Children's ball pits can be a lot of fun, but parents are often concerned about pit cleanliness. Ball pits can be filled with bacteria from food residue, young children's "accidents," and general dirt build-up on small faces and hands. Whether you run a commercial children's play centre or you have a small ball pit at home, you need to have good cleaning processes in place for the safety, health, and hygiene of the youngsters using your play area. What you should use to clean your ball pit and how often depends on the frequency of ball pit use and your budget for cleaning equipment.
If you own a large indoor playground or children's play centre, chances are you have dozens or even hundreds of children in and out of your ball pit each day. Goldstar Cleaning Services recommends that these kinds of facilities thoroughly clean and sanitise their ball pits every three to six months. Hire a commercial cleaner to do the job, and make sure that the service includes sanitising of vinyl and fabric surfaces. For extra cleanliness and peace of mind, consider buying a ball washing machine for your facility, such as the system offered by HyGenie.
Large play facilities should have someone watching the ball pit at all times, armed with a small towel and a spray bottle filled with a disinfectant solution--one part bleach, nine parts water. If the observing employee notices dirt on a ball, he or she should immediately spray it with the solution and wipe the ball clean with the cloth. Watch for signs of wider contamination such as a child's "accident" that warrant closing the pit for more thorough cleaning.
Parents should follow a similar procedure when watching their children play in ball pits at home.
When the play centre closes or when your children stop using your at-home ball pit, thoroughly disinfect all of the balls. Commercial facilities should perform this clean daily, while at-home ball pits can take two to three uses before cleaning.
If you own a commercial ball washer, you don't need to clean the balls manually. Otherwise, begin the manual cleaning process by removing all the balls from the pit and placing them on an old sheet.
Spray the balls down thoroughly with a disinfectant solution of one part bleach, nine parts water.
Wait for the balls to dry, and shuffle them around on the blanket. Spray them for a second time with the bleach and water solution. Mamapedia.com recommends this method of spraying twice to ensure thorough cleaning. Once the balls are completely dry, you can use the sheet to gather them up and place them back in the pit.
Instead of bleach and water, you can also use Lysol or another favourite disinfectant spray.
Plastic balls usually have small holes and cracks. Avoid totally immersing the balls in water or any other cleaning fluid. Liquid can get trapped inside and cause mould growth further down the road.