Cleaning and Disinfection (Child Care Manual)

By keeping your child care centre clean, you help prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases. Integrate cleaning and disinfecting into your ongoing operating practices and provide ongoing training for your staff.


Cleaning is the essential first step in a cleaning and disinfection procedure. Without cleaning, dirt or organic matter can interfere with the disinfectant's ability to kill pathogens (germs) present on surfaces. If you're cleaning multiple surfaces, move from the least- to most-soiled areas to reduce the risk of spreading contamination.

Proper cleaning includes three steps:

  1. Wash all surfaces with soap and water using friction to remove dirt or organics
  2. Rinse with clean potable (drinkable) water
  3. Air dry or use single-use paper towel

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A disinfectant is a chemical product used to reduce pathogens to a safe level. There are many different products available, including some disinfectants that function as a cleaner.

Consider all factors before choosing the product that best suits your centre. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper use.

Pre-mixed or concentrated solutions

Pre-mixed: Some disinfectants can be purchased through a supplier in a formula that is pre-mixed to a desired concentration. These should be used as directed.

Concentrated: These products are a concentrated formula, which you will need to mix with water to a designated ratio as indicated on the product label.

If you're responsible for mixing and preparing the disinfectant solution, you need to use corresponding test strips to verify that it contains the proper concentration. The correct concentration is important for safe and proper disinfection. Test strips can be purchased from your centre's chemical supplier.

Contact time

The contact time is the amount of time that the disinfectant must remain wet on a surface to allow for appropriate disinfection. Failure to reach the required contact time prevents surfaces from being adequately disinfected.

Look for the contact time of a product on its label. It can range from 30 seconds to 10 minutes.

Always select the appropriate contact time for the activity or disinfection level you are intending to carry out. For example, using a disinfectant with a 10-minute contact time may not be suitable for a frequently used diapering change table. This is because you may not have 10 minutes to wait between diaper changes.

In some cases, you may need to wipe or spray surfaces multiple times to achieve the contact time. For example, surfaces may dry quickly when disinfecting wipes are used on larger areas. As a result, multiple wipes may be necessary to reach the required contact time.

Drug Identification Number (DIN)

The disinfectants you use at your centre should have a Drug Identification Number on the product label (exception is sodium hypochlorite/chlorine bleach).

A Drug Identification Number indicates that Health Canada establishes it to be safe and effective for its intended use as a disinfectant.

Expiry date

When using a disinfectant, check its expiry date. Use of a product past the expiry may lower its effectiveness. Household bleach will not have an expiry date, but bleach-based disinfecting products will have expiry dates.

Storage conditions

Safely store all disinfectants:

  • Out of reach of children
  • According to the manufacturer's instructions
  • Away from direct sunlight
  • In a moderate temperature. Avoid very hot or cold conditions.

When you refill chemical bottles, label them properly as per Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems (WHMIS) requirements.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

You're required by the Ministry of Labour to maintain an on-site copy of Material Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals used in your centre. The sheets have vital information which can help keep your staff and children safe from exposure to chemicals.

Check with your chemical supplier to ensure proper Material Safety Data Sheets are maintained on-site.

High contact surfaces

  • Establish written procedures that set out the frequency and method for cleaning and disinfecting of high contact (also known as high touch or frequently touched) surfaces
  • It is suggested that cleaning and disinfection logs be used to track cleaning and disinfection of surfaces

Hand hygiene

  • Provide alcohol-based hand rub and / or a handwashing station near play areas
  • Before and after each play session, encourage and assist children to clean their hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Supervise children when they use alcohol-based hand rub.

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Cleaning and disinfecting toys

  • Establish written procedures that set out the frequency and method for cleaning and disinfecting toys and assign responsibility
  • Size plush toys so they can fit inside washing and drying machines
  • Adhere to the frequency for cleaning and disinfection:
    • At least weekly
    • Infant toys at least daily
    • Any toy touching a child’s mouth must be immediately removed from the play area for cleaning and disinfecting prior to being used again

Disinfection options

Mechanical dishwasher

Do not wash toys with dishes or cutlery.

Chemical disinfectant

If you use a disinfectant, rinse the toy thoroughly prior to use. Allow toys to air-dry before storing.

Ensure that the disinfectant being used is safe and suitable for the intended purpose and that the manufacturer’s directions for dilution and contact times are followed:

  • Quaternary Ammonium (Quats) at 200 ppm for 10 minutes
  • Chlorine (bleach) at 1:100 solution (500ppm) for two minutes
  • Other commercial products follow manufacturer's recommendations

Design and materials

  • Ensure that shared toys can be easily cleaned, and disinfected or laundered
  • Don’t use bath toys that retain water
  • Routinely inspect toys for damage or cracks. Discard damaged toys immediately. They may prevent proper cleaning and disinfecting, and may be a safety hazard.


  • Provide a container to separate dirty toys from clean toys
  • Store clean toys in a manner that prevents contamination

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Sensory play

  • Put policies in place regarding sensory play activities
  • Discourage sensory play for children who have open cuts, sores, colds or runny noses
  • Stop sensory play if an outbreak is declared at your centre until the outbreak is declared over
  • Speak with your public health inspector, if you have questions

Sensory play tables

  • Wash hands before and after sensory play
  • Provide a tight-fitting lid for the play table
  • Clean and disinfect the play table and toys when changing materials

Dry play tables

  • Change dry play materials weekly or more often if they become soiled
  • Change play sand monthly. Avoid use of sand that contains silica. Silica can cause or worsen respiratory issues.
  • If a dry food product is used, ensure that it's not eaten or mouthed by children. Discard food products when wet.

Water play tables

  • Clean and disinfect the water basin and toys at least once daily for full-day programs, and after each group for half-day programs
  • Use municipal potable (drinkable) water

Outdoor sandboxes

  • Securely cover outdoor sandboxes when not in use
  • Check sandboxes and sand in play areas daily for animal droppings, broken glass, or other hazardous items before children go outside to play. Use a lawn rake to sift through the sand.
  • Replace sand as often as necessary to keep sand visibly clean and free of all extraneous matter

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Routine cleaning and disinfecting schedule

Scheduled frequencies are the minimum requirements for non-outbreak periods. You should increase them as often as necessary to maintain clean and sanitary conditions at all times.

Items What to do After each use Daily Weekly Monthly
All toys (toddler, preschool and school aged) Clean and disinfect     checkmark  
Items made of absorbent materials (e.g., plush toys, dress-up clothes) Launder     checkmark  
Water play toys / table Clean and disinfect   checkmark    
Toy / storage areas Clean and disinfect     checkmark  
Dry Sensory Play
Items What to do After each use Daily Weekly Monthly
Dry sensory play - food / other Discard     checkmark  
Dry sensory play - sand Clean / discard       checkmark
Dry sensory play - able Clean     checkmark  
Natural items (e.g., rocks, wood, bird’s nest) Discard     checkmark  
Sleep and Rest Areas
Items What to do After each use Daily Weekly Monthly
Linen / bedding Launder     checkmark  
Cots Clean and disinfect     checkmark  
Carpets / upholstered furniture Vacuum (steam clean every six months)     checkmark  
Floor Sweep and mop   checkmark    
Items What to do After each use Daily Weekly Monthly
Cloth towels Launder checkmark      
Potty chairs Clean and disinfect checkmark      
Hand wash sink / toilets / floors Clean and disinfect   checkmark    
Diaper change mats Clean and disinfect checkmark      
Infant Room
Items What to do After each use Daily Weekly Monthly
Mouthed toys Clean and disinfect checkmark      
Infant toys Clean and disinfect   checkmark    
High chair trays Clean and disinfect checkmark      
Cloth / plastic bibs Launder/ clean and disinfect checkmark      
Soothers Clean and disinfect (boil one minute or use dishwasher)   checkmark    

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Changing a diaper

Post your centre's procedure at each changing area.

Preparing to diaper

  • Wash hands thoroughly before each change
  • Assemble supplies within easy reach
  • Put on single-use gloves
  • Hold child away from your clothes while you place him or her on the clean change surface

When diapering

  • Remove diaper. If using safety pins, close pins immediately and place out of child’s reach.
  • Clean child’s skin with a wet wipe. Remove all visible soil, remembering to check skin creases. Discard wet wipe into soiled diaper or directly into a plastic-lined garbage container.

Discarding soiled diapers

  • Discard soiled disposable diaper into a plastic lined garbage receptacle
  • Physically remove large clumps into the toilet. Never wash or rinse soiled clothing or soiled diapers, whether disposable or not. The additional handling of the clothing / diaper may result in more hand or environmental contamination.
  • Place soiled clothing and re-useable soiled diapers in a plastic bag to be given to parents

Cleaning up after diapering

  • If wearing gloves, remove them now and discard into garbage container
  • Wash your hands and the child’s hands with soap and warm water
  • Return child to supervised area
  • Clean and disinfect following manufacturer’s directions the diapering area, including all equipment and supplies that were soiled or used
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, and use paper towels to dry
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Potty Chairs

Situating potty chairs

  • Provide potty chairs that are made of smooth, non-absorbent, easy-to-clean material (no wood) and have a removable water container
  • Keep potty chairs in the washroom, not in playrooms or hallways
  • Place potty chairs in a location where children cannot reach toilets, other potty chairs, or other potentially contaminated surfaces

Cleaning up after a child

  • Empty potty contents into toilet
  • Clean and disinfect the potty chair
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water


  • Supervise children when they use the toilet
  • Teach them hygienic wiping procedures (front to rear)
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and help children wash their hands
  • Clean and disinfect step stools daily. Step stools should be made of non-absorbent material.


  • Napping space and play area may be used interchangeably
  • Label each child’s cot, mat, and bedding. No sharing.
  • Ensure cots, beds, cribs, and mats are in good repair, and kept clean and sanitary at all times
  • Wash liners and cots weekly or more often as needed. Send home blankets and personal belongings that are not washed on-site for weekly laundering.
  • Store cots in a manner that is clean and prevents contamination

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Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting program for outbreaks

If an outbreak is declared in your child care centre, you must immediately enhance your cleaning and disinfection program:

  • Use a broad-spectrum virucide to disinfect toys, change tables and high-contact surfaces. A broad-spectrum virucide is a disinfectant that destroy at minimum one representative hard-to-kill non-enveloped virus (Poliovirus type 1, or Human adenovirus type 5, or Bovine parvovirus, or Canine parvovirus) as well as inactivate other enveloped and non-enveloped viruses present on environmental surfaces.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding intended use, concentration and contact time of the disinfectant
  • Be aware that Quaternary Ammonium (Quats) products are not a broad-spectrum virucide
  • Clean and disinfect daily all toys and high contact surfaces
  • Stop sensory play until Public Health declares the outbreak over
  • Notify the company that provides your cleaning services about the outbreak and the cleaning and disinfection recommendations provided by Public Health. Failure to notify your cleaning company about the outbreak may lead to an inappropriate level of disinfection to be used, and as a result, the outbreak could spread or be extended.

Cleaning and disinfecting areas / items contaminated by blood and body fluids

  • Immediately clean and disinfect any areas / items that have been contaminated by spills of blood, bodily fluids and vomit
  • Section off the area of concern to prevent people from entering
  • Always wear protective rubber gloves and wash your hands after removing gloves
  • Physically remove potentially infectious materials with disposable rags or paper towel
  • Clean surfaces with soap and water, or other household cleaning products. You can use a quaternary ammonium product, but surfaces still need to be disinfected after with a high-level disinfectant.
  • Disinfect surfaces with a high-level disinfectant
    • When using a household bleach solution (sodium hypochlorite 5.25%) the high-level disinfection will be achieved with a 1:10 solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) or 5000 ppm; allow a minimum of 10 minutes contact time
  • If the accident is on carpet, physically remove as much of the spill as possible with disposable rags or paper towels. Use a steam-cleaning carpet machine to remove the remaining contamination.

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Last updated: Oct. 5, 2022

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