As any parent has no doubt noticed, colds and other illnesses spread like wildfire wherever groups of children are found. Since viruses and bacteria are often transferred by touch and proximity, and kids are notorious for rubbing, wiping (and other activities about the nose) with their hands, itís only natural that they become a very efficient vehicle for transferring germs. Germs pass freely to and from other playmates, childcare providers, siblings, parents, and grandparents either by touch or by surface contact. Although it is impossible to eradicate every germ in your household, there are things you can do to help make surfaces in your home less hospitable to a variety of germs. The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care (NRC) offers the following thoughts and tips on the process of sanitizing:
Types of sanitizers:
Sanitizers are divided into two categories: those for use on food surfaces and those used on non-food surfaces. The most common sanitizer/disinfectant used is sodium hypochlorite (chlorine bleach). Bleach can be used as a sanitizer or disinfectant depending upon the concentration of the mixture. The recommended dose for use on non-food surfaces is ľ cup chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water. For areas where food is prepared, the FDA recommends a concentration of 1 teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach to 1 quart of clean water.
Methods of Application:
There are various ways to apply sanitizer solutions and the method should be matched to the type of surface or object:
- Spray bottle—For diaper changing areas, potty chairs, toilets, etc.
- Cloth rinsed in sanitizing solution—For large toys, books, activity centers, and food preparation areas.
- Dipping—This is the best choice for smaller toys.
A sanitizer must stay in contact with germs long enough to kill them. In general, it is best not to rinse off the sanitizer or wipe the object dry right away. For items sanitized with a bleach solution, the minimum contact time is 2 minutes. Since chlorine evaporates into the air and leaves no residue, surfaces sanitized with bleach can be left to air dry. If the item is sanitized with an industrial sanitizer, it may require rinsing with fresh water before it can be used again. Check the product label for instructions specific to each product. Note: The NRC warns not to mix bleach with other household chemicals such as toilet cleaners, rust removers, acids, or products containing ammonia. Mixing these chemicals with bleach will produce hazardous gases.
Typical areas to sanitize include: diapering areas, bathrooms, door knobs, cabinet handles, countertops, sinks, floors, phone receivers, tables, and toys.
Spray bottles and containers containing cleaning products should be clearly marked with the name of the solution (i.e., Bleach) and should be kept out of the reach of children.
When dealing with food contact surfaces, the Arizona Department of Health Services recommends the following process for cleaning and sanitizing:
- Clean with a cleaning agent
- Sanitize with a sanitizing solution
With simple household bleach and a dedicated effort to disinfecting areas that may have been touched by contaminated hands, you can rest a little easier knowing germs donít have a fighting chance with you around!
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment—www.cdphe.state.co.us
Arizona Department of Health Services—www.azdhs.gov
National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education—www.nrc.uchsc.edu