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How to Clean & Sanitize Your Borrowed Materials

Our policies state that families need to clean and sanitize their materials before returning them to the Family Resource Center. But what exactly does that look like? We've created this handy blog post as reference for all our materials!

Child playing with toys while parent is cleaning

There is absolutely no way around it: children can be messy. We love that our materials are being well-loved, and we really strive to include toys in our library made from high-quality materials (including quality leather, sturdy wood, and food/medical grade silicone) that can stand the test of time. However, it is just unavoidable that materials will get dirty, sticky, and germ-y, and this is especially true for very young children who are exploring the world using their mouths.

In order to create a safe and clean toy library community, we created our Toy Cleaning & Sanitation Policy for families to use as a guide for cleaning and sanitizing their borrowed materials. This blog is designed to be a quick break down of the policies.

Let's dive into it!

When should I clean my borrowed materials?

When your child is done using their borrowed toys, you should clean and sanitize materials before returning them to their bag or storage container. Cleaning and sanitizing should only take 2-10 minutes, depending on the number, size, and the condition/dirtiness of the items. Make sure all toy pieces are collected before cleaning, sanitizing, and returning the item to the Family Resource Center.

Adults should always supervise the cleaning/sanitizing process of materials. While cleaning a dirty item with water and a cloth can be a good time to include a child in the cleaning process, sanitizing or the use of cleaning solutions and bleach must be exclusively done by adults, outside of a child's reach.

What cleaning products should I use?

I am often surprised how far a damp cloth can go when removing dirt and grime. We ask that you visibly inspect the toy to see if there are any markings, dirt, food, etc. Remove any dirt or grime with water, a damp cloth, or a gentle cleaning product that removes grease such as Dawn Dish Soap or an all-purpose cleaner.

To sanitize, we recommend using sanitizing wipes or spray to disinfect a toy. Follow the directions on the packaging to ensure efficacious use. For large furniture pieces or gross motor items, we recommend sanitizing high-touch areas. For example, a Toddler Tower's high-touch areas are the safety bar, handles, and the internal walls/steps; to sanitize those areas, simply use a disinfecting wipe over those areas. Once an item has been cleaned and sanitize, return the item it's bag or storage container.

You do not need to get fancy with cleaning and sanitation products. Use the products that are around your household. Think about it this way: if you planned on passing along a toy to a friend or family member's little one, how would you clean it before giving it to them?

The CDC recommends a bleach solution to sanitize items: Four teaspoons bleach per one quart of water. While bleach can be an effective tool with some toys (such as plastic, silicone, etc.), we want to express caution on using bleach on leather, cardboard materials, soft items, and unfinished wood due to potential discoloration. If you plan on using a bleach solution to sanitize, we recommend first spot-testing on an inconspicuous area.

How should I clean "X" type of material?

We have a large variety of toys and furniture that are made from various types of materials. Here are some tips on how to effectively clean and sanitize each material type:

  • Silicone: Simply wipe with a damp towel/cleaning solution. If small items are dirty, you can wash them in your sink (AKA submerge) with warm water. Sanitize using a disinfecting wipe or spray.

  • Wood: Wood can be tricky, depending if the item is finished or unfinished. We recommend wiping wood items clean with a damp towel, but to not let water linger on the item or fully submerge it. Use a disinfecting wipe or spray to sanitize.

  • Plastic: Similar to silicone, we recommend that you wipe the item clean with a damp towel, all purpose spray, gentle cleaning soap, etc. Depending on the plastic item, it can be rinsed or submerged under the sink. Sanitize using a disinfecting wipe or spray.

  • Paper/Cardboard: For books and puzzles, we recommend sanitizing the outside covers or boxes with a lightly-damped sanitizing wipe. Do not submerge paper or cardboard in water or a heavy cleaning solution. If you are concerned about cleaning a paper/cardboard item, please come into the Family Resource Center and talk to our staff. We would be happy to take care of cleaning/sanitizing on your behalf.

  • Leather: Our large leather items can be cleaned using a gentle all-purpose cleaner and a cloth/rag. Sanitizing is similar to other items: simply wipe down with a disinfecting wipe or solution. We recommend that you do not use bleach on these items to avoid discoloration. If you are concerned about how a leather good will react with a specific cleaning solution, you can spot-test on an inconspicuous area.

  • Fabrics: Some items can be laundered, and we recommend that you do so if an item is dirty. Follow directions on how to launder an item using the tags attached. For Nugget Couches, you can launder the outside micro-fiber suede if it gets dirty. If you do not have a laundry facility, please reach out to our staff and we would be happy to launder any fabric item on your behalf. Playsilks can be sink-laundered and air-dried. Visit Sarah's Silk's website to learn more about cleaning their playsilks.

What does the Family Resource Center team do?

Our team has an internal protocol for ensuring all items are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. We have numerous cleaning products that are safe to use on various times. If you are unsure about how to effectively clean a product--do not be worried! We would be happy to clean the item and talk with you about how to properly clean certain materials.

When we receive items from families, our team physically inspects the item to ensure all pieces are present and unbroken. Our team cleans each item with an all-purpose cleaner to remove any dirt and grime. After the item is cleaned, we then sanitize the item using a disinfecting wipe or spray/microfiber cloth. We use the following brands: Lysol, Dreft, Puracy, and Method. Before items are re-shelved and available for check-out, they go through our cleaning and sanitizing process.

In addition to publishing more blogs on how to clean/sanitize materials, we are also slowly updating our online descriptions of each material to include instructions on how to properly clean and sanitize that specific item. Keep your eye out for these updates, and please be patient as we work through all of our items (we currently have over 500 items in our library!).

What should I do if I have a question?

If you have any questions or concerns about how to clean and sanitize a specific item, you can either reach out to our team ( or walk into the Family Resource Center and talk to one of our in-person coordinators. They are always happy to give cleaning tips and clean/sanitize products for you.

Let us know your favorite toy-cleaning methods in the comments below!


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