If you’ve had children recently, or you know someone who has, chances are you’ve come in contact with Sophie the Giraffe. The adorable teething toy is wildly popular, despite its steep price tag. Sophie is BPA free, hand-painted with food paint, and she squeaks excitedly when squeezed or chewed. But after some recent news, parents might reconsider adding the popular toy to future baby registries.
After noticing a musty smell coming from the hole in Sophie, pediatric dentist and mom Dana Chianese cut the toy open. To her horror, she found Sophie full of black mold. For the couple of years that her own children enjoyed the teething toy, Chianese had followed the cleaning instructions, which involved using hot soapy water on a damp sponge, and never submerging the giraffe. But when babies chew, they drool, and that moisture can easily end up inside Sophie. Hence, the mold.
Dr. Lyuba Konopasek, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at New York Presbyterian/Weil Cornell Medical Center told Care.com exposure to mold in toys is usually not something to be too alarmed about, unless your child has a immune disorder. However, if your child does have a mold allergy, they may start experiencing symptoms such as coughing or itchy eyes.
So what can you do? “The only way to prevent mold inside plastic toys is to make sure they are cleaned and thoroughly dried,” says Carolyn Forte, the director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. The best way to clean washable plastic toys is in hot sudsy water or in the dishwasher. Then, disinfect them with a solution of 1/2 cup Clorox bleach per gallon of water. Soak them for five minutes, rinse and air dry.
How often you should clean these toys depends on the frequency of use. If used daily, Forte recommends cleaning them at least once a week. And don’t let these items sit in water or leave them with water trapped inside between uses or cleanings.
Other moms have also cut into their children’s Sophie dolls only to find mold themselves. Ideally, it might be best to avoid any toy that has a small hole where water can enter, including bath toys. The insides can become breeding grounds for bacteria.
Stephanie Oprea wrote in a review at Amazon, “Beware!! If you have a drooly baby, moisture will get in the hole and you’ll end up with mold! We’ve had ours for two years and the entire inside is coated with black mold!” She posted her review along with the photo above of her baby’s Sophie.
Good Housekeeping reached out to the makers of Sophie for comment. Here’s the response they received:
Have you checked to see what might be lurking within your Sophie the Giraffe (or any other chew toy for that matter)?