Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 3: Health Promotion and Protection

3.3 Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting

3.3.0 Cleaning Individual Bedding

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 3/20/2023.

Bedding (sheets, pillows, pillowcases, blankets, sleeping bags, sleep sacks) in early care and education programs should only be made of materials that are washable. Each child’s bedding should be kept separately from other children’s bedding, either on the bed or stored in individually labeled bins, cubbies, or bags. Bedding should be removed from individual sleep equipment (cots, mats) before they are stored or stacked. Bedding that touches a child’s skin should be cleaned weekly if only 1 child uses the bedding or before another child uses it.1

When cleaning bedding, it is important to use these guidelines:

  • Follow the instructions on the laundry detergent container.
  • Wash the bedding at the warmest temperature, and dry completely. Use a dryer on a high heat setting when possible.
  • If the bedding is soiled with body fluids, launder with a disinfectant ¾ for example, non-chlorine bleach (preferred) or bleach ¾ and dry completely.

Early care and education programs should have written policies and procedures for collecting, handling, and washing soiled bedding. Programs that have laundryequipment in the kitchen must also make sure not to do laundry at the same time as preparing food. Surfaces must be cleaned and disinfected before food preparation and after laundering.

See the Comments section below for more resources on cleaning schedules and choosing the right cleaning and disinfecting product.


Infectious diseases spread easily in early care and education programs, since children, staff, and families are all in close contact. Surfaces and objects can carry germs and have spread diseases.2–4 Children in early care and education programs often nap on mats or cots that are taken out of storage for nap time, and then placed back in storage. Improper cleaning of bedding materials may increase the risk of spreading disease. Bedding can collect germs and insects (e.g., lice) that grow well in a moist and warm environment. But, the spread of disease is rare if bedding is cleaned and dried properly.5 Having bedding for each child, and storing each set in individually labeled bins, cubbies, or bags ¾ that clearly separate each child’s personal bedding ¾ are proper hygienic practices.6 Developing effective cleaning strategies and policies are important steps to reduce the risk of illness in early care and education programs.


Early care and education programs need to write up and follow a routine schedule of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Refer to CFOC Appendix K: Routine Schedule for Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting.

 For more information on choosing a cleaning, sanitizing, or disinfecting product, please refer to CFOC Appendix J: Selection and Use of a Cleaning, Sanitizing, or Disinfecting Product. Appendix J also has important information about the use of bleach products, how to prepare bleach solutions, and health and safety precautions. Never mix bleach with other household cleaners, especially those that have ammonia.

 The use of products that have safer (less toxic) chemicals helps reduce health and environmental concerns. Manufacturers may claim that their products are “green,” “natural,” or “earth friendly,” but these claims are often misleading and might not be about a chemical’s safety. Organizations now certify and label products that meet certain health and environmental standards. These certifications can help you find less hazardous cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting products. CFOC Appendix J has more information on Third Party Certifications logos and these safer (less toxic) chemicals. Safer disinfectant choices can be found at Using the least hazardous products available will help protect the health of children, and early care and education program staff and custodial personnel.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Routine Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting Cleaning and Sanitizing Toys Cleaning and Sanitizing Objects Intended for the Mouth Cleaning Crib and Other Sleep Surfaces Laundry Service and Equipment Location of Laundry Equipment and Water Temperature for Laundering Sleeping Equipment and Supplies
Appendix E: Child Care Staff Health Assessment
Appendix J: Selection and Use of a Cleaning, Sanitizing or Disinfecting Product
Appendix K: Routine Schedule for Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Managing Infectious Diseases in Child Care and Schools: A Quick Reference Guide. Aronson SS, Shope TR, eds. 5th ed. Itasca, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2020

  2. Ibfelt T, Engelund EH, Permin A, Madsen JS, Schultz AC, Andersen LP. Presence of pathogenic bacteria and viruses in the daycare environment. J Environ Health. 2015 Oct;78(3):24-29. PMID: 26591334

  3. Gerba CP, Chaidez C. Detection of pathogenic micro-organisms on children’s hands and toys during play. J Appl Microbiol. 2014 Jun;116(6):1668-1675. doi: 10.1111/jam.12473. Epub 2014 Mar 20. PMID: 24524673

  4. Bright KR, Boone SA, Gerba CP. Occurrence of bacteria and viruses on elementary classroom surfaces and the potential role of classroom hygiene in the spread of infectious diseases. J Sch Nurs. 2010 Feb;26(1):33-41. doi: 10.1177/1059840509354383. Epub 2009 Nov 10. PMID: 19903773

  5. Toronto Public Health. Infection prevention and control in child care centres. Requirements and best practices. Last updated 2019. Accessed November 3, 2022.

  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. Section 2: Recommendation for care of children in special circumstances; children in group childcare and schools. In: Kimberlin DW, Barnett ED, Lynfield R, Sawyer MH, eds. Red Book: 2021 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2021:124-125 


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 3/20/2023.