What is the best way to clean out bath toys that store water?

Specifically, we have quite a few toys that have a hole in the bottom and can suck in water and squirt it out when squeezed. A few of those toys are next to impossible to empty of water completely and hence have started growing some mildew.

We're considering squirting vinegar (or possibly a diluted vinegar solution) into the toys and leaving them to stew for a while, but is there a Good Way of doing this? Naturally, any solution ought to be child-safe.

  • 3
    diluted bleach soak once in a while worked for us.
    – DA01
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 3:46
  • 1
    we have the same problem with the "bath ducks". Vinegar sounds good at first. However, I wonder if the acid could attack the polymer and maybe set free a reaction product. Furthermore, acid is not child-safe IMHO and as you can not be sure to squeeze out all the water you'll have the same problem with the "detergent".
    – BBM
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 9:39
  • 4
    not really an answer, but I just throw them out once they start to either smell or look like they have mildew/mold. They tend to be really cheap.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 11:24
  • 1
    I HATE those stupid things and my mother and mother-in-law INSIST on buying them!!!!
    – Meg Coates
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 4:06
  • 1
    I just had to +1 for the fun nature of the question itself... "and his friends" hehe Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 7:36

7 Answers 7


Whenever possible, throw them out. You can't, unfortunately always do that (well you can, if you're ready for the consequences of being responsible for ducky's untimely demise).

I did this, which worked.

  1. Submerge the toy in a 70% solution of rubbing alcohol. Squeeze it quite a few times
  2. Repeat this process in hot (as you can tolerate) soapy water
  3. Repeat again in hot (as you can tolerate) plain water.

When done, the toy should not smell like anything at all (well, aside from the smell of the latex / rubber).

Again, this works on something that isn't completely crusted inside with mold or mildew. When possible, just pitch the toy if it starts to reek. You can always do it on the sneak, after getting a replacement.


To piggy-back just a bit on what Rory said, we regularly fill a sink with 4 parts water to 1 part bleach, drop the ducks in there, squeeze them a couple of times to fill them with the solution, and let them sit for a while (usually overnight). In the a.m., we empty the solution, squeeze the water out of them, fill the sink again with clean water, repeat the squeeze-to-fill routine, and let them sit for a while longer. Then we empty the water from the basin, squeeze as much water out of the ducks as possible, and they can go back into the tub for playtime for another week or so.

  • 1
    Perfect! Exactly what I was going to write, except, I would add that I sometimes seal bath toys that squeak and squirt (such as ducks) shut with silicone or superglue (depending on what I have handy) so that water can't get in there at all.
    – Jax
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 12:56

We have three solutions to this, depending on the toy:

  • If the toy is a must-have: A solution of Milton, or other mild sterilising solution
  • If we can modify it a bit: drill more holes in it to get a proper cleaning flow through
  • If it is unloved enough: ditch it

In saying that, though - most of our ducks are owned by the parents, not the kids (it started with me getting a signed Christopher Brookmyre duck...and I seem to keep getting celebrity ducks...)


The simple answer is not to buy bathtub toys that squirt water.

You can still have squirty fun. Just keep old shower jel bottles and use them instead. They hold a lot of water, and can be binned without worrying about cost.

Sooner or later, you will forget to clean your rubber duck, and it will fill with moldy sludge. This will both smell and be a health hazard. Its not worth it.

  • Your points are valid - but you are not answering the question. Mikey is asking how do I and not should I. See here and here on meta. Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 6:24
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    I would disagree. Had the person bought a single duck and wanted to know how to clean it, then I would have said "Wash it with TCP" or something along those lines. However, it is clear that they have bought a number of these toys. The best solution is not to buy the toys. Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 9:31
  • 1
    I've never bought a squirting duck, but my kids brought them home as prizes or gifts and so we have a moderate collection. Your answer doesn't really help at all.
    – Acire
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 11:15

Some will clean in a steam sterilizer, but an oven at 60C is often the best treatment for such things. Then drop them in a sealed bag filled with white rice for 72h.

If you don't like chlorine bleach (e.g. Milton), Dapple and Pigeon cleansers both work well for just squeezing inside. You want to kill the mold asap.


The dark thing inside are algae. It is revolting and ends up making the water yucky. I throw them away and replace them every month for two dollars at the dollar store, or throw in some McDonalds toys. Very eco-unfriendly but I as a mom, I am an endangered species. So are you.


Bleach is a powerful biocide. I suggest you abandon your current algae prevention methods and instead just squirt a little diluted bleach (perhaps a couple of ml.) every few weeks through the hole by which the water gets into the ducks, using a syringe. I can guarantee nothing will grow inside them if you do that.

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