"Cleaning" removes visible dirt and soil. "Disinfecting" or "Sanitizing" kills the germs on a surface by using a disinfecting solution such as bleach and water. Household bleach is inexpensive and readily available. When mixed and stored properly, it's safe for use around children. (According to the NYS OCFS, you may use an acceptable commercial alternative if you prefer, but these products are both expensive and harder to find. Look for those that are EPA chemical germicides, have at least 6% sodium hypochlorite, and are licensed as hospital disinfectants.)

Keep in mind that bleach solutions must be made fresh each day as bleach loses its strength when it is exposed to air, sunlight, or heat.

Here is my cleaning routine for cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces such as tables, countertops, and high chair trays:
  • 1. Wash the surface with soap and water.
  • 2. Rinse until clear.
  • 3. Spray the surface with the 1/2 teaspoon bleach to 1 quart water solution until it glistens.
  • 4. Let sit for 2 minutes.
  • 5. Wipe with a paper towel or let air-dry.

Cleaning projects that require a significant amount of time, or that use powerful cleaners, must not be done when children are in your care. These projects will take your attention away from the children and may expose them to contact with harmful chemicals or odors. (For example - the routine cleaning of your garbage cans.)

It is normal for children, especially infants and toddlers, to chew books, toys, and teething items. This is one way children learn about and explore their surroundings. When a child loses interest in the mouthed item, immediately put the item out of reach of other children. Before returning it to the play space, you'll need to clean and disinfect the item.

Here is my cleaning routine for cleaning and sanitizing toys that have been mouthed by children:
  • 1. Wash the toys in warm soapy water, using a scrub brush to clean crevices and hard to reach places.
  • 2. Rinse with running water until water runs clear.
  • 3. Place toys in soaking solution of 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 gallon of water.
  • 4. Soak for 5 minutes.
  • 5. Rinse with cool water.
  • 6. Let toys air-dry.

Another way to keep germs from spreading is by keeping items used for napping clean. Blankets, sheets, and coverings used by children should be washed at least once a week. The cribs, cots, and other places that children sleep need to be cleaned at least once a month. (Of course, if these items become soiled, they need to be cleaned as needed.)

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