How to clean outdoor toys

25 November, 2014

The dirtiest items in your backyard are likely the ones you want clean the most: kids' toys. You may know how to clean your outdoor furniture (and properly use covers!), but many parents aren't sure how to get backyard toys in squeaky clean condition. Since many are porous, they can accumulate a ton of dirt and grime after spending quality time outside with bugs, leaves and bad weather. Cleaning needs vary by toy, but there are a few tips that can help you get your kids' outdoor play area back on track.

Step 1: Prep
Before you do any cleaning, check the area for bugs, which often hide in small crevices. If you find any nests, you may have a bigger problem on your hands – be sure to report any significant findings to your exterminator.

Next, brush off dirt using a broom. It will be tough to clean big clumps once you bring out the soap and water, and this will help cut down on your overall cleaning time. You may find a few nasty bird droppings, but they will easily come off with a disposable wipe.

Step 2: Power wash
Power washing is an efficient way to start cleaning your kids' toys. Move the them to an open area away from any outdoor furniture, as everything in the surrounding area is likely to get wet or dirty.

You can use any cleaning solution you want, but a mix of detergent and vinegar with help kill germs and remove grime. Gently wipe the cleaner all over the toy – the goal here isn't to start removing dirt, but to evenly disperse the solution. Next, it's time to power wash! How close you get to the toy at this stage will determine how intense the cleaning process is. It may move around a bit, but that's ok.

Don't worry if you don't own a power washer, however, as you can instead opt for a car wash mitt. Spray the toy with your cleaning solution, and gently start scrubbing. After you're done, rinse the toy off with a backyard hose.

Step 3: Detail 
Most of the grime should be off your children's toys by now, but small crevices, obscure holes and lingering stubborn dirt may require additional detailing. Any kind of bristle brush will do the trick in these spots, and old bottle brushes in particular are said to do a wonderful job.

In the event that dirt is still hanging on for dear life after you've completed all these steps, a stronger cleaning solution may do the trick. Combine 2 tablespoons of bleach with a gallon of water and spray down the furniture, then try scrubbing again.

Wipes designed for the cars' interiors can give the toys an extra polish as a bonus. Some parts of outdoor play areas, like sandpits, unfortunately can't be cleaned after it's been filled with sand. To ensure that this area is as clean as the rest of your outdoor toys, be sure to invest in a cover!