When it comes to eradicating germs, preschools and daycares present more of a challenge for custodians than elementary schools or high schools. Cleaning and disinfecting child care centers is necessary on a daily basis because babies and young children are constantly mouthing toys. Yet for the same reason disinfectants are more hazardous to their health.

“In daycare, kids touch everything, and everything they touch goes into their mouths, so you have to be careful what products you use,” says Larry Johnson, product manager for S. Freedman & Sons, Landover, Md. “If you use a disinfectant, make sure you rinse it well with clear water after you give it the proper dwell time.”

The Healthy Schools Campaign in Chicago is partnering with other organizations to address cleaning and disinfecting procedures for daycare and preschool populations.

“There’s a lot more hand-mouth contact, so you have to be more vigilant about disinfection,” says Mark Bishop, vice president of policy and communications for the Healthy Schools Campaign. “And for the same reason you have to be concerned about the type of disinfectant you use.”

Bishop recommends using hydrogen peroxide or citric acid-based products. Steam and vapor are other options.

While babies and toddlers are more prone to infection, custodians should be careful not to overuse cleaning products and disinfectants.

“You want to build up their immune systems, so you don’t want to make them immune to germs or bacteria, because that’s how immune systems become stronger — by coming into contact with germs,” says Johnson. “If you don’t use your defenses, they stop working.”

Just like in elementary and high schools, prevention is part of the solution. Children should be taught to wash their hands for 15 to 20 seconds. Distributors can help disinfecting in child care centers by supplying kid-friendly and fun posters to educate and serve as reminders.

“If they teach the kids at a young age to not only wash hands properly but as often as needed, it will really eliminate a lot of the problems we have,” says Johnson.

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.

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