Sanitize Fidgets

 

At Trainers Warehouse, every so often a customer will ask how to clean their Fidget Toys. We typically offer a handful of helpful but untested tips. However, in response to the coronavirus outbreak and Jenny Gross’ New York Times article “How to Stop Touching your Face,” we decided to run a thorough sterilization test and sanitize all our fidget toys.

Photo Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

After all, Gross’ third of four tips is to keep our hands busy. She quotes doctors explaining, “Keeping your hands occupied with a stress ball or other object can reduce instances of touching your face and minimize triggers. Of course, don’t forget to regularly clean and sanitize that object.” So, I asked my staff to pack up one of every fidget toy we sell. I took them home, threw them all in the dishwasher, set about to Sanitize the Fidget Toys. See how each fidget toy survived the sanitization test.

Sanitization Test Results

Of the 56 items tested, 82.5% came back to their original form. However, 10 required extra drying time, including the foam stress ball items and Koosh ball. Another 8 were sticky and unpleasant when they first came out of the wash, but were able to be fixed. 10% were compromised, but still usable. The remaining 7.5% were a disaster.

  

Back to Normal, 100% - Perfect from the get-go

The hard plastic items as well as some of the squishy squeeze balls were perfect, right out of the dishwasher. These included: Snap&ClickKlixxHelixRainbow Metal SpringJelikuLoopeez & Loopeez Jr.Isoflex BallSwingOsBendeezTangleTwiddleTall Smiley BendableGumby & PokeyMagni-StonesAtom BallInfinity CubeFiddlLinkOutsideIN ballGlitter Bead BallLarge Glitter WandFlexi-Loop SphereMonster Bendables,  Shiatsu Spiky Massage BallU-Fidget, and DNA ball.

I put a Brain Noodle and Bean Bag Ball in the clothes washer and dryer and they, too, came out perfectly.

 

Needed drying time

The stress-ballsInfinity CubeSlow Release Face Ball, and Koosh came back to 100% after a bit of drying time. When the foam toys first came out of the washer, I squeezed out a bunch of soapy water, but they dried within a few hours. I should say, too, that after a second wash, the Mooy Bien Cow, and Chill Pill took on a slight pink tint. I’m guessing that might be because of one of the other items in the wash. I washed them again and they still look very slightly tinted!

 

Color issues

We did have a few other color issues as well.

  • On the Gyrobi I tested, the red ring came out a bit faded, but still looks good and functions well.
  • The Bendable Monkey had slight fading of some of the white lines. All in all, these look pretty much “like new.”
  • Flexiblox—the paint came off the wooden blocks, leaving them quite dull. On top of that, the untreated wood is taking a very long time to dry. Now that they are dry and connecting blocks are unstuck, the fidget works normally. And now, we’re not distracted by the pretty colors!

 

Talc to the rescue

All 7 of the rubbery and puffer-style items came out sticky and kinda yucky: Cheese and MiceStretchy StringPufferballPufferbandStretchy Bug-Eye CentipedeStarfish Stretch & Squeeze, and Sea Urchin Light-Up Ball. When they’re manufactured, they seem to have some sort of coating on them which makes them smoother to the touch. With this coating washed off, they’re quite tacky. I feared they would have to go into the “disasters” category. But then, I sprinkled some baby powder on them, and voilà they bounced back!

 

Still Usable!

7 of the 53 fidget toys tested are usable, but not quite the same as out-of-the-box:

  • Stretch and Bounce Ball—filling got a bit clumpy.
  • Therapy Bead Ball—lost some of its luster and the squeeze feels firmer.
  • GumBall—Outer “skin” feels a little looser but it’s still fine to use.
  • Light-Up Smile Ball—came out a bit misshapen, but it still lights up!
  • Mental Block—almost all the paint was stripped off. It doesn’t look so good, but now dry, it’s okay to use.
  • Puffer Critters—even with a sprinkle of talc powder, these still look a little scrappy, but are still fun to squeeze.
  • GeoTwister—this kind of shrunk and curved in the wash, but it actually looks pretty cool in its new form.

 

 Dishwasher Disasters!

Of the 4 fidget toys that became completely unusable, only 1 really surprised us:

  • Moody Face Ball—this one got a hole. Thankfully, the insides didn’t spill out until it was dry and tucked away in a plastic bag.
  • Magic Folding Cube—the papery covering didn’t stand up well to the water and heat.
  • Finger Top Ball—when it first came out of the wash, we thought this one was fine, but after drying, it no longer spins freely.
  • Mini Glitter Wand—this was the surprise. One of the ends of the tube came off. Luckily the glitter filling didn’t spill out, but it could have!

Untested

  • Brain Putty: We didn’t test the Brain Putty for two reasons: 1) I didn’t want the heat to cause the putty to spill through my entire dishwasher; 2) because putty folds over and over itself, I wouldn’t trust that the entire “blob” could be disinfected.
  • Beach in a Box: Same issue as with the putty!
  • At the time of writing, I haven’t yet tested the Silent Yin Yang balls and Bunchies. I’ll continue to test and update the report as I do!

Charge forward

While some of your larger training events may be put on hold, fidget toys can still be helpful for personal use, during online training, or to keep you from touching your face. For safe use, we recommend adopting these tips:

  • Have people use hand sanitizer when first selecting their fidget toy
  • Sorry, but no sharing toys, at least until the virus season is past
  • Sanitize fidget toys after each use
  • For multi-day sessions, have users keep their fidget in their possession until you collect them at the end