Parents strive to keep children happy and safe. But between the fun and games, daily school, and kids just being kids, tidying up their messes is a constant chore. To make things easier, check out our guide to 11 ways to keep your kids healthy with a steam cleaner.
Let’s face it, the little ones can get pretty gross at times. Homeowners are always looking for better ways to rid their homes of the dirt, grime, and other messes that build up in even the most orderly places.
Babies move about a lot and their play stuff needs to be carefully cleaned for them to not pick up many harmful germs. They explore through taste and touch, so it’s a sure thing that every item they can grab in their room will have been munched or drooled on.
If spraying disinfectants or dousing items in water has lost its appeal, steaming can substitute as an effective means to sanitize messes without detergents. Treatment involves temperatures well beyond the 120°F that is lethal to any microbes, molds, dust mites, and bed bugs, wherever the heat touches for a few seconds.
11 things around kids to clean with steam
1. Diaper Pail. Blast the top edges and insides to prevent the growth of microbes and molds while keeping icky odors at a minimum. You may have to scrub off the stickiest stains with a brush then wipe up with a damp cloth afterward.
2. Teething rings. You can treat rings that are dishwasher or bottle sterilizer safe with a blast of steam. However, be careful with water-filled teethers as many are meant to be cooled in the ref, to aid in soothing babies’ teething pains. If the cleaning instructions tell you to avoid steamer sterilization, you should avoid steaming as well.
3. Plush toys. Not only does steaming cleanse the fabric of stuffed animals, it also aids in deodorizing them. These and other knitted playthings, tummy blankets, and even cloth-bound books can be spot-cleaned with a quick blast.
But do not just go at items that use batteries or make movements and noises, these will need to be carefully steamed or avoided if they cannot be washed. With a plush toy, the idea is to avoid oversaturating the fabric, so it’s best to not leave steam flowing for too long.
4. Small toys. Babies and tots have lots of tiny play stuff, most of which wind up in the mouth. With so many things being touched during the day, cleaning will take much of your time.
A good steamer can be a big help here. Instead of soaking a plastic toy in soapy hot water or running it through the washer, you can just gather items in one place then blast away on every side.
Wooden toys can warp and roughen if they get thoroughly wet all the time. To sterilize a toy safely with steam, it should be placed in a container or on a counter against the splash board and not held with the hand.
5. Big playthings. Trains, trucks, and similar large toys typically have rubber wheels that should not be placed in the washer. You can skip a long soapy wash or a stint in the dishwasher and go straight to cleansing these items quickly with jets of steam.
As children get older, steaming can be good for freshening Barbie and small wheeled toys as well. Put larger items in a colander, silverware holder, or a wash net to stop them from dropping or rolling away.
6. High chair. A Hand-held steamer is the best way to cleanse trays without irritating chemicals, but the technique is also great for clearing off messes stuck into the seat and legs. Food tends to get into seams and crevices, but the hot vapors will readily flow through these and loosen any leftovers. If you need more leverage to dislodge pieces, a toothbrush will certainly help.
7. Stroller. These are exposed to a lot of nasty stuff in the wild. Sticky trays and dirty wheels rolling everywhere from bathroom floors to park grounds can gather and spread cart loads of bacteria and other harmful microbes. Be sure to cleanse the parts regularly and often with long and slow blasts of steam.
8. Potty training. Tidying up small toilets and training aids is the usual gig, but you also need to sanitize as you go. Steaming offers an easy means of cleaning and sterilizing potties as well as the floor, especially after chance mishaps involving kids with poor aim.
9. Sneakers. High steaming temperatures are effective at eliminating germs while leaving things in a nicely refreshed and safe state. If you only need to redo a smelly pair, just steam-blast each shoe for less than a minute.
The rule of thumb is to treat each shoe for at least 5 seconds to get good results. You will want to go over each for as much as 30 seconds to make sure all smells are removed.
10. Hard and sealed floors. Dark spots that can be hard to remove with hand brushing are readily loosened or liquefied with streams of hot vapors. Steam is very effective for clearing laminate floors using the lowest flow settings of steam mops.
Any remaining moisture will be far less than that produced by traditional wet mops or heavy-duty carpet extractor machines. Mopping and light steaming that alternate with dry wipes is the safer way to maintain laminated floors over the years.
11. Mattresses and upholstery. These are easily refreshed using steam along with extra brushing to tackle the toughest stains. Steaming not only cleans and sanitizes any dirty or spill areas, it also kills off most allergens, microbes, and tiny pests lurking in the fabric and cracks.
Bed bug and dust mites can be hard to eradicate and steam cleaners are just the thing for handling infestations without the use of toxic chemicals. A few seconds at steam temperatures reaching 212°F is all that is required to kill these pests and sterilize the affected spots.
Safety and use
Thing is, we can go on and on about the many things that steam cleaning can handle well. You can use the technique to refresh car seats, sports gear, playground and pool items, beach toys, school and gym packs, among many.
It’s obvious enough that you shouldn’t let kids play with or near steamers, for if the hot streams reach them, skin can get scalded. There is no need to overdo the scrubbing and steam cleaning bit, though.
Favorite toys and the everyday items that you bring around in the diaper bag will only need to be steam-cleaned every week. Just remember to let treated stuff dry off for a while in a well-ventilated space, to speed up the process.
Do make sure to give a toy a thorough once-over if you happen to find it sticky with saliva and food scraps, especially in these cases:
- After play dates, as other tots will have mouthed or drooled over your kid’s items.
- When it hasn't been toyed with for some time but is likely to harbor plenty of germs.
- If a child is recovering from a cold or diarrhea.
Not just for kid stuff
Steam cleaners can work great for making a home that’s healthy and safe for children. Along with their playthings, you can readily clear the usual messes found on kitchen countertops and bath floors, toilets, mirrors, windows, and more.
Not only is steaming chemical-free, the forceful effects make tidying up an active household a lot easier. Many parents rely on these eco-friendly machines as a more hygienic alternative to washing and soaking kid stuff with the use of harsh detergents.
The useful life of many household items can be extended using this modern technique. By refreshing their look and smell with sanitizing steam, you will be keeping things safer as well for the youngest in your family.