The winter school holidays are nearly upon us which means home-bound children playing up a storm, muddy feet running through the house and dirty dishes everywhere. The thought of that is enough to leave any mother cold, but if you’re also trying to ensure that your family remains healthy throughout winter, then you need to keep on top of your home hygiene cleaning, and that includes toys – the most often neglected part of any regular spring cleaning.

The UK’s International Scientific Forum, established in 1997, is the leading scientific authority on home hygiene and its mission is to promote the health and wellbeing of families in the home and everyday life settings – they offer a multitude of fact sheets on how to maintain a healthy environment and it includes one on the cleaning of toys.

What are the risks?

‘Evidence has shown that toys quite easily become contaminated with microbes. Toys are passed from child to child and become contaminated through handling or by children putting their mouths to them. Some germs can remain viable on toys for some periods of time, and in a number of studies, bacteria and viruses have been isolated from toys.’

What hygienic measures should be taken?

  • Store toys in a clean container or cupboard.
  • Ideally, children should have their own toys, rather than sharing them.
  • Clean toys as frequently as possible, but at least whenever soiled.
  • Hard toys which are contaminated can be hygienically cleaned by scrubbing the toy with soapy warm water and a brush, rinsing the toy with clean water, drying and wiping with alcohol wipes; or by scrubbing the toy with soapy warm water and a brush, immersing the toy in a mild bleach solution, allowing it to soak for around 10 to 20 minutes, rinsing it well with cool clean water and air drying the toy; or by putting them in the dishwasher or washing machine.
  • Soft toys which are contaminated can be hygienically cleaned by washing them in a hot cycle in the washing machine, but if heavily contaminated they may need to be thrown away.
  • Also remember that playdough should be changed regularly, sandpits should be covered to avoid any contamination (e.g. from passing animals) and that the sand should be changed regularly as well.

You might also consider spring cleaning your home (including dry carpet cleaning) before the holiday begins. While that might seem counterproductive, after all, the children haven’t begun to make a mess yet, it does make sense to at least start them off in a clean environment to prevent cross contamination – because the last thing you want these school holidays is a bunch of gloomy sick children. You can always do another thorough clean after they’ve returned to school and you try to establish some semblance of order again. And remember, if you need help with any home hygiene services, call QClean – cleaning experts who have been producing hygienically clean environments for many happy homes and families throughout the greater Cape Town area for many years including countless school holidays.

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