As the world looks to get kids back to school this fall amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, cleaning educational facilities thoroughly is more important than ever.
Schools are a hotbed for germs even in the best of times. After all, kids aren’t known for keeping things clean, especially the younger ones. But now with the rise of COVID-19, parents and school employees are more concerned than ever before about cleaning educational facilities well enough that the virus doesn’t spread through the classroom.
While everyone waits with bated breath for a vaccine, people also recognize that they have to get on with their lives in some capacity, including sending children back to school. The question burning in the minds of most people is, how do we make it safe to reopen? How can we better clean school buildings to ensure the lowest risk possible of transmitting the virus?
Fortunately, there’s been a lot of guidance on this. Here are some tips for cleaning educational facilities that protect students, teachers, and anyone else who may need to go into a school.
Janitorial software can help you to create and manage your COVID-19 cleaning plan. Check out a demo of Janitorial Manager today to see how we can help keep your school safe.
9 Steps to keep everyone safe when you’re cleaning educational facilities
1. Extra PPE
Personal protective equipment (PPE), like gloves, has long been used to clean different spaces, but in a post-COVID-19 world, we need to take additional precautions even before cleaning. Masks or face shields will help keep cleaners and school populations safe from the spread.
Cleaners should change their PPE more often than they may have before, especially after coming into contact with a surface that may have been contaminated. For those who are extra concerned, there are disposable gowns, safety glasses, and many other types of PPE that might not have been used before. The more caution taken before cleaning, the safer the circumstances will be.
One important note about masks before you move on: Not just any mask will do. As we continually learn more about COVID-19, studies are finding that some masks are significantly better (or worse) than others. (Spoiler alert: Fleece masks and bandanas don’t work at all. The fitted N95 is the best, and in the middle is the two-layer cotton mask.)
2. Mind the order of operations
Cleaning educational facilities requires more attention than merely spraying down a surface with an all-purpose cleaner and wiping it off. To protect against COVID-19, cleaning staff should adhere to the full cleaning cycle of cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.
Cleaning, which can be done with an all-purpose cleaner, removes dirt and other agents from surfaces. This is important because soiled surfaces might reduce the effectiveness of a disinfectant, which is ultimately what kills coronavirus. For floors, sweeping may be enough to do the trick, but if there are the time and staff available for it, an all-purpose mopping before a disinfectant mopping might be helpful.
Disinfecting means just that—it kills bacteria and viruses that cause illness or disease. Be sure to read the product label on your disinfectant spray and use it according to the instructions. For example, most EPA-approved disinfectants have to stay on a surface for a minimum of 2-10 minutes to do their job effectively. The EPA has more guidelines for safe disinfecting here.
Sanitizing is an optional step after disinfecting, but it can help prevent new germs from living or thriving on surfaces until picked up by a human host. As with disinfectants, make sure to read the label and use it as instructed.
3. Clean more frequently
This can be a challenge with schools in session all day, but cleaning educational facilities regularly and more frequently than before will help reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as the seasonal flu, and other viruses. This may impact your contract, but in today’s climate, most people are willing to put a little extra into cleaning to minimize doubt.
4. Clean more stuff
Some cleaners may do this already, but pay special attention to high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, faucets, light switches, and more. (If you’re cleaning a high school, don’t forget the lockers!) If you’re cleaning a school that caters to small children, check play areas and other shared spaces for things that probably get touched or passed around.
5. Ensure adequate ventilation
Even though most school cleaning takes place after-hours, it’s essential to keep the building adequately ventilated. Many of the cleaning products that kill coronavirus can be hazardous if inhaled. Ensure the safety of teachers and students by making sure rooms are well-ventilated at all times. (Check with school authorities to learn about any restrictions they may have on this.)
6. Follow official guidance
There are many guidelines for effectively cleaning educational facilities. The CDC and the World Health Organization both provide helpful tips for reducing the risk of COVID-19, but we also encourage you to check with your state and local health officials to find out if there are specific requirements in your area. If you find conflicting information, we suggest going with whatever seems most conservative, just to be safe.
7. Boost personal hygiene practices
Cleaning crews come into contact with a large number of potentially contaminated areas. Washing hands regularly can significantly reduce infection in cleaning staff as well as the spread of hazardous germs. Whenever someone removes their gloves, they should wash their hands or use an approved hand-sanitizer before donning new gloves and moving to the next task.
8. Small and consistent cleaning staff
Schedule the minimal number of people as a precaution you can take to keep everyone safe. In addition to the presence of limited cleaning staff, keep the same team each time, not only because they’ll already know all the ins and outs of the job, but also because fewer different people passing through means a reduced risk of infection.
9. Use a checklist
Finally, with COVID-19 among us, it’s more important now than ever to use a cleaning checklist to ensure that you’ve covered everything. You may find software like Janitorial Manager helpful here to create and maintain a checklist that both you and your employees can view anytime from a mobile device. Ticking the boxes during and after each cleaning will help ensure that you and your staff have done everything to make educational facilities as safe as possible from COVID-19.
It’s critical to take special care in cleaning buildings and grounds that host students and teachers throughout the day. It may make the work a little more challenging, but in the end, you’ll feel better knowing you and your team are doing conscientious, beneficial work.
Create checklists, make schedules, monitor inventory, and more with Janitorial Manager. Schedule a free demo today to learn more!