Bacteria On Toys: How Long Do They Live, And How To Prevent Contamination?

Have you ever thought about how many bacteria live on your kid’s toys? And how often do you clean them? This post is here to answer your numerous questions concerning bacteria on toys.

How Long Do Bacteria Live?

It all depends on the type of bacteria or virus, and the surface on which they are located. Most pathogens, viruses, and fungi require moist conditions to live, so how long they can live outside the human body depends on air humidity.

Virus/Bacteria How long it lives
Common cold viruses 7+ days on indoor surfaces, especially smooth (waterproof surfaces). However, their ability to cause disease begins to decline after 24 hours. On human hands, some of them die in a few minutes, but 40% of the common causative agents of the common cold, being on hand for an hour, still remain contagious.
Flu viruses After the flu virus has been in the hands of a person for five minutes, its concentration decreases sharply. On hard surfaces, influenza viruses can live for 24 hours, while on flu tissue only 15 minutes live. Influenza viruses can live in droplets of moisture flying in the air for several hours, and even longer in low temperatures.
Various bacteria Salmonella and campylobacter can live for about 1-4 hours on hard surfaces and tissues, while norovirus and clostridium difficile can live much longer.
Staphylococcus aureus It can live on surfaces for several days and even weeks, and it can last even longer than some bacteria and viruses live in general.
Herpes viruses Lives for 4 hours on plastic, 3 on tissue and 2 on skin. If you have a cold sore fever, do not touch the bubbles. If you still touch them, for example, to apply a cream for herpes, be sure to wash your hands immediately afterward.

How Many Bacteria Live On Toys Surfaces?

The answer is: “A lot”, and scientists prove that.

Care For Your Bear

According to the research conducted by Dettol:

  • 80% of teddy bears carry bacteria that can trigger food poisoning (staphylococcus spp);
  • 1 out of 4 teddy bears was found to be contaminated with feces.
  • cuddly toys have the highest amounts of bacteria in the entire laundry pile;
  • 3 out of 4 teddy bears are never washed after a child is ill.
Dettol research infographics
Results of Dettol research

Rich Inner World Of Bath Ducks

Scientists from Switzerland and the United States have found that ordinary bath toys such as a rubber duck are one of the richest “repositories” of bacteria. Among them, there may be potentially dangerous bacteria, as well as fungi. The study was published in N.P.J. Biofilms and Microbiomes.

Scientists examined 19 ducks from five Swiss homes. Researchers found that the concentration of bacteria on toys reaches 75 million per cm2. According to Furtwangen University biologist Marcus Egert, “The same concentration can be found in human feces. Perhaps no other place on Earth is populated by bacteria so densely. ”

Bath duck
Bath ducks collect tons of bacteria and fungi

The authors of the study found that bacteria spread due to the cheap low-quality material from which the ducks are made. Over time, it begins to secrete substances that many bacteria feed on. Add to that nutrient and dirty water with dissolved soap, body care products, and sweat, and life-threatening bacterial colonies and fungi will appear.

According to scientists, such toys are especially harmful to children, since they are most vulnerable to microorganisms. Contact with the contaminated toys (especially the film that forms inside) can lead to inflammatory diseases of the eyes, ears, and even the gastrointestinal tract. At the same time, the authors of the article are skeptical of the advice to clean (for example, boil) toys after bathing. In their opinion, this will not completely eliminate the bacteria, but the survivors will be stronger.

Must read: 5 Scary Diseases of Dirty Hands You Didn’t Know About

Beware Of Teethers

Baby teether
Baby teethers are the dirtiest toys

To show how dirty children’s toys can be, Birgit Pruess, North Dakota State University Department of Veterinary and Microbiological Sciences partner teacher, tried different toys to see which harbored microscopic organisms.

She tested plastic toys for 1-year-old(a toy plane, puppet, plush toy), a computer game from a 4-year-old; and a computer game from a 10-year-old.

Although it was rather an amateur research rather than a purely scientific work, she managed to discover some surprising results:

  • It turned out the little child’s plastic giraffe that served as a teeth toy, had the highest level of microscopic organisms – about 450 colonies.
  • On cell phones, there were about 150 to 200 bacteria colonies.
  • Teddy bears (that were expected to be very dirty) did not produce bacterial colonies, though it’s likely that the microorganisms stay strongly attached to the fibers.
  • A video game had about 90 colonies of bacteria.

Birgit Pruess reminds that not all bacteria are harmful or dangerous for health, so it would make sense to wash toys when they become dirty.

Bacteria Are Stronger Than We Think

The study conducted by scientists at the University of Buffalo showed that some pneumococci and streptococci remain on the surfaces much longer than was initially considered. The results indicate that additional measures must be taken to prevent infections (especially in places such as schools, kindergartens, and hospitals).

Pneumococci are the main cause of otitis media in children, as well as morbidity and mortality from respiratory infections among children and the elderly. They are widely distributed in kindergartens and clinics. And in developing countries, where access to fresh water, good nutrition, and common antibiotics is limited, pneumococci often lead to pneumonia and sepsis, killing about a million children each year. S. pyogenes, in turn, usually causes acute pharyngitis and skin infections in school children, but it can also lead to serious infection in adults.


Researchers found that 4 out of 5 soft toys in kindergartens tested positive for pneumococci. Many other surfaces (such as cribs) still had S. pyogenes even after cleaning.

The experiments showed that after a month of the existence of pneumococci and S. pyogenes on contaminated surfaces, these bacteria colonized mice easily. The bio-film produced by them remained for several hours on human hands, books, soft and hard toys and other surfaces in kindergartens. Even after they have been thoroughly cleaned.

We have found that these pathogens can survive for a long time outside a live organism,” – Anders Hackansson, the study author, confirms. “Scientific literature claims that you can become infected only by breathing in infected droplets of saliva when a sick person sneezes or coughs. For a new study, additional observations are needed to understand under what circumstances contact with surfaces leads to the spread of the disease – after all, bacteria coated with a bio-film persist for multiple hours, weeks and even months. ”

Must read: 8 Ways To Turn Cleaning Into A Game

How To Protect Your Kid Against Bacteria On Toys?

Clean, clean, clean! That’s all you can do to prevent contamination. Here are some tips for making your kid’s stuff a bit safer:

  1. Wash teethers (and other toys that a baby puts to her mouth) every day! Use organic soap or keep toys in boiling water. If you have several kids in the family, it’s especially important to maintain the cleanliness of their bears and dolls.
  2. Clean toys whenever they become dirty, no matter how much time passes.
  3. Thoroughly wash bath toys: pour water out of them and leave to dry fully after bathing. From time to time, they can be boiled.
  4. Anti-bacterial Laundry Cleanser when you machine-wash plush toys.
  5. Prefer toys made of high-quality materials.
  6. To avoid cross-contamination, wash soft toys separately from another laundry.
  7. Dry toys naturally – this way, they will preserve their shape.
  8. Clean toys after your kids recover from an infectious disease (cold, flu, intestinal virus). It will help you avoid re-infestation.
  9. Smooth plastic toys surface is a magnet for bacteria, but it’s easy to clean: use a damp cloth and a sanitizer. Don’t forget to let the items dry after cleaning!

How To Clean Non-Washable Toys?

Say, you have a plush toy with electronic components or an abundance of decorative elements. How to clean it? Put the toy in a plastic bag and add a few spoons of baking powder. Close the bag and shake it well, leave for 1.5 hours: during this time, soda will absorb dirt, bacteria, and smell. Switch on the vacuum cleaner put it inside the bag and remove all baking soda from the toy.

How to wash toys
Put soft toys in a bag with baking soda

Bottom Line

There are hundreds of different viruses and bacteria on toys – we cannot eliminate them entirely. Luckily, most of them don’t pose a threat to human health. By contacting millions of viruses and bacteria, the child’s immune system learns to cope with them. However, some bacteria are highly toxic and dangerous, and all you can do to keep them at the bay is 1) buy toys made of quality materials; 2) clean them regularly. Take care!

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About nikamarvelmaker

I'm a loving mom with a strong passion for creative writing and wordplay. Freelancing since 2013, I focus on translation and crypto copywriting (Bitcoins can be fun, too). My jam-packed daily schedule includes parenting, homemaking, work and blogging on MarvelMama, and I enjoy every second of my ever-busy life.
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