How to Clean a Playpen: Easy & Effective Cleaning Tips

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Maintaining a clean playpen is essential for the health and safety of your child. Learn how to clean a playpen quickly and easily with these effective tips.

baby standing in play pen

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Any parent can tell you that over time, playpens can become a little bit gross. With how much your little one uses theirs, it can very quickly become a collection point for dirt, food particles, and germs.

It might not seem like a big deal to just shake your pack n’ play out and ignore spots (especially as exhausted new parents), but it’s incredibly important to actually wash and clean your playpen on a regular basis.

It may be hard to keep it spot cleaned regularly, but in order to avoid worse problems with the cleanliness of the pack n play, you should try to keep up with maintenance. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cleaning your baby’s playpen regularly to help prevent the growth of mold and mildew (which can cause health problems for your baby).

When it comes to cleaning a playpen, there are several important steps to follow. Luckily, it’s easier than you might think!

baby in play pen

Regular Cleaning Process

Maintaining a clean playpen is the best way to ensure a safe space for your child, which is incredibly important.

Begin by choosing the right cleaning supplies that are safe and effective. You will need gentle, baby-safe detergent or baby-safe cleaner, a soft brush or sponge, and a vacuum with an upholstery attachment for regular cleaning.

Spot Cleaning Playpens and Dealing with Stains

When addressing messes such as dirt, stains, or spills:

  1. Spot Clean:
    • Use a mixture of baking soda and water to form a paste for tougher stains.
    • Apply it directly to the stain, let sit, and then scrub lightly with a sponge or cloth.
  2. Alternative Cleaner:
    • For a quick fix, mix vinegar and water in equal parts in a spray bottle.
    • Spray on the stain, allow it to sit for a few minutes, then blot with a clean cloth.

Immediately cleaning spills and stains is a good way to help prevent them from setting in. In a pinch, I’ve used baby wipes to quickly clean up on small spill! Regular spot cleaning can help prevent stains from setting, keeping your playpen looking fresh longer. Always allow the spot-cleaned area to air dry completely.

However, there may be times that a more intensive cleaning of the playpen is needed. As a mom of three, I found myself having to do a more intensive clean a few times a year (usually after a major blow out or tummy bug).

Before you start trying to take apart your play pen, read the manufacturer’s instructions for care and cleaning to prevent accidental damage to the playpen. Different materials may require specific treatments or products, so it’s critical to be informed to avoid causing harm to the playpen’s structure or fabric.

Cleaning instructions can vary from model to model, so be sure to double check before cleaning your child’s playpen. Regular cleaning of a playpen involves washing fabric components, caring for plastic and metal parts, and tackling specific stains and spills.

Washing Fabric Components

To clean fabric elements, such as the playmat or cloth lining:

  1. Prepare Cleaning Solution:
    • Mix warm water with a mild detergent in a basin.
  2. Remove Fabric:
    • Take off any removable fabric parts.
  3. Cleaning Steps:
    • Submerge the fabric in the prepared solution of warm soapy water (a large bucket or bathtub works!)
    • Use a sponge, soft cloth or soft scrub brush to gently scrub the fabric.
    • Rinse with clean water to remove soap residue.
  4. Drying:
    • Gently squeeze out excess water.
    • Lay the pieces flat or hang them to allow for air drying. Don’t throw in the dryer, as this can damage the playpen or cause the fabric to shrink.

Avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach, as they may compromise the fabric’s safety and integrity.

Cleaning Plastic and Metal Parts

For plastic and metal surfaces:

  1. Prepare Cleaning Mixture:
    • Combine water with either vinegar or a small amount of mild laundry detergent in a spray bottle.
  2. Spray and Wipe:
    • Spray the mixture onto the surfaces.
    • Use a clean cloth or sponge to wipe down.
  3. Rinse:
    • If detergent was used, wipe with a cloth dampened in clean water to remove any soap residue.
  4. Dry:
    • Wipe with a dry cloth or let air dry.

Ensure that no water remains in crevices or joints to prevent rust or mold formation.

When in doubt, consulting the manufacturer’s instructions can offer the best guidance on safe cleaning practices for your specific playpen.

baby in play pen

Deep Cleaning the Playpen

While regular maintenance of your playpen is essential for keeping your baby’s play space clean and germ free, occasionally a deep clean is necessary to address issues like stubborn stains and bacteria. This deep cleaning method can help!

Treating Stubborn Stains

  1. Prepare Cleaning Solution:
    • Mix a solution of 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar and add a tablespoon of baking soda for extra cleaning power.
  2. Application:
    • Apply the mixture directly onto stains and let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Scrubbing:
    • Use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the treated stains on the playpen walls.
  4. Rinse Thoroughly:
    • After scrubbing, rinse the area with hot water to wash away all residue. For extra tough stains, repeat these steps.

Sanitizing and Disinfecting

  1. Soapy Water Mixture: Ingredient Amount Mild Dish Soap 1 tsp Hot Water 2 cups
  2. Wipe Down Surfaces:
    • Use a clean cloth to wipe all surfaces with the soapy water mixture for initial cleaning.
  3. Sanitizing Solution:
    • Prepare a solution consisting of 1 part pure vinegar to 3 parts water for a natural disinfectant.
  4. Apply the Sanitizer:
    • Use a spray bottle to apply the mixture evenly on all the playpen’s surfaces, focusing on high-touch areas.
  5. Sun Exposure:
    • Let the playpen air dry in sunshine if possible, as sunlight helps to kill mold and mildew.
  6. Final Rinsing:
    • Once the playpen has thoroughly dried, give it one last rinse with clean hot water and let it air dry again before use.

Drying and Reassembling

Ensuring your playpen is thoroughly dry and correctly reassembled after each clean will maintain its longevity and safety. Use the following techniques and steps to effectively dry and reassemble your playpen.

Proper Drying Techniques

To effectively dry the playpen frame and netting, opting for air dry methods is beneficial. Position the playpen components in a well-ventilated area or under indirect sunshine to eliminate moisture without causing damage.

If necessary, the use of a hairdryer is acceptable when used ONLY on a cool setting and held at a considerable distance to prevent the overheating of any plastic joints or edges.

  • Frame & Sides:
    • Wipe down any excess water with a clean towel.
    • Set up the frame and sides in an open, airy space or outdoors if weather permits.
  • Netting & Playpen Mat:
    • Gently shake out to remove trapped water droplets.
    • Allow to air dry completely, keeping them flat to maintain shape.

Note: Avoid direct and prolonged exposure to sunlight, which may weaken the material over time.

Reassembling the Playpen Correctly

After the drying process, you can proceed to reassemble the playpen, ensuring that all parts are securely fitted. This is crucial to ensure the playpen’s stability and safety.

  • Frame & Legs:
    • Connect the legs to the frame, ensuring each lock or hinge snaps firmly into place.
    • Verify that all joints are tight and that the frame stands steady.
  • Sides & Edges:
    • Attach netting or side panels to the frame, double-checking that all edges are smooth and that there’s no risk of entrapment or snagging.
  • Playpen Mat & Travel Crib:
    • Place the mat inside the playpen, making sure it lies flat and fits snugly without any gaps.
    • If it’s a travel crib, confirm that all folds and locks are secure.

Careful drying and methodical reassembling are the keys to maintaining your playpen’s condition and ensuring a safe environment for your child.

baby in play pen behind mesh

Maintenance and Safety Tips

Proper maintenance ensures longevity and provides a safe and clean play space for your child. Adhering to regular cleaning routines and employing safe methods are pivotal to achieving this.

Regular Maintenance for Longevity

  • Weekly Cleaning Schedule:
    • Fabric Areas: Vacuum to remove debris.
    • Plastic Components: Wipe with a mix of warm water and mild soap, rinse thoroughly.
    • Metal Parts: Check for rust. If any, gently sand and apply a rust inhibitor.
  • Bi-Monthly Deep Cleaning:
    • Detachables: Machine wash fabric parts if allowed. Check the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Immediate Action on Spills:
    • Stains: Clean them instantly to avoid the fabric getting permanently stained.
  • Inspection Routine:
    • Integrity Checks: Regularly inspect for tears or wear and repair them to prevent hazards.

By keeping these points in mind and integrating them into your cleaning routine, you contribute to creating a consistently clean, safe, and welcoming space for your little one to play and grow.


Maintaining your playpen requires both regular and deep cleaning routines to ensure the safety and well-being of its little occupants, as well as keep your playpen in good condition.

  • Regular cleaning is your best defense against the accumulation of dirt and germs:
    • Wipe down surfaces daily.
    • Vacuum or sweep it out on a regular basis (daily or at minimum weekly).
    • Spot clean as needed.
    • Be sure to also clean soft toys often!

Deep cleaning provides an additional layer of sanitation:

  • Schedule monthly.
  • Use non-toxic cleaners.
  • Focus on nooks and crannies.
  • Safety considerations:
    • Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
    • Inspect the playpen for damages during each clean.

Health alerts:

  • Look out for mold or mildew.
  • Address spills and stains promptly to prevent bacterial growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best method to clean and sterilize a playpen?

To ensure your baby’s playpen is both clean and sterilized, first, remove any fabrics and toys. Vacuum for loose dirt, then wash with a mild soap and warm water solution. Rinse thoroughly. To sterilize, use a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar, wipe down, and let it air dry.

Can you machine wash a Pack and Play, and if so, how?

Yes, the Pack and Play’s fabric parts can often be machine washed. Check the label first for instructions before using your washing machine to make sure that your model is machine washable. Remove the mattress and use a gentle, bleach-free detergent. Wash on a delicate cycle with cold water, then air dry completely before reassembling.

What are the safe cleaning solutions for playpen mesh fabric?

For cleaning playpen mesh fabric, use a gentle detergent with lukewarm water. Avoid harsh chemicals. Gently scrub with a soft brush, rinse with clean water, and air dry. For disinfecting, a mild solution of water and white vinegar can be applied and wiped down.

How can a pack and play be cleaned without using a bathtub?

To clean a pack and play without a bathtub, use a spray bottle filled with a gentle, safe cleaning solution. Spray it on all surfaces, wipe with a cloth or sponge, and rinse off with a damp cloth. Stand it up to air dry fully before using it again.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition and is only meant for general information. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents of this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, yourself or your child. Reliance on any information provided by these articles is solely at your own risk.

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