How to clean a playpen?

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

 Feces, spit-up, vomit, and food are just some of the things that can build up on your baby's playpen over time. Unfortunately, when it comes to kids' things, most stubborn stains require pre-treating before you toss them in the washing machine.

Types of danger

An old playpen is not only dirty but also has germs like E. coli and salmonella. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that there are about 100,000 reported cases of children getting sick from playing or crawling around in their own filth or other people’s filth each year. Playpens contribute to this problem because they are usually placed on the floor where children crawl and play. This means that playpens can harbor germs from all kinds of sources including animals, soil, other kids, and trash. In order to keep your child healthy, you need to clean a playpen often with a chlorine bleach solution to kill off germs.

What can I use to clean a playpen?

The main reason why people use bleach to clean a playpen is that it kills 99% of bacteria. We recommend using a 1:10 ratio concentration of chlorine bleach for cleaning a baby's toys or anything else he or she may put in their mouth. That means if you have a tablespoon measure, you would add 10 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach before dipping any items into it.

The other reason for using chlorine bleach is because it not only kills germs but also gets rid of stains and odors. This makes it ideal to use to clean off dried-up spit-up, food, and feces from the pads of playpens as well as the metal and plastic surfaces of playpen sides and mesh openings.

If you choose to use homemade cleaners, make sure they do not contain ammonia, vinegar, or alcohol. These ingredients will cause the plastic and metal playpen parts to corrode and even break down completely if left soaking in these cleaners for an extended period of time.

If you have a playpen that is made from wood, then all you need is one teaspoon of dish soap with about two cups of hot water mixed together in a spray bottle. Spray this solution on both sides of the wood playpen before wiping it off with a soft cotton cloth.

The last option you have is using flimsy cleaning wipes that are specifically made for this task. Just be aware that because these wipes are so thin and small, they can get lost easily or blow away if left out where the wind can pick them up.

Stubborn stains on mesh openings

Mesh openings are some of the most difficult things to clean because the tiny holes are so tightly packed together. If you have a very dirty playpen then you may need to pre-treat these with either dish soap or water before using any other kind of cleaner. Pre-treatment is done by putting both products on a damp cloth and scrubbing the area until you see it start to come off. Once that happens, you can use another damp cloth to wipe it all off before trying to wash it in your dishwasher or washing machine.

Do not forget that playpen covers do not always come included with playpens. If you are in need of one then you can find them at any retail store that sells baby products. They come in many colors and designs so if you do not want to use bleach on an old playpen cover, then you can purchase a brand new one pretty cheaply.

How to clean a playpen safely?

  1. First, put your child's playpen away somewhere where it will be out of reach for children who may still try to climb into it or get hurt by the metal mesh openings. Next, prop open one side of the playpen so that when you lift up the flap, it stays propped open until you are done with all the cleaning steps. This way both hands are free at all times when you are working with the playpen.
  2. Make sure to have your supplies of cleaning bleach and boiling water all ready next to your work area. Mix the water in a separate container before adding in the bleach so it can activate properly without any added ingredients or chemicals that may cause fumes or odors. Before dipping anything into the mixture, test it on one corner of the playpen to make sure that it does not cause any changes in color or odor before moving onto another section that needs cleaning.
  3. If you use dish soap then only use about one-quarter ounce at this point because you will need more later after everything is pre-treated with chlorine cleaner. The reason for using dish soap first is because it allows other cleaners to more easily penetrate through the grime and grease of dried-up food and bodily fluids.
  4. Let everything soak for ten minutes before using a clean cotton cloth to wipe it all down. Do not rinse away any cleaner that you have just used unless it has been on the playpen for over thirty minutes, then it is safe to just let it dry naturally. If less than that, then either run it under lukewarm water or spray the mixture onto a nearby section so you can use another clean piece of cotton to pick up whatever dirt was loosened up by the bleach solution.
  5. Wipe off any excess moisture by mopping around your playpen with old newspapers or paper towels. This will prevent anything from getting too slippery while you are working on getting it completely clean.
  6. Once all of the bleach solutions have dried up, you can mix one cup of hot water with about two tablespoons of dish soap in a spray bottle. Fill another container with some boiling hot water and add half a cup of chlorine bleach to this mixture for your final cleaning step. You will need to use either an old toothbrush or some kind of scrubbing brush dipped in the mixture to get any stains out from the mesh openings.     

Always make sure that you dry off both sides before putting your playpen away so no mold builds up between the layers. If it does, then you can simply wipe down these surfaces with a cloth soaked in vinegar to remove any remaining scents or odors that may linger.

To ensure that your playpen stays clean, wipe it down with a damp cloth on a weekly basis or immediately after your child uses it for messy playtimes. This will make the whole process much easier in the future when you are prepping it to go back into storage until you are ready to use it again.

Use mattress toppers and pads

Many parents use a mattress topper or pad when they are putting their baby to sleep in his or her playpen. These can usually be found at any retail store that sells beds and cribs, so you do not have to look very far if one is not included with your purchase of the playpen.

This cloth will protect it from getting too dirty and absorb any bodily fluids that may get spilled often during feeding times or while your child is still learning how to crawl and walk. If you do not want to put down an extra piece of cloth, then place layers of old newspapers on top of the mesh surface instead so your baby does not bump his/her head on bare metal bars if he/she tries standing up inside.

If you prefer not to use a mattress pad, then you will need to wash the entire playpen each time your child makes a mess inside of it. This can prove to be very difficult on its own since all of the pieces can easily become warped if they are accidentally dropped onto a hard surface from a short distance above the ground.

Other cleaning tips

  • You should always allow for some fresh air to circulate inside of any enclosed spaces so mold does not have a chance to build up behind or beneath anything that is set atop them as well. Mattress pads and cushions will help keep this from happening as long as they remain dry and free of stains at all times, but allowing more ventilation is preferred if possible by those who want their babies to remain safe and healthy at all times.
  • Do not use any wire or metal cleaners on your playpen because these will damage the surface of the paint and rust can start to build up after a few uses if you do not keep it maintained properly. Always allow for the playpen to dry completely before moving it back into place, even if this means waiting overnight for everything to settle before setting it up again.      
  • If you cannot fit two adults inside of your baby's playpen at any given time then either try lining up some sturdy boxes or some other form of elevated parking space so they can reach everything easily enough without worrying about getting hurt while trying to pull off some circus act stunts every time they need something inside.
  • If you have a cloth playpen, you should avoid scrubbing it with harsh chemicals or allowing these to soak too long before wiping them away. This will damage the surface and leave behind streaks that are very difficult to get rid of later on.
  • It is also a good idea to keep your child's playpen in one central location at all times so you do not lose track of it. Some parents take this idea too far by placing it inside of their baby's bedroom since they spend most of each day sleeping there, but there is no smell quite as annoying as rotten milk mixed with an old diaper that is left sitting inside for several days straight without being touched.

Final word

If you are careful enough about keeping your child's playpen clean at all times, then there will be no reason for him or her to get sick or too dirty when using it during the earlier stages of his/her development. Remember to always place a water-resistant mattress pad down first if you are using this type of setup so it can easily be wiped away when accidents happen inside.