Last reviewed 20 September 2019

1. Every early years service should have an effective cleaning regime in place with a set policy, set schedules of cleaning, set standards and a method of recording activity.

As well as keeping the premises clean and tidy, one of the main aims of an effective cleaning regime is to control bacteria, which are present in all environments but especially in washrooms, toilets, kitchens and food service areas.

It is standard practice to construct a cleaning schedule that defines how often different areas will be cleaned. These will commonly include:

  • daily requirements, eg the daily emptying of rubbish bins, cleaning of kitchens, toilets, washrooms, etc

  • weekly requirements, eg the vacuum cleaning of all carpets

  • monthly requirements, eg the deep cleaning of sanitary ware (toilets and urinals) and kitchens.

The cleaning regime should ensure that the early years premises are kept in a hygienic condition at all times, particularly toilets and food preparation or serving areas.

You can find a model Cleaning in Early Years Provisions Policy here, which you can download and adapt for your provision.

For help with planning your cleaning, see a template weekly cleaning schedule.

2. The cleaning regime should be enhanced in the event of an outbreak of infection. This will help to reduce the transmission of infection.

Enhanced cleaning may include twice daily cleaning of certain areas, such as toilets and kitchens. Particular attention should be paid to door handles, toilet flushes and taps, and to toys and play equipment.

Contingency plans should be developed with cleaners and cleaning contractors covering how increased levels of cleaning may be accomplished.

3. Encouraging good personal hygiene by regular, effective handwashing and drying, when done correctly, is the single most effective way to improve hygiene standards and prevent the spread of diseases.

Early years managers should ensure that all staff and children wash their hands regularly.

Key times for handwashing include:

  • when any visible contamination or soiling occurs

  • after handling body fluids, waste or soiled items

  • after going to the toilet

  • after dirty play, indoors or outdoors

  • before preparing and eating food

  • between handling raw and cooked food

  • after tending children with cuts, abrasions or suspected infections

  • after wiping their own or a child’s nose

  • after changing a nappy

  • after eating, coughing or sneezing

  • after handling cleaning chemicals.

To enable effective handwashing, early years managers should ensure the provision of adequate facilities. There should be enough sinks which:

  • are clean and easily accessible

  • have robust, easy-to-use dispensers for liquid soaps

  • have a supply of disposable towels.

Warm water should always be available.

Liquid soaps are preferred to bar soaps, which can rapidly become soiled and provide just the sort of damp environment in which micro-organisms will proliferate.

Disposable paper towels are preferable to the use of linen towels which, like bar soaps, can become soiled and damp. Thorough drying of the hands should be encouraged.

Handwashing reminders can be posted by sinks. Handwashing play and activities can be used as part of hygiene campaigns to encourage children to keep clean.

Find an Employee Handout on Staff Hand Hygiene here.

4. Where necessary, handwashing should be supported by the use of alcohol hand rubs.

Alcohol rubs, antibacterial gels or hand sanitisers can be used as an additional weapon against the spread of infection, for example, during flu or diarrhoea and vomiting outbreaks.

When used:

  • ensure hands are free from dirt and organic material

  • do not wet hands

  • dispense enough of the rub into the palm of the hand

  • spread the rub thoroughly over both hands

  • rub vigorously until dry.

Hand rubs can be particularly useful in situations where clean water and soap are not readily available, such as during farm visits, etc.

5. Early years managers should ensure that spillages of body fluids or body waste, such as blood, faeces and urine, are cleaned up as quickly as possible.

Body fluid spills, such as blood, urine, faeces and vomit, can spread disease and produce unhygienic conditions if not cleaned up as soon as possible.

An agreed process for cleaning spillages should be in place. In the case of maintained nurseries, a set procedure may be specified by the local authority (LA).

Staff should assess any spillage first and wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as disposable gloves and aprons. They should use a suitable disinfectant or a product which combines detergent and disinfectant and which is effective against both bacteria and viruses, following the manufacturer’s instructions for use.

Find a Factsheet on Cleaning Spillages of Bodily Fluids here.

All hygiene waste should be disposed of appropriately according to local waste policies.

6. Toys and play equipment should be kept clean and periodically replaced.

Toys and play equipment, such as climbing apparatus and slides, can quickly become soiled or unhygienic and contribute to the spread of infection. A written schedule should therefore be in place for the regular cleaning and monitoring of such items.

Where toys are shared, it is recommended that only “hard” toys are made available. These can be easily cleaned whereas “soft” toys cannot. Toys should be cleaned with soap and water after use and checked for condition. Damaged items that cannot be cleaned or repaired should be replaced.

Many provisions have occasional “deep clean” sessions to ensure a thorough cleaning of toys and combine this with an audit of the toys.

Soft modelling and play dough should be replaced regularly or whenever it looks dirty. Sand in sandpits should be changed regularly — monthly for indoor sandpits and as soon as it becomes discoloured or malodorous for outdoor sandpits.

7. All early years services should have a policy on nappy changing and on the removal of human hygiene waste. Such waste systems should also be subject to regular risk assessment.

An early years service will sometimes generate human hygiene waste, such as used nappies and their contents. The proper removal of this potentially hazardous waste is particularly important. Failure to comply with the law and with LA guidelines on waste management may lead to fines and the threat of legal action.

All human hygiene waste is capable of being the source of disease. However, nappy waste from an early years service is considered low risk as children in such a provision are generally healthy. This means that such waste, if generated in small quantities, can usually safely be double-bagged and disposed of as part of the standard municipal waste stream.

Early years managers should check local policies and waste collection arrangements to ensure compliance.

Find a template Nappy Changing and Toilet Training Policy here.

8. Parents should be asked not to bring their child into the service if the child is unwell or suffering from an infection. This is often referred to as a “medical exclusion” policy. It should be clearly communicated in leaflets and posters.

Once a child is old enough to mix with others they are at risk of picking up diseases from other children. Early years services are an ideal environment for the spread of disease because of the relatively low state of immunity of children and the difficulties in maintaining hygiene.

Infectious diseases are defined as those diseases that can be passed from person to person. They include diseases such as:

  • flu

  • measles

  • scarlet fever

  • chickenpox.

Children suffering from such diseases can be described as contagious if they are at the stage where they can pass it on. For this reason, an early years provider should have a clear medical exclusion policy in place which states that children who are unwell should be kept at home. Those with a temperature and other specific signs and symptoms, such as diarrhoea or vomiting, should be excluded until they have recovered, for 48 hours in the case of diarrhoea or vomiting.

Find a table detailing the recommended medical exclusion periods for different infectious illnesses.

Exclusion policies will provide some protection to staff and other children from the spread of communicable disease and should be clearly communicated to parents.

Guidance on recommended exclusion periods for specific illnesses can be obtained from public health authorities. For instance, Public Health England publishes Health Protection in Schools and Other Childcare Facilities which includes recommended exclusion periods.

9. Outbreaks of infectious disease should be reported.

An outbreak is any occasion where two or more cases of an infection occur, such as diarrhoea or vomiting. In such cases, the outbreak should be reported and expert advice obtained.

Each area will have a public health protection team which includes consultants and specialist nurses qualified to give immediate infection control advice and advise when an outbreak needs investigation.

During an outbreak, providers should increase the frequency of cleaning of the premises, especially toilets, door, flush handles, etc. Requirements for handwashing should be emphasised. Play with sand, water and plasticine/play dough should be suspended until the outbreak is over.

10. Staff should be appropriately trained in hygiene and infection control.

It is important that all members of staff have a clear understanding of their responsibilities for hygiene and in preventing the spread of infection.

Staff should be trained in:

  • the basic principles of hygiene, especially the importance of effective handwashing, etc

  • general knowledge of infectious diseases, including modes of spread

  • the need to report personal illness and exclude themselves from work if suffering from an infectious disease

  • the need to wear disposable waterproof gloves in situations where contact with blood or body fluids is expected, such as cleaning body fluids.

Early years managers should ensure that infection control is covered in induction for new staff who should be made aware of the policies operating in the service. Regular refresher training should also be provided. You can find a model Hygiene and Infection Control Policy here.