Many high-chair trays can go straight into the dishwasher; just make sure that the water in the washing cycle gets to at least 160 degree F. Otherwise, scrub with dishwashing liquid and warm water, rinse well, and then dry. Get gunk out of your chair's crevices with a length of dental floss and a wet wipe or with a cotton swab dipped in a mouthwash containing alcohol. Disinfect the chair every few days by wiping it with hydrogen peroxide (sold at drugstores). This natural disinfectant kills germs but doesn't leave behind a long-lasting residue.
Wash plastic toys when they're new, and then on a regular basis, in the top rack of your dishwasher. To disinfect toys--especially after your baby's been sick or you've had kids visiting--wipe them with hydrogen peroxide. Stuffed toys collect dust mites, which can be a problem for a child who has allergies or asthma, so machine-wash them regularly. If the toy isn't machine-washable, surface-clean it with a mix of water and mild detergent. Air-dry it in a sunny spot indoors, then put it in a plastic bag in the freezer overnight.
Clean the changing table and diaper pail every few days with a mild detergent and warm water. To disinfect (particularly important if your baby has had diarrhea or a stomach bug), wipe surfaces with a solution made by mixing one tablespoon of bleach in one quart of water. Let stand for ten minutes, then scrub the whole area with a cloth and rinse well with water. When you use bleach, be sure your baby isn't nearby and open the windows to provide good ventilation. To keep the changing pad clean, use removable covers and wash them in hot water.
Your baby's going to be lying on them, crawling on them, and maybe even licking them--so it's key to keep your floors as clean as possible. Remove your shoes when you enter the house so you don't drag dirt, pesticides, and other pollutants inside. If your home is carpeted, consider buying a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which will get rid of the hair, dust mites, and animal dander that cling to carpet fibers. Clean wood and tile floors with a mild detergent-and-water solution and a mop. Let dry, then vacuum to get rid of any remaining dust.
Sterilize bottles, nipples, and breast-pump parts--as well as pacifiers in your newborn's first four weeks. Boil the items in water for about ten minutes, or wash them in a very hot dishwasher cycle. Toss out any pacifiers or bottle nipples that appear cracked or stained after cleaning. Use a sterile cotton swab to get into hard-to-clean nooks and crannies of bottles or breast-pump parts. Moisture encourages germs to thrive, so make sure you dry the items thoroughly with a clean dish towel before putting them away.
Want more tips on healthy cleaning habits? Visit the Children's Health Environmental Coalition at checnet.org.
Sources: Philip M. Tierno Jr., Ph.D., author of The Secret Life of Germs; Andrea J. Leeds, M.D., past president of the Nassau Pediatric Society, in Long Island, New York; Jay M. Portnoy, M.D., chief of the allergy, asthma, and immunology section at Children's Mercy Hospital, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Copyright©: 2005. Reprinted with permission from the June 2005 issue of Parents magazine.
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