Rubber Ducky, you’re the (moldy) one
Unfortunately, even if you turn them over and squeeze all the water out of them, the insides still stay perpetually damp, which means that after a few weeks they turn from a bright yellow to a very ucky mustardy-yellow, because of the even black layer of mildew that forms all over the interior. And the little black flecks in the bathtub you get when you play with them? Yup. Mildew pieces.
So my first piece of advice to anyone getting rubber bath toys for your kids, no matter how much you want an authentic “Ernie” on Sesame Street duck (“Rubber ducky, joy of joys, when I squeeze you you make noise”), go for an airtight duck that doesn’t squeak but also doesn’t let in mildew. The exterior is much easier to clean.
But here we are with about a dozen gross mildewy bathtoys, and I’m not sure what to do with them. Almost every site I check says “forget it, throw them out and get new ones.” However, that is not in keeping with my philosophy of non-consumerism and battling the disposable society. Plus, my mom’s feelings would be hurt. Other places suggest a bleach-water solution to suck into the interior, swish around, and then remove, but we honestly don’t keep bleach around any more–it makes me wheeze and I can usually find a better and less toxic cleaning product.
So I went to this site, and am sort of following its suggestions in a modified sort of way: The ducks are now in our kitchen sink in a 1:1 vinegar/water solution with a teaspoon of tea tree oil added. I mixed the oil in very well and immediately got the ducks sucking it up, shook each duck well to distribute the stuff well around its interior, and am letting them soak there for a while. And am staying out of the kitchen, because the smell is fairly pungent. We’ll see how it works…
VERDICT: The ducks are out of the water. Out of the dozen, six have emerged unscathed; their mildew layer was minimal enough that this treatment worked really well. They look good as new. Four additional ducks, along with the little frog and Flounder the fish, needed to be permanently retired. (The fish especially only had a tiny tiny hole and there was no way to even squeege the stuff out of it…) But as a learning experience, this was good thing–if I can remember to do this every few weeks, the mildew won’t have time to take hold to begin with and maybe these duckies can last for a while.
In the meantime, check out the Ultimate Rubber Duck website…where you can get a Michael Jackson duck. Or a President Obama duck. Or lots of other ducks.