Even if you aren’t normally a germaphobe, bringing your new baby home from the hospital can make even the tidiest person question how clean their home really is.
Is my house clean enough? Can dirty surfaces cause my baby to get sick? How often should I clean baby’s things? And with what?!
You’re right to think about these things, mama (particularly during the colder months where cold and flu germs are common). But let’s be honest—we all know that new moms barely have enough time to shower some days—let alone deep clean the house! So we’ve done the research and laid it all out for you—here are the things to focus on keeping clean, how often to clean them, and the best cleaners for the job.
How Often Should I Clean My Baby’s Items?
It depends on the item!
Anything that is visibly dirty should be cleaned immediately (especially since newborns make most of the messes due to blowouts, diaper leaks and spit-up). Plan on throwing lots of clothes, swaddles and burp cloths in the laundry daily—and it’s not uncommon to have to spot clean carpets, couches, etc. throughout the day (did we mention that newborns are messy?).
Items that make their way into your baby’s mouth (pacifiers, teething toys, bottles) are high-frequency cleaning items, since bacteria can hitch a direct ride into baby’s system. The best bet is to clean these items thoroughly after each use, and to sanitize daily for young babies (under three months), babies born prematurely or those with a weakened immune system.
It’s always a good idea to make it a habit to clean areas that baby spends a lot of time in or on (think: a play-mat, changing table, bouncer, etc.) as frequently as you can manage—which we know can be a challenge during the jam-packed and exhausting newborn days! Aim to wipe down hard surfaces with soap and water or a disinfecting cloth daily, and wash fabric items (like bedding) weekly when possible.
Most importantly: Do your best! There’s no way to perfectly prevent germs in your home—and that’s perfectly fine.
What is the Best Way to Clean Baby’s Items?
Infant Feeding Items
Properly washing and sanitizing infant feeding items, such as bottles and pump parts is essential for healthy and safe infant feeding. Nipples, caps, rings, valves, pump parts, etc.—who knew there would be so many parts and pieces to simply feed your baby?! You don’t need any fancy bottle sanitizers or special wipes to clean items well, though these gadgets or a dishwasher may make things easier.
Most feeding items can be washed with a basin and brush used only for washing baby’s items and sanitized in a pot of boiling water. You may be able to use the dishwasher, microwave bag, or plug-in steam system to wash or sanitize your bottles or pumps.
These methods can be a great way to save time, but these methods are not all suitable for all pump parts or bottles. Be sure to check the handling instructions from your particular manufacturer and follow the CDC guidelines and advice from your pediatrician or lactation consultant. When in doubt, your pediatrician or lactation consultant are there to help you make a plan to efficiently and safely keep your parts clean and your infant safe!
Spot clean larger items (bouncer, car seat, etc.) with soap and water when needed to remove small messes. Baby wipes can be a great option to do an initial clean up if you are on the go. Almost all baby items have removable fabric pieces that are fine to throw in the washing machine—just check the label for washing and drying recommendations.
Baby clothes and bedding can be treated just like yours—just check the labels for washing and drying instructions when in doubt. Some families prefer to wash baby’s items with baby-specific or fragrance-free detergent, but in reality this is only necessary if your baby shows signs of skin irritation. You can feel free to throw baby’s items in with the rest of the family’s laundry—unless you have a poop situation. Then it’s best to wash separately!
Plastic or Hard Surfaces
Good old-fashioned soap and water is a great way to clean toys, bouncers, changing tables, etc. For an extra dose of cleanliness, use a disinfectant spray or solution after cleaning, and allow to air dry.
Pacifiers and teething toys should be cleaned frequently. While most items can be hand washer or thrown in the top rack of a dishwasher, follow the steps listed above for cleaning and sanitizing your specific items. Pacifiers should to be sanitized daily for infants under 6 months old and washed daily for older infants.
Pay extra attention to your baby’s bath toys, since they are in the bathroom and babies tend to put everything in their mouths. You can use soap and water to wash them and then store the toys in a mesh bag or basket in a clean area to dry. Toys with holes in the bottom, such as rubber ducky, can harbor mold. Squeeze water out of these toys and throw them away periodically.
Take time to wash baby’s hands, especially before baby eats or after baby has touched the floor or a pet. You can use a washcloth with gentle soap and water or hand wipes when you are on the go. As your baby grows, they will likely welcome the opportunity to splash in the sink while washing hands! By starting early, you can make hand washing part of their daily care routine.
What are the Safest, Most Effective Cleaners to Use for Baby’s Items?
It’s normal to want to use more natural cleaning products to avoid chemicals around your little ones. And for cleaning up spills, dirt or grime, they’ll do the trick (although they might require more scrubbing).
But to truly disinfect items, you’ll need more than a natural cleaner—they simply don’t have the disinfecting properties that will actually kill yucky viruses and bacteria. The best option for disinfectant is an an EPA-registered disinfectant (be sure to read the instructions) or a diluted bleach solution (⅓ cup bleach mixed with 1 gallon of water).
And, mama, when all else fails—the good news is that cleaning with good old-fashioned soap and warm water is a great way to reduce the number of germs on surfaces (and help you breathe a little easier).