The Moldy Truth About Bath Toys


I’ve heard warnings about bath toys being vectors for mold.  There have been stories from friends, social media posts, and plenty of viral articles circulating.  I figured, sure, tub toys can get grubby, but not in my house.

Each month I soak our kid’s bathtub, and the toys, in a bleach solution.  It’s part of my cleaning routine.   I also collect the toys after my kid’s bath, dump or squeeze out standing water, and let them drip dry in a KidCo bath toy organizer.  Given this, and that I’ve never seen visible mold on the surface of anything, I figured we were good.  Until recently.

Over the weekend I noticed little black flecks squirting out of a favorite tub toy.  With the help of a pair of scissors, I soon isolated the source.

Squirt toys. Pretty innocent looking, right?
Squirt toys. Pretty innocent looking, right?
Eww. Mold.

Yep. Mildew and mold. Full of it.  Completely disgusting.  So I collected up all the other tub toys that had holes or entries for water to get in and stagnate.  Not surprisingly, I found more of the same.

Full of mold, ugh!
Full of mold, ugh!

I share the embarrassment of this moldy dilemma because I’m convinced that , despite diligence and meticulous cleaning strategies, mold happens to the best of us.  Heck, I’d put money on finding a slimy layer of the stuff on any squirty bath toy, in any home in America, that’s been out of the package for more than a month or two.

Thankfully, moldy toys aren’t necessarily dangerous.  Any baby with a robust immune system can chew on a dirty squirt toy without getting sick.  Because the mold is inside the toy, and its only way out is through a tiny hole, exposure is minimal at best  It’s more the gross factor.  Once you know it’s there, you can’t un-know it.

That being said, if your child has a mold allergy or sensitivity, there is a chance moldy tub toys could cause an allergic reaction.  Though I suspect incidence of this is rare.

I ended up tossing all the moldy toys and plan to avoid buying tub toys that can trap water in the future.  I didn’t tackle trying to clean or salvage anything – it felt impossible to to eradicate such extensive mold in objects that can’t be properly opened up and scrubbed.  However, if in sorting through your own kid’s toys you find a particular favorite you’d rather clean than toss, especially if it’s something that can be taken apart, consider the following mold-busting solutions.

Bleach – The CDC’s trusted method

  • Mix 1 cup (240 mL) of regular unscented 5%—6% household bleach in 1 gallon of water. Wash surfaces with the bleach mixture.
  • If surfaces are rough, scrub them with a stiff brush.
  • Rinse surfaces thoroughly with clean water.
  • Allow to air dry.

Vinegar – A more natural approach

  • Mix 1/2 cup white vinegar with 1 gallon of water.
  • Soak toys in this solution for at least an hour.
  • If surfaces are rough, scrub them with a stiff brush.
  • Rinse surfaces with clean water.
  • Allow to air dry.


  • Ensure the toy to be cleaned is made of a material that is dishwasher safe, this can be tricky with plastic toys.
  • Deconstruct the toy as fully as it can be taken apart.
  • Place in the dishwater and run a sanitizing cycle.

There’s also boiling and steam sterilizing, but most plastic toys are not intended to hold up under such high temps and may degrade.  A good rule of thumb is that if it’s dishwasher safe it can also be boiled or steamed.

Next up, checking out the condition of my toddler’s teethers… anyone else read the warnings about what’s been found growing inside Sophie the Giraffe?  Again, no reason to panic, but gosh, it’s gross!


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About sarahkiser

Pediatric nurse practitioner, writer, mother of two.

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