The Complete Guide to Daycare Cleaning [2023]

The Complete Guide to Daycare Cleaning [2023]

The Complete Guide to Daycare Cleaning

When parents drop off their toddlers at daycare, they trust its staff to keep their children safe and protected while they're away. 

But a good daycare center provides more than just top-tier security. It also maintains thorough hygiene routines to protect children from unseen dangers like infections.

Studies show that toddlers are more prone to acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs) than older children are. Children in daycare are more vulnerable because they're exposed to many germs. 

Hence, daycare centers must be well cleaned and disinfected to keep the children safe. In this article, we’ll share:

  • Why you should keep your daycare facilities clean
  • The difference between cleaning and sanitizing
  • How to organize your cleaning routine for a daycare
  • How to find a daycare cleaning service

Let’s get started.

The importance of keeping your daycare clean

Here are a few reasons why a clean daycare is essential: 

  • To protect the children in your program: Daycare children are very vulnerable to bacteria and germs from messes. Cleaning surfaces helps eliminate these germs. 
  • To stop the spread of illness through shared toys: For example, children will toss a toy in their mouth and pass it on to their friends who will do the same. Cleaning toys frequently reduces how often or how quickly children infect each other.
  • To keep common areas clean: Children spend most of their time crawling on floors or playing at tables, so you must clean frequently used areas often. 
  • To curb the spread of COVID-19 among children. 

Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting 

Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting may sound similar in theory, but they're very different according to the United States’ legal guidelines

Here is what they mean: 

  • Cleaning is the process of removing germs, dust, dirt, and crumbs using detergent and water. Cleaned surfaces are still potential bacteria-breeding grounds. 
  • Disinfecting involves killing germs on toys, objects, or surfaces using alcohol or bleach solutions. Disinfecting doesn't always clean away dirt, but it can lower the risk of infection. 
  • Sanitizing involves disinfecting and cleaning objects. A good example is using a sanitizing solution to wipe off the children' toys. This solution cleans away dirt and kills germs.

How to disinfect/sanitize 

Reducing germs on surfaces, toys, napping blankets, and eating utensils requires two steps. 

  1. 1. Cleaning the item or its surface: This means using soap and water to wash them thoroughly, then rinsing them. 
  2. 2. Disinfecting/sanitizing the item: After cleaning, you’ll still need to disinfect or sanitize the items to kill germs. You can do this by using:
  • A water and bleach solution: Check the guidelines on how to use this solution to disinfect surfaces and prevent the spread of COVID-19 here
  • A dishwasher: This works for durable toys. Always check that your items are dishwasher-safe. 
  • A washing machine for beddings and cloth toys

Be careful with commercial disinfectants 

Not all cleaning chemicals are safe for cleaning daycare facilities. Here are some tips to help you choose safe products: 

  • Consult a nurse consultant or licensing agency for safe options. 
  • Take time to read labels correctly. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approved products might contain chemicals that are too harsh for some daycare surfaces.
  • Avoid products with warning labels of "DANGER" or "CORROSIVE." Most products with these labels are toxic. 

Organizing your daycare cleaning 

A defined cleaning system makes cleaning easier and ensures every surface receives attention.

A simple daycare cleaning routine might look like this:

  1. 1. Collect any visible debris or toys from the surface. This step is important, especially if you're using a vacuum cleaner, since debris can get stuck in the vacuum.
  2. 2. Clean the surfaces with water and soap to remove any remaining dirt and dust. 
  3. 3. Rinsing the surface of any dirt and the detergent used in the previous step. 
  4. 4. Disinfect the surface using a chemical solution to kill all the bacteria and germs. 
  5. 5. Rinse off the disinfectant. Not all disinfectants require rinsing, so check the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  6. 6. Dry the surface and organize any toys or items in the room. 

Color coding and labeling  

Color coding is critical when a daycare has a huge cleaning staff. 

Cleaning products should be labeled based on where they are used to clean. Similarly, all the cloth items should be color-coded to avoid any confusion. 

Here is an example of cloth color coding: 

  • Red: Bathrooms and toilets 
  • Green: Kitchen area 
  • Yellow: Diaper changing area 
  • Blue: Classrooms 

To make this easier, ensure everything matches. For example, use a red bucket and a red mop for toilets. If you can't get enough colors for all rooms, you can use color-coded labels to differentiate the cleaning solutions and containers. 

Daycare cleaning supplies 

There are so many moving parts of running a daycare, so it's vital to have systems to automate some activities. 

For starters, you can set up a monthly order for cleaning products like disinfectants, detergents, sanitizers, and wipes. Scheduled orders are budget-friendly and convenient for cleaning crews that need products immediately. 

Once you buy your items, find a safe way to store them. Keep all cleaning supplies away from children's reach. Try to keep a dedicated room for cleaning supplies that children don’t have access to. If you have to store cleaning solutions in rooms (like the washroom), install high shelves. 

Lastly, ensure you follow the instructions from the manufacturer on how to store the cleaning solutions effectively. In most cases, you only need to keep the bottle tops tightly closed after use and store them in a cool and dry space. 

Using a cleaning checklist every time 

Another way to stay organized when cleaning the daycare is using a checklist. 

Every checklist should have a label indicating its designated room. For example, “ The Washroom Cleaning Checklist” should include items necessary for cleaning the washroom. 

Some of the benefits of using a cleaning checklist include: 

  • Ensures you don't miss any spot during cleaning 
  • Reduces decision fatigue on where to get started  
  • Prevents you from feeling overwhelmed by keeping everything organized
  • Makes delegation more manageable and more effective since anyone can get the same results using the checklist
  • Makes cleaning feel like a routine

If several people clean a specific area, it's crucial to have a duty checklist in the room. A duty checklist includes a copy of the cleaning checklist, plus sections where staff members can sign their names and the time they completed the checklist. This way, other staff members know when a staff member last cleaned the room. It's also a good idea to include your cleaning protocol in your staff handbook so everyone on your team is informed on best cleaning practices.

Download our free cleaning guide here!

Cleaning the daycare by area

The best way to clean a daycare or any institution is by doing it one room at a time. If possible, delegate each area to specific people. 

Play areas 

Playing areas are among the messiest spaces in a daycare. They're also one of the critical areas to clean as children spend most of their time here. 

When cleaning the area, remember to use skin-friendly cleaning solutions. They should be gentle enough to protect children from issues like skin rashes. 

In addition, set aside different cleaning products to clean cushions, toys, and nap blankets. Staff should clean and sanitize a play area everyday, preferably in the evening. 

Kitchen and eating area 

All food is prepared in the kitchen, so it must always stay clean. It can help to store specific cleaning products for utensils, countertops, the floor, and more in the kitchen area—away from children, of course. 

While it's okay to deep clean the floor and the curtains weekly, you must clean countertops, the stove, and cabinet handles daily. 

Dirty dishes can cause cross-contamination, food poisoning, and digestive problems, so you should clean those daily too.

In addition, staff should clean high chairs and tables before and after meals.


Daycare bathrooms will become messy as students learn how to use the toilets. Therefore, you should deep clean and disinfect them every evening.  

To keep the bathroom clean, clean visible dirt and disinfect commonly used surfaces like sinks and toilet bowls. 

Diaper changing area 

The diaper changing area is among the most sensitive areas in a daycare. It needs to be cleaned and disinfected before and after every diaper-changing session. 

The washing and disinfecting diaper guidelines recommend the following steps. 

  • Clean the area with soap and water. 
  • Dry the surface with a paper towel.
  • Wet the surface with bleach solution.
  • Air-dry the surface (don’t wipe it).

Finding a daycare cleaning service 

As your daycare grows, you might consider outsourcing its cleaning to a professional company. Outsourcing can help you avoid the hustle of investing in heavier cleaning equipment and other responsibilities like training the cleaning staff. 

Here are some daycare cleaning companies to consider:

What to look for in a daycare cleaning service 

Here are some tips to help you choose an effective cleaning professional service: 

  • Ask for references from other daycares they work with. 
  • Ensure the company is updated with all cleaning regulations and daycare cleaning standards.
  • Ensure they use the right cleaning products. 
  • Ensure they're insured (in case a child gets hurt during cleaning).
  • Check their online reviews.

How much should you pay for a daycare cleaning service?  

Commercial cleaning in the USA charges $75 per hour on average. However, the cost may vary based on a few factors, including:

  • The policies of the cleaning company
  • How dirty the facility is currently (for example, a cleaning company can charge more after a messy activity like painting)
  • The products used to clean

Before hiring a cleaning company, write down your expectations and get a customized quote from several companies that meet your standards. Then, bargain and select the best offer. 


Cleaning a daycare is very critical to the well-being of toddlers. While we can’t stop toddlers from making messes, we can clean up after them to ensure they can continue to play and explore safely.

When cleaning a daycare, it’s essential to treat every area individually to ensure all areas are thoroughly cleaned. Using a daycare cleaning checklist helps you keep track of your supplies and cleaning regimen, so every surface receives the care necessary to keep it clean.

We hope our guide above helps you to create a great and effective cleaning routine of your own. Happy disinfecting!


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