Below is some information for teachers and custodians. Using the right cleaning products, chemicals, and appropriate tasks for each type of task teachers and custodians can work together to ensure clean and healthy environments for students. Quality school cleaning is one of the best investments that any district or private school can make.
Cleaning the Classroom
Teacher’s Best Practices
In the event students help:
- Use baby wipes that are fragrance free for quick clean ups.
- Soap and water only for bigger messes.
The majority of cleaning products bought in stores contain chemicals and not safe for children. It is the responsibility of school custodial staff to keep schools clean, but there are teachers that decide to clean more. The following are ways to ensure the extra effort is killing germs in a safe and effective way.
- Washing hands – prior to eating, after bathroom use, etc. with soap and water.
- Teaching habits for hand washing – The best defense against spreading germs.
It is not recommended to use antibacterial soap, instead us regular fragrance free soap. If access to water or a sink is not available, use hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes that are alcohol based with at least 60% alcohol, fragrance and dye free. However, sanitizers do not replace hand washing, as it does not work effectively for greasy or dirty hands.
Understanding the Difference of Sanitizing, Cleaning and Disinfecting.
You should ensure the correct product is used for a task:
This lowers the amount of germs to a level that is considered safe, such as food service environments. There are certain requirements for use of sanitizers in kitchens and cafeteria’s by food code regulations.
This removes the most germs and gets rid of dirt. Using soap and water, or a certified green cleaner is suggested. When it comes to classrooms, the main focus is keeping it clean.
This method kills the largest amount of germs when used as directed by the label, but varies depending on the chemical compound.
When it comes to schools, areas that are considered as high-risk get disinfected and sanitized often, such as bathrooms, nurse’s office, sinks, door handles, drinking fountains, kitchen, etc. It is preferred if done when students are not present. Also, there is no additional benefit for overusing these methods, but can lead to students and staff being exposed to the chemicals which can be harmful. Teachers are able to depend on the basics of cleaning to keep germs to a minimum and remove dirt from the classroom.
In the event staff needs to assist the trained custodial staff in cleaning classrooms, they need to use a cleaner that is provided by the school or district.
The custodial staff is able to create an all-purpose cleaner for use in the classroom by mixing 1tsp of dish soap (fragrance free) and water in a spray bottle. Use it to spray on the surfaces, then scrub using a microfiber cloth or paper towel, rinse and then wipe it dry. This removes residue.
If possible, using a microfiber cloth to clean helps lower dirt and germs and improves the overall clean. They can be used for removing dust by dampening it with water too. Also, by adding soap and water they can remove most of the germs and dirt.
It is the custodial staff to disinfect the school, as they have been trained on how to use disinfectants in an effective, but safe method. They also know how to clean body fluids and other materials that are potentially infectious, from blood, urine, to vomit and feces. If a student is ill, the school nurse and/or custodian should be called, and the classroom should be cleaned and disinfected.
In the event teachers do use disinfectants, they should be trained to do so by the school district and should supply the cleaner, disinfectant or sanitizer too.
Health Benefits of Cleaning
- Increases overall productivity
- Lowers absenteeism
- Lowers allergy and asthma triggers
- Improves indoor air quality
Things that are good to know:
Children have a higher vulnerability to exposed chemicals.
There are common products for cleaning that contain ingredients that are harmful to a person’s health, such as the lungs. Disinfectants should never be used by the students, including disinfectant wipes. These type of wipes should be avoided for cleaning hands, including Clorox wipes.
Cleaning the Classroom for Health
How are germs reduced by cleaning?
By cleaning, the dirt and organic matter gets removed which contains the germs while protecting them. The soap used helps to break down the oils, letting the contaminants, dirt and germs to be removed easier. By cleaning with a microfiber cloth, soap, and water, the most germs will be removed.
Why is washing hands better than sanitizing them?
By using soap and water under running water, it helps remove the oils, dirt and germs on the surface. However, hand sanitizer only kills part of the germs due to not removing the dirt and germs.
Why plain soap for washing hands?
The ingredients in antibacterial soap, especially quaternary ammonia compounds (quats) and triclosan only target and kill certain germs, making it unnecessary for washing hands. This is because the germs are washed down the drain, so it does not matter if they’re dead or alive.
Why alcohol based sanitizers?
The only hand sanitizers recommended by the U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention are those with an alcohol base of 60% or above. This is because non-alcohol sanitizers are less effective compared to alcohol based products.
Examples of non-alcohol based hand sanitizers:
- Paper towels (recycled preferred, but don’t request)
- Disinfecting Wipes
- Fragrance free baby wipes
What is the problem with using disinfecting wipes?
It is common for disinfecting wipes to be overused and they’re not appropriate for cleaning when soap and water would do just fine.
They often contain fragrance chemicals and quats, which could trigger allergies and asthma, while having other health effects.
Also, disinfectants are able to provide false security due to improper usage leading to them not working correctly. The majority of disinfecting wipes also require a clean surface, and then the suggest it to be visibly wet for four to ten minutes to dwell for full effectiveness, thus needing many wipes.
Why is fragrance free important for schools?
The reason for fragrance free products is due to it being the most common cause for allergens, and it is able to irritate respiratory systems, exacerbate asthma, and lead to headaches.
Why are microfiber cloths so great?
The split fibers of microfiber cloths make more surface area, making it a superior method for removing dirt, dust, and germs. They’re also reusable and can be tossed in the laundry to be washed out by hand.
Why is it teachers should not bring common cleaners from home?
One reason for this is because certain cleaning products become very dangerous when combined. For example, bleach should never be combined with ammonia, acids or various disinfectants. This means Comet that has bleach in it would have a reaction with Windex because it contains ammonia, the result would be poisonous vapors.
Therefore, the commonly used household cleaners or disinfectants are not usually appropriate for cleaning schools and classrooms as it can have health and allergic reactions.
Schools have to provide Safety Data Sheet’s for every chemical that gets used within the school.