One of the most important steps in reducing the number of germs, and therefore the spread of disease, is the thorough cleaning of surfaces that you work or prepare food on, or that come into frequent contact with children, such as toys that children put in their mouths, crib rails or diaper-changing areas.
Routine cleaning with soap and water is the most useful method for removing germs from surfaces. Good mechanical cleaning (scrubbing with soap and water) physically reduces the numbers of germs from the surface, just as handwashing reduces the numbers of germs from the hands. Removing germs is especially important for soiled surfaces that cannot be treated with chemical disinfectants, such as some upholstery fabrics.
However, some items and surfaces should receive an additional step—disinfection—to kill germs after cleaning with soap and rinsing with clear water. Items that can be washed in a dishwasher or hot cycle of a washing machine do not have to be disinfected because these machines use water that is hot enough for a long enough period of time to kill most germs.
The disinfection process uses chemicals that are stronger than soap and water.
Disinfection also usually requires soaking or drenching the item for several minutes to give the chemical time to kill the remaining germs. Commercial products that meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) standards for “hospital grade” germicides (solutions that kill germs) may be used for this purpose.
One of the most commonly used chemicals for disinfection in childcare settings, for example, is a homemade solution of household bleach and water.
Bleach is cheap and easy to get. The solution of bleach and water is easy to mix, safe if handled properly and kills most infectious agents.
To create the solution, all you do is add bleach to the water. A solution of bleach and water loses its strength very quickly and easily. It is weakened by organic material, evaporation, heat and sunlight.
Therefore, bleach solution should be mixed fresh each day to make sure it is effective. Any leftover solution should be discarded at the end of the day.
NEVER mix bleach with anything but fresh tap water! Other chemicals may react with bleach and create and release a toxic chlorine gas.
Keep the bleach solution you mix each day in a cool place out of direct sunlight and out of the reach of children. Please keep all chemicals away from children.
If you use a commercial disinfectant, read the label and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly.
Recipe for Bleach Disinfecting Solution
(For use in bathrooms, diapering areas, etc.)
- 1/4 cup bleach
- 1 gallon of cool water
- 1 tablespoon bleach
- 1 quart cool water
- Add the household bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) to the water
Recipe for Weaker Bleach Disinfecting Solution
(For use on toys, eating utensils, etc.)
- 1 tablespoon bleach
- 1 gallon cool water
Cleaning Up Blood and Body Fluids
Spills of body fluids, including blood, feces, nasal and eye discharges, saliva, urine, and vomit should be cleaned up immediately.
Wear gloves or protective material such as plastic sandwich baggies when cleaning up blood or body fluids. Be careful not to get any of the fluid you are cleaning in your eyes, nose, mouth or any open sores you may have.
Clean and disinfect any surfaces, such as countertops and floors, on which body fluids have been spilled. Discard fluid-contaminated material in a plastic bag that has been securely sealed.
Mops used to clean up body fluids should be (1) cleaned, (2) rinsed with a disinfecting solution, (3) wrung as dry as possible, and (4) hung to dry completely. Be sure to wash your hands after cleaning up any spill.
Washing and Disinfecting Diaper Changing Areas
Diaper changing areas should:
- Only be used for changing diapers
- Be smooth and nonporous, such as formica ( NOT wood)
- Have a raised edge or low “fence” around the area to prevent a child from falling off
- Be next to a sink with running water
- Not be used to prepare food, mix formula or rinse pacifiers
- Be easily accessible to providers
- Be out of reach of children
Diaper changing areas should be cleaned and disinfected after each diaper change as follows:
- Clean the surface with soap and water and rinse with clear water
- Dry the surface with a paper towel
- Thoroughly wet the surface with the recommended bleach solution
- Air dry – do not wipe
Thanks to CDC for the info! This is one in a series of excerpts from PKIDs’ Infectious Disease Workshop. We hope you find the materials useful – the instructor’s text and activities are all free downloads.