PHOTO CREDIT: ABM
All those smiling faces – new and returning teachers, staff, students and parents – are now walking the school halls. Ideally, they’ll experience a sea of shining floors, sparkling windows, squeaky-clean restrooms, and fresh athletic facilities.
There are some important back-to-school cleaning processes that shouldn’t be missed, for the sake of appearance and “first impressions,” as well as for creating a healthier school environment. If the school has been sitting unused all summer, you can be sure that dust, dirt and other contaminants have made a home on every surface.
Deep cleaning can reduce allergens and bacteria, dust, dirt, mold, and pollen. It also sets the stage for regularly scheduled sanitizing to help stop the spread of TB, staph infections, meningitis, and other contagious conditions. Being vigilant should be a top priority, and it all starts before school starts. Here are some best practices—including green cleaning processes—that should be used for deep cleaning your facilities.
Areas to target:
1) Restrooms: Floor-to-ceiling attention is needed to ensure all surfaces are sanitized. Best practices include high-pressure cleaning and disinfection of walls, partitions, floors, urinals, toilets, and sinks. This is a good time for grout repairs too. Start the year off right with pristine bathrooms, and it will be easier to keep up with regular maintenance throughout the year.
2) Carpets and floors: Dirt, mold, and pollutants love to hide in carpets. K-5 schools especially need to keep them clean for crawling, sprawling, sitting kids. Not only are dirty carpets unsightly, but they can negatively affect indoor air quality. Studies have shown that properly cleaned carpets help reduce asthma and allergy symptoms. Back-to-school cleaning should include carpet extraction and sanitization. This is also the time to strip and wax hallways and classroom floors. Shiny floors make a great impression, and well-maintained floors last longer.
3) Windows and lights: Good lighting contributes to good learning. Windows should be washed inside and out to bring in the most natural daylight. Light fixtures need detail cleaning.
4) Heating and cooling systems: Preventative maintenance should be performed for HVAC systems to keep them running properly. Mold can form if there are leaks or improper drainage. Start now with new air filters, and then change them regularly. Return vents need to be washed down before school begins because if they are not properly humidified and circulated, air can spread illness within classrooms.
5) Gyms, weight rooms, locker rooms: These can be breeding grounds for TB, staph, and other infectious organisms. Start now with a deep cleaning and sanitization of all surfaces and equipment, and then keep ahead of problems with routine cleaning. Students should also be required to wear footwear while in the gym and flip-flops in locker rooms. Remind them to not share personal equipment and to regularly wash their athletic clothes. With football season approaching, plan to add a weekly misting system to your cleaning procedures, because such systems can kill 99.99% of bacteria.
Green cleaning and its benefits
All of the above-mentioned cleaning practices should be done with sustainability in mind. The health of school occupants and, indeed, the planet depend on the use of green cleaning processes, chemicals and equipment, such as:
- Green Seal certified or bio-based cleaning chemicals, proven to clean effectively while helping to reduce toxic pollution and waste.
- Carpet & Rug Institute’s Green Label vacuums for energy efficiency and effective filtering of unhealthy particles to improve indoor air quality.
- Carpet extractors and automatic floor scrubbers that reduce water consumption.
- Microfiber mops and dust cloths, which clean more effectively and minimize the use of chemicals. Tests found a 21.9% greater reduction in bacteria using microfiber for floors compared to more time-consuming traditional systems
- recycled paper towels bleached without the use of harmful chlorine or its derivatives.
- High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters for HVAC systems remove 99.97% of contaminants at 0.3 microns in size. Pollen is in the 10-100 micron range, with dust at .5-5 microns. Particles under 5 microns can penetrate deep into the lungs.
In the report, Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits, author Gregory Kats concludes, “… a 3-5% improvement in learning ability and test scores in green schools appears reasonable and conservative. Students also feel better going to clean classrooms and sitting in clean desks and surroundings. A correctly-maintained school not only minimizes the spread of illness, but also sends a caring message to the students, teachers and parents.
Start day one by lifting everyone’s morale and it will be easier to keep your school spirit going throughout the year. From the moment people enter the doors for the first time this fall, you’ll want your school to look and perform its best.
Bob Clarke is Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, of ABM's Onsite Services business model. He can be reached at Bob.Clarke@ABM.com.
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