quality.

It remains important to clean wooden toys every now and then; not only from a hygienic and safety point of view, but also to extend its lifespan.

Clean wooden toys also look even better!

What should you pay attention to when cleaning wooden toys?

Wood is a natural material, it is safe and durable, but wood is also porous. The washing process will therefore be completely different from cleaning fabric, plastic or metal. Soaking wood in water can cause the toy to swell and change shape. 

If you are considering cleaning your wooden toys, don't forget to also check the manufacturer's care instructions for specific information about your items.

Your goal is to clean the toys in a safe way, and you also want the toys to last a long time.

Can you clean wooden toys with vinegar?

It is important never to use a cleaning product or standard disinfectant wipes for wood, as these products are toxic to your child. Rather use a mild, harmless soap and some lukewarm water, or some natural vinegar.

So vinegar is perfect for toys such as wooden train rails and the somewhat larger blocks because you can tackle a large surface in one go.

Can you wash wooden toys?

So how do you ensure that wooden toys are not damaged during cleaning, and at the same time remain safe for your child?

Use water sparingly when cleaning wooden toys. Too much moisture will cause the wood to warp or swell. Only use a damp cloth or sponge and dry thoroughly after cleaning.

Avoid aggressive cleaning products such as ammonia, bleach, and all-purpose cleaners. These damage the wooden toys and are toxic to children.

Do not use materials that may damage the finish, such as sandpaper. Grab soft cloths, soft brushes, or sponges without abrasive surface.  

Can wooden toys go in the dishwasher?

Wooden toys in the dishwasher? Not a good idea at all! Excessive exposure to water causes the wood to warp and swell, as we just wrote. 

The heat during the washing program can also damage the wood. 

The washing tablets, or other cleaning agents that you use for the dishwasher, are also harmful to the wood and to your kids.

If the wooden toys are very dirty and you think that cleaning with a cloth, some water and soap is not enough, you can have it professionally cleaned.

How do you clean wooden toys?

Well, you now know that you should never submerge a wooden toy in water, because it will change shape and again lose the colors.

Keep the washing process completely natural, for example by cleaning wooden blocks with a mild detergent, natural soap, vinegar (white vinegar or apple cider work well), or another non-toxic all-purpose cleaner, but always diluted with water.

  1. Use a cloth and warm water to wipe your wooden toys, then allow to air dry or wipe with a dry cloth for easy cleaning.
  2. If necessary, add a mild dish soap or vinegar for a disinfectant cleaning.
  3. Sun drying is great because it speeds up the drying process and the sun is a natural way to kill more germs. But beware, strong sunlight or long exposure can cause color fading and cracking so check it regularly.

You will have those fine wooden toys back in those little hands in no time.

How should you clean painted wooden toys?

You can use a mild soap and rinse well with a sponge to clean painted or varnished wooden toys.

Avoid scouring pads or hard cloths, you would the paint of wooden toys can damage. Then pieces may come loose and they can end up in your little one's mouth. Even though this paint is non-toxic, you don't want this!

Can you clean raw wooden toys?

You can also clean unprocessed wooden toys in two ways: with mild soap and water, or with vinegar and water.

For the mild soap and water method, start by taking mild soap. Mix this soap with water, using 1 part soap and 4 parts water. After mixing, dip a soft cloth in this soapy water, wring it out so that it is not too wet, but damp.

Gently wipe the surface of the wooden toy with the damp cloth. Once you're done with this, take a clean, dry cloth and wipe the toy again to make sure it's completely dry and clean.

With raw wood, drying the toy is even more important than with toys with paint or a thick varnish.

If you're using the vinegar and water method, you'll need white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Mix this vinegar with water in equal amounts.

How should you disinfect wooden toys?

Use white vinegar or apple cider diluted with water to disinfect your wooden toys, then air dry or wipe well with a cloth. This will completely sanitize the toy.

The best way to safely clean and disinfect your wooden toys is to use a 100% ecological vinegar diluted in water.

Wipe the wooden toy well, then let it air dry or wipe it well with a dry cloth.

How should you maintain and condition wooden toys?

Depending on the wooden item, occasional moisturizing may be helpful.

Sometimes wooden toys can become very dry or crack, especially if they are often exposed to air and moisture. It then needs extra attention to stay beautiful. 

Maintaining and moisturizing it regularly will keep the toy safe for children and last longer. 

Make sure to use a 100% natural oil or beeswax; Linseed oil, coconut oil, olive oil or argan oil work well, but also a wonderfully smelling beeswax, for example. 

Apply the oil or wax with a soft cloth and rub it in well. Leave it on for several hours and wipe off with a clean cloth.

Direct sunlight is better avoided for wooden toys, just like a humid place. Preferably store it in a dry and ventilated area.

How do you remove mold from wooden toys?

Mold can be hazardous to health. Mold on wooden toys must therefore be removed immediately! Here's how you can do it effectively:

  1. Remove mold with a brush or paper towel.
  2. Make a solution of half water and half vinegar, or water with a few drops of tea tree oil. Both agents are natural, but fungicidal.
  3. Apply this solution with a soft cloth. Treat all mold spots and make sure that the solution is well absorbed by the wood.
  4. Let the toy dry completely in a dry, ventilated place, but not in the sun! 
  5. Repeat the treatment if necessary. 
  6. If the mold cannot be removed, throw it away.

What are the advantages of well-maintained wooden toys?

Remember to wash and maintain wooden toys regularly; but more importantly, that way you don't have to worry when your child sucks on it.

Wooden toys have many advantages which, if properly maintained, can grow with your child for a lifetime. You can even pass on a solid wooden toy from generation to generation!

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child he came into contact with everything related to games when his mother started the Tinnen Soldaat in Ede. Now he and his team create helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.