Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 3: Health Promotion and Protection

3.3 Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting

3.3.0 Cleaning and Sanitizing Toys

Frequently Asked Questions/CFOC Clarifications


Date: 11/07/2012

Topic & Location:
Chapter 3
Health Promotion
Standard Cleaning and Sanitizing Toys

This standard states that plastic toys can be cleaned in a dishwasher but the Children's Environmental Health Network/Eco-Healthy Child Care generally discourages programs from exposing plastics to heat, including heated dishwashers, due to the potential risk of exposure to harmful chemicals in plastics, which could include toys that are frequently mouthed by children. What's your take on this issue considering that CFOC Standard Plastic Containers and Toys also includes a standard on plastics, which states, “Do not place plastics in the dishwasher”?


BPA, phthalates, and other additives may leach from a plastic toy while being exposed to the heat of a mechanical dishwasher. Hence, the reason standard states that following the guideline of not placing plastics in the dishwasher "may reduce exposure to phthalates and BPA."

However, there is no evidence available to either support or refute the use of a mechanical dishwasher to clean, rinse, and sanitize toys. To best limit exposure to toxins, caregivers/teachers should follow the cleaning instructions provided by the toy's manufacturer, while also following their local regulations.

Toys that cannot be cleaned and sanitized should not be used. Toys that children have placed in their mouths or that are otherwise contaminated by body secretion or excretion should be set aside until they are cleaned by hand with water and detergent, rinsed, sanitized, and air-dried or in a mechanical dishwasher that meets the requirements of Standard through Standard Play with plastic or play foods, play dishes and utensils, should be closely supervised to prevent shared mouthing of these toys.

Machine washable cloth toys should be used by one individual at a time. These toys should be laundered before being used by another child.

Indoor toys should not be shared between groups of infants or toddlers unless they are washed and sanitized before being moved from one group to the other.

Contamination of hands, toys and other objects in child care areas has played a role in the transmission of diseases in child care settings (1). All toys can spread disease when children put the toys in their mouths, touch the toys after putting their hands in their mouths during play or eating, or after toileting with inadequate hand hygiene. Using a mechanical dishwasher is an acceptable labor-saving approach for sanitizing plastic toys as long as the dishwasher can wash and sanitize the surfaces and dishes and cutlery are not washed at the same time (1).
Small toys with hard surfaces can be set aside for cleaning by putting them into a dish pan labeled “soiled toys.” This dish pan can contain soapy water to begin removal of soil, or it can be a dry container used to bring the soiled toys to a toy cleaning area later in the day. Having enough toys to rotate through cleaning makes this method of preferred cleaning possible.
Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Routine Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting Dishwashing in Centers Dishwashing in Small and Large Family Child Care Homes Method for Washing Dishes by Hand
Appendix K: Routine Schedule for Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting
  1. Grenier, D., D. Leduc, eds. 2008. Preventing infections. In Well beings. 3rd ed. Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Paediatric Society