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Buying toys used is great (if you know how to clean them)

My mom and I had a similar dilemma last week regarding baby toys: She was out shopping and saw this adorable elephant toy.  It was really soft and had cellophane ears for baby to munch on and a belly that rattled. She wanted to buy it for her grandson but when she looked on the label, it said you couldn’t throw it in the washing machine or dishwasher to clean. She wasn’t sure how to wash it but bought it anyways (she can’t resist not buying something for her grandson!), with the idea of asking me how to clean it properly before giving it to him.

My dilemma was that I had gone a bit crazy on last week and bought our six month old son Grayson a ton of baby toys and kids’ toys for some amazing prices. To find toys on your local site, go to Children’s Items>Toys. (On a side note, I have no idea how baby toy companies can justify charging $20 plus dollars on tiny baby toys that babies only chew on a few times! I think it’s criminal to charge that much for a toy just because of its’ brand…I won’t name names but Albert would be shocked at how much they are charging for his name!)


All of these toys were another killer deal for just $40!!!

The baby toys all had care tags, like the one my mom had purchased, stating you couldn’t throw them in the wash. The large lot of toys were mostly made of plastic so I definitely couldn’t throw them in the washer unless I wanted to make abstract melted plastic art!  Note: some hard plastic toys can be washed in the dishwasher but make sure they say you can on a label somewhere…don’t just assume! So the question we both faced was this…how the heck do you clean all these toys?

It’s not a simple question as you have to take into account that your child is going to put everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, into his or her mouth as soon as they get their hands on it! ( My son recently thought he could try to fit our 22 pound tabby cat into his mouth…he only ended up with a mouthfull of orange fur and a disappointed look on his face!)

I started doing some research on good ol’ Mister Google and came up with a couple of ideas that I thought may be helpful to those of you out there who also like to spoil your children with toys from the VV or UV Boutique (aka. Valure Village and UsedVic! I always think you can make second-hand places sound much more posh if you add the word “Boutique” to the end of each name) but still want to be able to send them to college. I decided to go with the all natural way of cleaning as you really don’t want to put any chemical cleaners on those toys knowing they will always end up in your baby’s mouth.

All natural ways to clean toys

I couldn’t believe how simple and inexpensive it is to clean toys with all natural products and you already have them in your house: Baking Soda and Vinegar.

Cleaning fabric or plastic toys that can’t go in the washer or dishwasher

Mix one cup of white vinegar with one cup of warm water. Spray toys with the mixture of vinegar and warm water and wipe down with a soft cloth. This applies to fabric baby toys and plastic toys that can’t go in the dishwasher. Also I found that some of the used car toys I bought had the stickers peeling away quite badly so, after spraying them, I just took a butter knife to them and scraped off all the stickers. They looked a lot newer after this.

Cleaning plastic toys that are heat-resistant

Place plastic toys that are heat-resistant (make sure it says so on the label first) in the dishwater on the top rack. Wash as normal (I wouldn’t add detergent, just use the heat to clean) and let dry fully before returning them to the toy box. If you want, you could also spray them down afterwards with the vinegar solution just to be on the safer side.

Cleaning stuffed animals that you cannot put in the washing machine

Put them into a large plastic bag and liberally sprinkle them with baking soda. Shake the toy in the bag and let stand for 15 minutes. Vacuum or brush off the baking soda.

After spending a Sunday afternoon of cleaning, with these helpful tips, my affordable toy finds looked almost brand new!

So next time you find a wonderful, but rather dirty, used toy at your local thrift store, remember that a little elbow grease and some good ol’ vinegar and baking soda can put that toy happily and safely into your child’s hands and mouth!


Coupon Tip of the Week:  Here’s great way to spread the Coupon Karma around.  Next time you are in the grocery story with your binder of coupons, leave a few coupons next to the matching product on the shelf if you know you’re not going to use them.  That way the next person who does need that grocery item will be pleasantly surprised to find a coupon they can use to lessen their grocery bill that day! I’ve left coupons a few times and the Coupon Karma Fairy has always paid me back with coupons I’ve needed, found in the grocery aisle.  It’s all about spreading the Coupon Love!!


Helpful links

Find toys for children


Community Coordinator at, blogger, social media junkie, proud mama, fabulously frugal, proud to be from our beautiful city!

3 Responses to “Buying toys used is great (if you know how to clean them)”


Great tips and couldn’t be more timely. I just bought a Little People set from UsedOttawa and I need to clean it up before somebody’s birthday 🙂


Carly russell-Huntley

Thanks. So glad I could help….and good job on getting the Little People used set. That’s going to be our next purchase for our litte guy. Those toys are so great and they last forever.



What do you suggest for cleaning wooden toys that are painted like plan, haba, Melissa and Doug?


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