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Handwashing in Day Care

Expert Q&A

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Updated February 22, 2009

Q. I work in a child day care. The other adult workers insist on using the same washcloth to rinse the mouths of 10 toddlers after snacks and lunch. Sometimes they rinse the cloth with warm water only and sometimes not. Is this healthy? Thank you. Los Alamos, NM

A. Of course that isn't healthy. With this practice, you are just spreading germs from one child to another. Having individual towels or washcloths for each child or using disposable paper towels that are used just one time would be much safer and healthier.

An easy way to think about whether or not this is a good practice is to just consider what the average parent would say if they knew you were doing this...

The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care offers some helpful tips on when and how staff and children should wash their hands (which would likely also apply to washing their mouth), including that you:

  • Dry your hands with a clean, disposable paper towel. You can also use a single use cloth towel.
  • Discard the used paper towel in a lined trash container. If using single use cloth towels place in laundry basket.
Most states have regulations and strict rules for these kinds of things, so you might want to review the New Mexico State Child Care Regulations to make sure your center is in full compliance with all health and safety regulations.

For parents with kids in day care, you might also want to review how the staff is washing their hands, changing diapers, and washing them up after meals, to make sure they are using safe and healthy practices that minimize the spread of germs as much as possible.

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