Colander + plate = secure basket for washing small toys

Andi's hack will bring joy to the parents of the Lego/K'nex obsessed:

My daughter has become obsessed with building toys. In her case, specifically with Bionicles, K'nex and Legos. I'm not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination but I do want to wash these toys once in a while. [Funny, I've never thought about washing Legos. But then, my kids aren't totally obsessed with them. I know kids who take them everywhere, including the driveway and the dusty sidewalk strip. — Ed.] For most of her hard plastic toys, I feel pretty safe washing them on the top shelf of the dishwasher. I was at a loss, though, to figure out how to effectively clean such tiny pieces. The solution that I came up with is to put them into a plastic colander with suitably small perforations, and then place a plate upside down on top of them. This creates a pretty secure basket in which to wash the pieces without worrying about them floating away or needing to dump standing water out of the container after the wash cycle.

I'm thinking a mesh lingerie bag in the washing machine would do the trick as well. Who else has an idea about how to wash Legos and other tiny toys?

Related: Speed up Lego and other small toy cleaning with a broom and dustpan


  1. says

    Great idea! I just always end up running a sink full of scalding hot water and hand-washing the little buggers that won’t go in the dish-washer. I especially like the idea of the mesh bag in the washing machine! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jill says

    Dishwashers work but don’t do the washing machine. I tried it with our bath toys in a lingerie bag and one of them jammed up the agitator, so it couldn’t spin/drain…net result: a serious flood, expensive repair job and very grumpy husband asking, “Why didn’t you just put it in the dishwasher?!”

  3. george says

    I’d recommend against washing in hot water or running the high-heat dry cycle of the dishwasher, though.

    Maybe run them through a salad spinner to get the water out of the inside of the bricks.

  4. says

    Asha, since we get a lot of these little building toys at garage/yard sales and thrift shops and have no idea where they’ve been, etc we generally wash them before letting our daughter play with them. There are quite a few other reasons you might want to clean them, i.e. a builder with jelly hands.

  5. says

    We use baskets meant for washing bottle parts. Those things have come in handy for a lot of small parts.

  6. terri d. says

    we also us the colander in the dish washer…but be careful of the thinner plastic toys…they will melt and make a big mess in the dish washer. colanders are also useful in the tub, as a draining spot for all the wet bath toys.

  7. Kaylin says

    I second Nancy’s use of the cages meant for dishwashing bottle parts – they’re only a few bucks and are wonderful for deep cleaning legos, bath toys, etc. plus teeny kitchen utensils like corn cob knobs. The cages fit in the top rack of the dishwasher, so the items inside don’t get too hot.

  8. Becky says

    I use my salad spinner for washing breast pump parts and small bottle parts. Wash items in the bowl, and as they get clean, put in the strainer part of the spinner. Then rinse the whole strainer full of parts (no more dropping stuff in the yucky sink), dump the water out of the bowl, and spin all of the extra water off the parts. Imagine this would work for Barbie shoes, Legos, etc too.

  9. Kelly2 says

    Ditto the mesh lingerie bags. Target often has them in their Dollar Spot section for a buck too.

  10. says

    Dollar tree sells four mesh abgs for a dollar in their hardware section. THey are lime green and have a pull cord to close them. I live them for washing lingere in the washer or toys in the dish washer.

  11. Cassandra says

    I toss them in one of the mesh bags that oranges come in and pop them in the dishwasher without the dry cycle.

  12. becks says

    we had a hack moment last week when my son’s duplo blocks were covered in a strange black mold (fruit spat in to the plastic bin and left to coat and grow on the blocks for weeks). we tried washing them in the sink but there was too many of them. since they were big i put them in the washing machine with some bleach and vinegar and it totally cleaned them and did not ruin my machine. reading the first post i now feel lucky that my machine survived and will forgo this method when we graduate to tiny legos. i do have a fantastic photograph of the machine filled with suds and big plastic blocks though…

  13. Amy says

    I let my 4-yo wash them in the sink. She gets a sink full of warm soapy water and a colander in the other side. She plays with them and then puts them in the colander when she is done and then gets to rinse. She even cleans the water she spilled on the counters and cabinets when she’s done.

  14. Sarah says

    As already mentioned – use the mesh laundry bag in the dishwasher. You can also toss the bag in the dryer (on low) with a load of whites.

  15. says

    My little guy just started to play with the Mega Blocks so I haven’t encountered messes like the ones posted before me and I don’t have any new ideas to add :(
    But I would like to thank everyone for sharing their awesome tips. I am now prepared when he graduates to legos and other smaller multipieced toys!

  16. Stephanie says

    I don’t mean to be that mom, but I’ve never even considered washing any of this stuff. My kids are healthy- what is it I should be worrying about here?

  17. Nutmeg says


    I don’t tend to wash things for germ sake… so I’m gonna guess that your kids don’t get food near their toys. Or stuff weird stuff into every crevice they can find. Never turned around and found a soggy pretzel, raisin mash mushed inside the crevices of some lego pieces? I find that the toys get sticky and I don’t want to touch them and dog hair sticks to them… they kind of need a cleaning. Clearly I’m not the clean type what with the food near the toys and the dog hair everywhere. Maybe if I were cleaner, the toys wouldn’t need to be washed now and then.

  18. April says

    I have a pretty good one. That Lego box in the picture has about 4 pencil-width holes on the bottom. I fill one full of legos etc and a little dishwashing soap, then turn on the water! The holes are small so it fills faster than it drains, and after a couple rinses theyre nice and shiny again. Just let drain then just dump them out on a towel to dry.