You can use a mild soap and rinse thoroughly with a sponge to clean painted or varnished wooden toys. Use white vinegar or apple cider diluted with water to disinfect wooden toys, then air-dry them or wipe them thoroughly with a cloth. Keep it natural. You'll want to use a gentle cleaner on wooden toys.
Anything from a simple vinegar-water solution (1 part vinegar to 10 parts water), a gentle, eco-friendly dish soap and a little warm water, or your favorite non-toxic all-purpose cleaner, diluted with water, will work well. You should not use bleach or harsh chemicals, as they can dry out the wood. To clean them, place a towel on the kitchen floor. Throw wooden toys on the floor and spread them out so that none of them overlap.
Most hard toys can be washed by hand in the sink, including wooden ones. Clean toys with dish soap and warm water, then allow them to air dry. Different toys require different cleaning methods not only to clean them, but also to make them look and work their best. With extensive experience in analytical testing and writing appliances, cleaning products, textiles and organization, she produces cleaning and home care tips for GH, is the author of numerous books and magazines for the brand, and partners with the American Cleaning Institute to co-produce Discover Cleaning Summits.
Wooden toys are great for buying second-hand because of how sturdy they are and how easy they are to clean and disinfect. For example, wood with varnish cannot be cleaned with vinegar because vinegar will remove varnish. To start, turn off and unplug the toy or remove the batteries (but replace the battery compartment cover) before cleaning it. Because they have batteries, these toys cannot go to the sink with the other plastic toys, but they are very easy to clean.
The best way to clean those dirty outdoor toys is to take them to the driveway and scrub them with hot water and soap. Since your children play with these toys day in and day out, it's essential to keep them clean and sanitized. It's always important to clean and disinfect toys more often when your child is sick or has the flu and to do it again after they've recovered. Most of the time, I leave toys with too many missing parts at the thrift store.
If you've been washing a lot of dirty diapers and sheets for babies or dirty clothes for children, make sure to clean the washing machine from time to time to get the full cleaning power of your appliance. Every time you clean and disinfect their toys, you can swap out the ones they aren't using for a few that were stored away. I like to store mine in a spray bottle for ease of use, but you can also put it in a recycled glass jar to clean other surfaces in your home. When they are sick, I limit the toys they can play with to wooden and hard plastic toys and plush toys.
The thrift stores I frequent often use oil-based writing utensils to mark the price of toys and other hard products.