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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Discoloration from Daycare Disinfecting

By Dr. Laundry June 15, 2011

Q:  My children occasionally come home from daycare with discoloration on their clothing.  To disinfect the toys, changing table, etc the daycare uses a gallon jug to 1/4 cup of Clorox® Regular Bleach.  I have questioned the daycare on how they are mixing the solution as it clearly causes a problem.  They tell me the ratio to use is 1/4 cup of Clorox® Regular Bleach to 1 gallon of water, however, they are mixing it in a gallon jug, so technically it is 1/4 cup of Clorox® Regular Bleach to 1 gallon minus 1/4 of water. 

Could this be causing the discoloration problem or do you think something else must be going on to cause this problem?

A:  It is good your daycare is using bleach for disinfecting, and now you can pass along some information to help them use it correctly!  The ¼ cup per gallon dilution they use is more standard as a bleach pre-soak for bleachable fabrics that are heavily soiled or for fabrics that need to be disinfected.  It is actually not strong enough to disinfect hard surfaces.  Instead, to disinfect furniture and hard, non-porous toys, the correct dilution is ¾ Clorox® Regular-Bleach per gallon of water.  You are also correct to note that they should be measuring a full gallon of water that the ¾ cup is then added to, a 1:21 dilution.  Items need to have contact with this disinfecting solution for 5 minutes, and then should be rinsed thoroughly and allowed to air dry.

Done correctly, there should not be any fabric damage on your children’s clothing, which makes me wonder why this is happening.  Perhaps they are not rinsing thoroughly after applying the disinfecting solution; and what is left behind is damaging non-bleachfast fabrics.  Ideally they would use a 1 gallon pail or bucket to mix the solution in.  These work well because they have a nice wide opening for the sponge and you can put the bucket right next to the items you’re disinfecting (changing table, etc) to reduce the chance of stray drips.  Also, in an ideal world, they would apply the disinfecting solution after the kids have gone home for the day.  This allows everything to air dry more conveniently.  However, in our less-than-perfect world, kids throw up while at daycare and the staff cannot wait until the end of the day when it is convenient.  Hopefully, if they need to disinfect an area during the day, they keep the kids out while they disinfect.  The look of the bleach spots may also give clues to how they are happening.  Small dots would be from a drop or two splashing on to the clothes.  A large color-loss area on the rear could be if your child sat in a chair that was not rinsed. 

Readers, have you asked how your daycare disinfects, or experienced similar spots?