Five of your kids’ things you really should be washing

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Raising a child in modern society most people are hyper-vigilant about potential germs and bacteria. Who hasn’t seen a mother at a playground vigorously hand sanitise, and wipe down every counter and surface before, during and after their child sits down? While this is doubtless over the top and irrational there are some parts of your child’s life that really do need cleaning attention, but may not actually be getting it.

These are the things you should be washing if you hope to prevent your child from becoming sick.

Bath toys

Those fun squeaky bath toys that your toddler likes to play with, and possibly even chew on are unfortunately also the ideal place for bacteria and mould to thrive. While the outside will tend to remain pretty clean, the inside never really gets dry, and there is nothing that moulds like more than a damp, warm place. Some studies even go so far as to suggest that these toys are putting kids at risk of eye, ear and stomach infections, but you can stop that from happening.

The first step is prevention. After every bath, you should drain excess water out of the toys and leave them in the sun to dry thoroughly. This won’t be enough however so once a month mix up a combination of two parts hot water and one part white vinegar then immerse the toys in it, allowing the mixture into the toy just as bathwater would usually get there.

After 15 minutes, take a cleaning brush and scrub the outside of the toy. Squeeze the excess mixture out of the toy. Rinse them with fresh cold water, and leave them in the sun to dry.

Loofahs and Sponges

Even more likely to host bacteria, the loofahs and sponges in your bath or shower are a natural home to germs. In addition to the usual warm, and wet conditions, the numerous nooks and crannies can become clogged with dead skin which provides the nutrients for numerous different types of bacteria to thrive.

As a result, you should never use a loofah on freshly shaved skin, or your sensitive pubic area or face. You should also wash it every week.

Apart from leaving the loofah or sponge out to dry every single day, you should also soak it in bleach for five minutes once a week before rinsing it thoroughly in cold water and leaving out in the sun to dry.

High chairs and car seats

Children’s car seats or dinner high chairs can quickly get out of hand with mess as the child eats or drinks in the car. Even if they don’t toddlers have a habit of getting absolutely everything on their clothes and this can then rub off on the car seat, not to mention small potty training accidents.

Loose bits of old food, no matter how small, hidden away in cracks are ideal homes for bacteria and as such you need to thoroughly clean them at least once a month.

Choosing when to clean these seats can be hard as they are in near-constant use, so try to pick a time when you may not need them for 24 hours.

The first step is to use wet wipes or a cloth to wipe away the worst of the messes. Get as many crumbs as you can, and clean up any gunk, goo or sloppy food mess that you can find. You can then remove the seat from your car without too much spilling and move onto step two.

Dismantle the seat. Take off all the covers and padding you can then shake the chair to dislodge hidden crumbs. Now you need to vacuum the seat itself. Make sure you get into every nook and cranny and underneath whatever padding remains.

Throw the bits you can take off into the washing machine. Follow the instructions in the manual, but generally, it’s a good idea to use a gentle cycle with a mild detergent. The padding you can’t take off will need to be washed by hand. Use a sponge and mild detergent to scrub it. Leave it all in the sun to dry.

Tip: Get someone to video you taking apart the seat. You may need it to put it all back together.

Changing bag

How many women can honestly say they have considered emptying out and scrubbing their handbags? In a recent study, it was found that a whopping 33% of all women admitted to never once emptying out their bags for a proper cleaning. The same study found “traces of E. coli, along with bacteria that can cause pneumonia, stomach cramps, and bacterial meningitis” in women’s handbags.

Here’s the thing, your toddler’s changing bag is worse. Given the fact that the changing bag spends a lot of time on the floor in bathrooms, and is generally reached into when parents’ hands are not at their cleanest, changing bags can quickly become home to all sorts of germs. Those crackers that got crushed in the bottom of the bag and have now left a few crumbs are only serving to make matters worse as they serve to provide the bacteria with all the nutrients they need, and this is all before unwashed cloth nappies, or soiled pants are put in the bag – even if they are in their own container.

All this is why it’s essential to choose a bag that is machine washable for your changing needs. This bag should be emptied out and vacuumed for all crumbs before being turned inside out and washed in a mild detergent on a gentle cycle at least once a week.

Pillows and mattresses

Many people assume that because they have pillowcases, sheets and duvet covers the mattresses and pillows do not need to be washed. This could not be further from the truth.

Casual studies suggest that sleeping in a warm room our bodies make between 250ml and half a litre of sweat in a night and we can also shed nearly a gram of skin. Because of this, your mattress can easily become home to fungal spores, bacteria, and dust mites. It’s no surprise, therefore, that without regular mattress cleaning, your mattress can be the dirtiest thing in your entire house.

The first step to cleaning a mattress is to give it a good vacuuming. This will remove all dead skin, crumbs, hair and a healthy percentage of dust mites as well. Stains can be cleaned by mixing two parts hydrogen peroxide with one part dishwashing soap (15 ml) in a small bowl, then scrubbing the stain with this using a toothbrush. Always use as little cleaner as possible as mattresses aren’t supposed to get wet.

The final step is to scatter baking soda evenly over the entire mattress. Leave it there for at least an hour to absorb odours, liquids and body sweat. Vacuum the mattress thoroughly when you are done.

Fortunately cleaning pillows is a lot easier. Cotton, down and synthetic pillows can all safely be washed in the washing machine. Do this two at a time to balance the drum and ensure that the pillows don’t get battered too much. Using a scoop of your regular detergent set the machine to use hot water and two rinse cycles. Finally, add the wet pillows to a tumble dryer. For feather pillows use no heat and for synthetic ones, switch your dryer to low heat.

You should be cleaning your mattresses once a month and your pillows once every three months.