Childcare centers have become another hotbed for COVID-19. Here’s how daycare cleaning procedures have adapted to the ongoing pandemic.

A lot has changed since COVID-19 first made its way to the United States. From government lockdowns to more stringent regulations, few aspects of life are quite as we knew them before, especially in the cleaning industry. Among the many changes for custodial workers, adapting daycare cleaning procedures is a growing priority as parents go back to work, and children gather again in educational settings.

Even with vaccines on the way, many of these changes will linger well into the future. If your business hasn’t already implemented new daycare cleaning procedures, now is the time.

To help you get started, here’s some more information on new mandates and best practices that are crucial to reducing the risk of infection for children, daycare workers, and of course, your cleaning crews as well.

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Daycare Cleaning Procedures

How to update your daycare cleaning procedures

The most prominent guidelines on daycare cleaning procedures are those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Caring for Our Children (CFOC) guidelines developed and maintained by the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education (NRC). The CFOC guidelines have been around since the 90s, but the organization updated them to address COVID-19 concerns specifically in child care settings. The CDC also updated its guidelines, which we’ll talk more about in a minute.

For additional information related to daycare cleaning procedures during COVID-19, you can also access the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) website or the World Health Organization (WHO).

Improved and increased guidelines

Before the pandemic, daycare cleaning procedures were relatively the same as procedures in most other settings. A cleaner would come in once, maybe twice a day (according to a set schedule) to empty wastebaskets, wipe down tables, counters, and other surfaces, vacuum, mop, and generally tidy up. In addition, they may have given special attention to cleaning toys and other objects kids might put in their mouths, crib surfaces, and bedding. In short, daycare cleaning was more or less just another day at the office.

Of course, the pandemic changed all of that. Now, schedules are much more detailed with significantly increased cleaning and disinfecting efforts. Cleaners may come three or four times a day, depending on the size of the facility and how many children are coming in and out. They must also use approved disinfectants and other cleaners that have specifically been proven effective against COVID-19.

Daycare cleaning procedures are also more meticulous than they used to be. The CDC suggests cleaning all high-touch surfaces regularly throughout the day—even if that means being cleaned by a daycare professional instead of your cleaning staff—including, but not limited to: doorknobs, light switches, sink taps and faucets, toys and games, keyboards, desktops, cubbies and playground equipment, among other things. They also recommend that daycare centers provide free EPA-registered disposable wipes to child care staff. 

Cleaning toys and other objects

For cleaning toys and other things that may have been soiled by bodily fluids, they’ve enhanced the cleaning procedure: Wearing gloves, someone must wash the object with warm water and detergent, rinse, sanitize and disinfect it, rinse again, and air-dry. Alternatively, you can use a mechanical dishwasher that can handle all of these steps.

Toys and objects that need cleaning should be set aside by child care staff if they aren’t going to clean them themselves. Soiled items should be placed in a bin of soapy water that’s clearly labeled “soiled toys” and kept out of reach of other children. Books and other paper-based materials do not require additional cleaning; however, if a book does become exceptionally contaminated, you may want to suggest to the child care staff that they throw it out and get a replacement, just to be safe.

Bedding and cloth materials

While the daycare staff often handles daycare cleaning procedures for bedding and cloth, if you have a client that asks you to take on this task, you only need to do so once a week unless you agree to a greater frequency with the client. You may need special supplies to clean these materials if the job site doesn’t have a washing machine or products designed specifically for cloth instead of hard surfaces like wood or glass.

Remember that these items need to be cleaned and disinfected. Air-drying is fine, but you can also use a machine dryer if you have access to one. If any of these materials are labeled as belonging to specific children, make sure the label remains intact during cleaning, or replace it immediately. This will help the daycare facility minimize the number of children who come into contact with different things, further reducing the risk of exposure.

State and local regulations

Perhaps the most challenging part of the changes to daycare cleaning procedures is that many states and locales have implemented their own stricter regulations and guidelines. Fortunately, these are usually pretty easy to find. We suggest you google “covid daycare cleaning procedures [area]” with either the city or state in place of the brackets. A brief evaluation of this method suggests that you’ll likely find what you need that way.

If you’re not already part of a janitorial services network like The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association (ISSA), now might be a good time to sign up as they have many resources related to pandemic cleaning. You might also find this CDC toolkit useful (while it was designed more for schools, many of the guidelines are still quite applicable to daycare facilities).

Finally, perhaps the most important change COVID-19 has brought to the cleaning industry and elsewhere: Double-down on handwashing! Every time you change your gloves or handle a contaminated object, every time you need to touch your face, and every time you move to a new room or task, take the time to wash your hands with soap and water. In case that’s not always an option, keep hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol handy for quick cleaning between tasks.

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