As we look forward to the re-opening of schools and businesses, we need to re-examine the process of constant cleaning and disinfecting that most people adopted as the new normal to protect us from COVID-19. Some research raises questions about how much cleaning and disinfecting in schools is too much.  

Over the last year, our understanding of coronavirus and COVID-19 has rapidly evolved. As experts learn more about how the coronavirus spreads, the most recent research focuses on the appropriate amount of cleaning and if the disinfection protocols we have been using are suitable to support other COVID-19 prevention measures in schools.

What we have learned about the transmission of COVID-19

We have come to understand that COVID-19 is spread most frequently through aerosolized virus particles rather than through contact-based contamination. According to the CDC, each contact with a contaminated surface has a less than 1 in 10,000 chance of causing an infection.

The most current research shows that COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person and almost always transmits through airborne particles. This transmittal means that improving indoor air quality is one of the keys to stopping the spread of COVID-19 and can be done by enhancing ventilation systems in schools. Improved indoor air quality may be more important than daily, in-depth surface cleaning to keeping schools virus-free.

Sanitizing, cleaning, and disinfecting all still play a crucial role in combating the spread of COVID-19. For example, suppose school administrators create optimal and effective plans to help protect children and school staff from the spread of COVID-19. In that case, it’s important to understand the facts about the best cleaning and disinfecting procedures and the associated health risks.

What is the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing?

  • Cleaning is always the first step. Disinfectants and sanitizers do not work on dirty surfaces. Cleaning is the process of removing unwanted substances, such as dirt, dust, debris, or an infectious agent from an object or surface using soap or detergent with water.
  • Disinfecting is the process of using chemicals to kill germs or inactivate bacteria and viruses like COVID-19 after cleaning a surface or object. Disinfection usually requires the product to remain on the surface for a specific length of time (ex: letting it stand for 3 to 5 minutes).
  • Sanitizing is used to reduce the number of germs on a surface. Sanitizing doesn’t necessarily kill or remove all germs. It simply lowers their count and works by cleaning or disinfecting surfaces and objects to decrease the risk of spreading infection.

Are There Additional Risks with Constant Cleaning and Disinfecting?

There is no doubt that clean schools are essential. However, to maintain a healthy school environment, pay careful attention to the chemicals being used to ensure they do not have serious adverse health effects.

With in-person learning resuming, schools have seen an increase in the number of unapproved cleaning products being used and stored in school classrooms, which has raised many safety concerns.

The Impact Cleaning Chemicals Can Have on Air Quality

One of the top concerns with the increased use of chemical products in schools is their impact on the air quality of the classrooms. Chemical products can worsen indoor air quality, and poor air quality can exacerbate other health issues, such as allergies and asthma. School staff should always use caution when using disinfectants around people with asthma, as they can trigger an asthma attack.

Other short-term effects of chemical cleaners are eye irritations, rashes, dizziness, headaches, and allergic reactions. While disinfectants are potent tools for controlling the spread of disease, they can harm student’s health if used or stored incorrectly.

Outside Cleaning Products – What’s the Harm?

Tight school budgets and concern over how to stay healthy while planning for increased in-person learning have led teachers to supply their own personal protective equipment and cleaning products. While teachers and staff have good intentions, bringing unapproved cleaning products into the classroom adds a tremendous liability for schools and creates a safety hazard for the students.

Administrators and staff must work together to understand policies, safety guidelines, and procedures for cleaning and disinfecting. In addition, administrators can help staff by providing the necessary EPA-approved cleaning products and storage cabinets to ensure that sanitizing of each classroom is done correctly and safely.

What are the Best Cleaners and Applications for School Settings?

Creating procedures for routine deep cleaning and increasing the frequency of disinfecting high-touch areas play a key role in keeping students and teachers healthy and safe. Schools must consider their individual needs to create the most effective cleaning and disinfecting plan.

According to the CDC, cleaning and disinfecting guidelines include:

  • Clean surfaces and objects using soap (or detergent) and water, focusing on high-touch areas and objects.
  • Use EPA-registered household disinfectants and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Train cleaning staff and teachers on proper use and storage of all cleaning products
  • Develop a schedule for increased routine cleaning and disinfection.
  • Make a plan with team members and keep an open line of communication.
  • The CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or 70% isopropyl alcohol.
  • Continue to encourage hand-washing hygiene and adhere to social distancing and masking guidelines.

Communication is Key

Every school should regularly review its plan that prioritizes the health and safety of students, staff, and custodial personnel while the country continues to work through the pandemic. Clearly defined roles for teachers, administrative staff, custodians, nurses, and bus drivers will provide a cohesive alliance in providing a safe place to learn.

Schools have several options when addressing these concerns, including going green. Utilizing different types of cleaners and disinfectants that are non-toxic and safe for use around children is an ideal option for those who do not want to decrease the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting.

Another option is to utilize a green antimicrobial surface protectant to coat hard and soft surfaces and kill germs, bacteria, and viruses on contact. This surface coating can last up to 90 days, which means less spraying is needed. 

Next Steps

Integrity Janitorial Cleaning Services can provide your facility with professional cleaning and disinfecting services tailored to your specific needs. We understand the benefits of using green-friendly products to protect your environment. Schedule a free consultation to determine how much cleaning and disinfecting is required for your school.