Best practices for cleaning and disinfecting school facilities
A comprehensive strategy for preventing infectious diseases in schools includes cleaning and disinfection. Being vaccinated is the first line of defense against influenza (flu), which can help reduce its spread. Staying in bed while contagious, concealing coughs and sneezes, and washing hands frequently are further precautions. The following advice will help you clean and disinfect your school to help stop the flu from spreading.
The meaning of “Clean” and “Disinfection”
Cleaning is the process of physically removing contaminants from surfaces using warm water, detergent, and viruses like COVID-19-causing SARS-CoV-2. A surface must first be cleaned before disinfection can be done.
Using chemicals to eradicate germs from surfaces or items is known as disinfecting. After cleaning, eradicating germs on a surface can help reduce the likelihood of an infection spreading. Cleaning must be done before disinfection because grit might interfere with the effectiveness of disinfectants in killing bacteria.
SARS CoV-2 and other coronaviruses can persist on surfaces for a few hours, but cleaning and disinfecting will eradicate them. How long the virus survives depends on several factors, including the quantity of contaminated body fluid (such as respiratory droplets), the type of surface, the temperature, and the humidity.
Types of “School cleaning”
- Regular school cleaning: Is usually provided by a state-wide whole-of-government cleaning contract. This type of cleaning is finished in all schools before or after class hours. Hand rags soaked in water and detergent are used to clean surfaces. With detergent and warm water, most hard surfaces can be thoroughly cleaned.
- Day cleaning: Bathrooms, supplies, bubblers, and commonly touched surfaces are all cleaned by AHPPC standards. All restrooms and drinking fountains will receive additional cleaning and high-touch areas between lunch and recess.
- Enhanced cleaning: Offers a 25% increase in regular school cleaning hours, concentrating on touchpoints and surfaces in high-traffic areas, and was carried out before or after school, giving school communities an extra measure of security.
- Deep or environmental cleaning occurs typically when the school is off for a day or two. Specialized cleaners perform an intensive (or thorough) school cleaning. This type of school cleaning will only happen when it has been determined necessary by the school, such as in the case of sizable and poorly controlled outbreaks, and only on a case-by-case basis.
Guidance for cleaning and disinfection of school facilities
1. Create a plan for cleaning and disinfecting
Create your plan, advise the CDC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for schools: “Execute your plan.” Keep and update your plan. What matters should be covered in any strategy is outlined in the National Education Association's publication, Cleaning, and Disinfecting in the COVID-19 Age. Includes:
- The selection of items for specific applications is based on certain criteria.
- Processes and procedures: Techniques for disinfecting and cleaning high-touch points and risky locations, such as nurse's offices; using, diluting, and storing solutions properly, including limiting exposure to airborne chemicals.
- Ventilation: The particular conditions for mixing, utilizing, and storing chemicals.
- Access to dangerous information includes knowing the warnings, usage restrictions, and safety prerequisites for the chemicals being used and having access to Safety Data Sheets.
- Personal protective equipment: requirements, applications, training, and equipment fit to safeguard staff.
- Aspects particular to the use of rooms and spaces and their inhabitants include Advice on what to do if surfaces need to be treated in between classes, are used for eating or preparing food, or are either soft or hard.
- Health issues affecting particular populations: Use of products that are independently certified to contain fewer harmful chemicals, like those certified by Cradle to Cradle (silver or gold levels), Green Seal, or Safer Choice, is advised for students and educators who, for instance, have asthma that disinfectants and perfumed cleaners can trigger.
2. Increasing the frequency of cleaning high-touch surfaces
At schools, surfaces such as door knobs, light switches, desks, and chairs serve as a haven for germs and dangerous viruses. If not cleaned and disinfected correctly and frequently, they risk transmitting germs. Even though most students, instructors, and staff are immunized, they wipe down high-touch surfaces many times per day. Keep in mind that additional dangerous illnesses including the norovirus, which may survive on surfaces for up to two weeks, and influenza, which can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours, must also be prepared for in schools.
Each year, substitute instructors cost schools nearly $4 billion, and teacher absences cost schools more than $25 billion. Absences from class can make learning and engagement difficult. Students and teachers are less likely to get sick among clean, disinfected, and sanitized surfaces.
3. Use eco-friendly chemicals
When creating and carrying out a cleaning program, it is essential to consider the safety of the building's residents and the cleaning crew. Products made with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) significantly impact the environment and indoor air quality. Schools can prevent harm to kids and employees by using cleansers and disinfectants that are secure, environmentally friendly, and satisfy efficacy criteria.
As an illustration, cleaners, and disinfectants known as electrochemically activated solutions (ECAS) are produced utilizing salt, water, electricity, and a local generator. Schools may prevent aggravated health concerns like asthma in children and employees while lessening their environmental impact using remedies from three simple, harmless substances. If you're unsure which items to use, search for cleaning regimens or solutions that have received certification from recognized agencies like GREEN SEAL. These certificates attest that the program or product has been tested thoroughly to determine its efficacy and safety.
4. Invest in high-tech equipment
By boosting the productivity of cleaning staff, high-tech equipment like on-site generation (OSG) and robotic floor care equipment can assist schools in providing a cleaner learning environment. Automated floor care technology, for instance, enables cleaning employees to renew floors - which sustain the most wear and tear in educational facilities - while concentrating on other top priorities.
By generating cleaner and a disinfectant on-site, on-site generation improves a school's readiness to clean. Custodians can readily pour these solutions into tanks for floor-care supplies, mop buckets, and spray bottles. Due to the supply chain disruption caused by the pandemic, several schools had trouble locating cleaning supplies. Cleaning outcomes are consistent thanks to OSG's dependable supply of cleaning agents.
5. Understand when to clean and disinfect
The CDC advises following particular cleaning procedures when cleaning up after someone ill or diagnosed with COVID-19 has occupied a space. Close off and wait to utilize any area that has been in contact with an infected individual until it has been cleaned and disinfected. Before cleaning, there should be a 24-hour waiting period (or as much time as possible if 24 hours is not practical).
Too many schools use toxic disinfectants for routine cleaning when ordinary cleansers would. Most surfaces and objects will only require routine cleaning, according to the CDC and the EPA. It's crucial to sanitize surfaces and items handled by several persons regularly. Included in this are the restrooms, inside of school buses, drinking fountains, and playground equipment. Use the EPA's List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19) when selecting a disinfectant, but try to avoid using harsh chemicals and methods whenever you can.
Educate staff on safe cleaning and disinfection practices
- During cleaning and disinfecting, opening windows and ensuring ventilation system fans are operating will decrease exposure to the chemicals in these items.
- The proper use, storage, labeling, transfer, and dilution (if necessary) of the specific items used at each facility must be taught to custodial or other staff doing cleaning and disinfection tasks.
- The right personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, eye protection, breathing protection, and other protective gear, as specified by the product maker, must be worn by cleaning employees. For particular PPE requirements, consult the product label and SDS (Safety Data Sheet) for each product utilized.
- Use disinfectant products according to the manufacturer's directions, including dilution instructions (if the product is not "ready to use").
- The disinfectant must be left on the surface for the period specified on the label (also known as the "contact time") totive at killing viruses.
- Let cleaned surfaces dry naturally. Avoid using fans or other mechanical devices to speed up product drying.
- Before using any industrial or commercially available cleaning or disinfection products, custodial or other staff assigned cleaning and disinfecting tasks should be given safety data sheets for the products the school intends to use and obtain medical clearance from their health provider.
Let’s create a safe and healthy school environment!
In addition to preventing the spread of the virus, ensuring that our school communities are safe, just, and healthy places to learn aids in the improvement of learning environments for all of our students, teachers, and staff, whether they are Black, Brown, White, Native, or Newcomer. Together, we can fight for the educational opportunities our communities, teachers, and kids deserve!
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