How to Properly Disinfect Setting Resources
Setting toys and furniture should be cleaned on a regular basis due to the children enjoying oral-exploration and being naturally unhygienic. However, during an outbreak of an illness or sickness bug, resources must be cleaned more frequently and done so correctly to avoid further transmission of infection. Unfortunately, when sickness occurs in settings, they can spread rapidly due to children handling the same resources and being in close proximity to one another.
Illnesses also commonly circulate to staff members, leading to settings being left short-staffed or sometimes having to close temporarily if enough staff members are infected. To lower the risk of this happening, practitioners should be aware of how to disinfect items effectively, keeping themselves and the children safe and healthy.
Here are the main points to consider when cleaning items in a setting:
As soon as possible. The moment an infectious disease is suspected, practitioners should begin disinfecting immediately. The quicker that items are thoroughly cleaned, the less likely it is to spread to others.
Because of the chemicals used, cleaning should be done away from children. Most nurseries will have a kitchen or at least a sink to use, so items should be brought into this space for cleaning. It may not be feasible to move larger items, such as furniture, so spraying them with a disinfectant spray as far away from the children as possible should be done quickly. If necessary, children may be moved to a different area, such as outdoors, while staff commence with cleaning.
Bleach, chlorine or antiviral disinfectants are best to use in terms of killing germs and bacteria. However, because of their hazardous components they should be handled with care; bleach should be diluted appropriately and never put down within reach of children. Gentler products may be used but adults should consider how effective they are likely to be. There are many powerful sterilising tablets which are perfect for soaking plastic toys in- ‘Milton’ is a recommended brand but there are many available online.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Due to chemicals being harmful to skin, practitioners should wear suitable PPE when handling them: gloves are recommended to avoid skin irritation; masks should be worn to reduce inhalation of harmful fumes; face shields or goggles are needed to protect eyes; and aprons are suggested to preserve clothing. Hands should be washed after handling possibly-infected items, even if gloves are worn.
Different materials require different methods of cleaning. Settings host an array of materials such as plastic or wooden toys, metal furniture, blankets & bedding, cushions, rugs and books. All resources and furniture that are even remotely likely to be infected must be cleaned during a sickness outbreak, so practitioners should be familiar with how cleaning techniques vary.
Plastic items can be fully submerged in a disinfectant solution, left to soak, scrubbed, then rinsed thoroughly. Metal items can be subject to the same treatment, but not left to soak as rusting can occur; a brief submersion, scrub and rinse will do if disinfectant spray is not suitable. Blankets, bedding, cushions and rugs can be washed in a washing machine at high temperature (65°C for a minimum of 10 minutes or 71°C for no less than 3 minutes- hse.gov.uk).
Large rugs may not fit in a washing machine so they should instead be taken outside, sprayed thoroughly with disinfectant, then rinsed and left to dry.
Books and wooden items are trickier, as soaking them can cause damage. It is recommended that whatever can be sprayed with disinfectant is done so, such as glossy book covers or wooden items with a coating or varnish. In the situation that cleaning, spraying, or soaking a toy would destroy it, they should be placed in a plastic bag or bin bag and isolated/quarantined for at least 24 hours.
Any items that have been washed or sprayed should be completely dry before being placed back into rooms or given to children.
Parents should be informed of any sickness bugs going around a setting. This way they can be on the lookout for any symptoms, be given relevant advice on treatment if symptoms arise and will know to keep children at home if they suspect they have been infected.
Promote Good Hygiene
Good hygiene should also be promoted within the setting, encouraging children to regularly wash their hands, cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing, use tissues, not share drinks and avoid putting toys in their mouth (if age appropriate).
A quick Step-by-Step Guide
- Move children to a different area if necessary.
- Put on suitable PPE.
- Quickly identify and remove all items that are possibly contaminated.
- Appropriately dilute chemicals or prepare sterilisation solutions.
- Recognise the materials and how to correctly clean them: soak plastic items; spray metal items and large furniture; place bedding, cushions and rugs in the washing machine on a high temperature; and quarantine any items that cannot be thoroughly cleaned, such as books and unvarnished wooden items.
- Ensure disinfected items are thoroughly dried before returning to rooms and allowing children to interact with them.
- Inform parents.
- Promote good hygiene with children such as frequent hand washing and covering their mouths when coughing or sneezing.
- Repeat regularly. In the case of serious and fast-spreading illnesses, thorough cleaning is recommended multiple times a day where possible.