Tips for Cleaning, Sanitising and Disinfecting Schools


Every day, schools open their doors to hundreds of students and faculty, making these institutions a hotbed of germs. Many of the items found in school are frequently touched and shared between students, increasing the risk of infection.

It’s a common scenario in preschools: little Sara comes to school with the sniffles, feeling a little bit under the weather but she instantly brightens up when she sees her best friends Ava and Ellie. They hug each other and sit down at their desks. They all sit together at recess and share a strawberry-flavoured drink that Ellie brought with her, the three girls taking a sip from the same straw. A few days later, both Ava and Ellie come down with the cold, too.

Top Germiest Things in School

Students don’t even have to share the same drink or utensils to spread germs. There are many things in a school where germs and bacteria can lurk.

  • Water fountain spigots
  • Bathroom door handles
  • Bathroom faucets
  • Cafeteria tables
  • Cafeteria trays
  • Keyboards and touchscreens
  • Desks
  • Shared classroom supplies (paintbrushes, markers, scissors, etc.)
  • Playground equipment
  • Gym/sports equipment

Whilst some of the above-mentioned items are cleaned regularly, cleaning is usually not done until the end of the day. Often, multiple children have already been exposed to the microorganisms that are potentially present before the cleaning crew comes in.

There are a wide variety of germs found in schools, but the most common are:

  • Staphylococcus aureus (which causes conjunctivitis)
  • Coxsackievirus (which causes hand, foot, and mouth disease)
  • Streptococcus pyogenes (which causes strep throat)
  • Rubeola virus (which causes measles)
  • Norovirus (which causes the stomach flu)
  • Influenza A virus (which causes the flu)

How to Ensure Proper Cleaning, Sanitising and Disinfecting

  1. Know the difference between cleaning, sanitising, and disinfecting.

In order to ensure that students and faculty are protected against infections, it’s important to understand the difference between cleaning, sanitising, and disinfecting.

Cleaning refers to the process of removing visible dirt, grime, and soiling from objects or surfaces. This is usually done using water and soap or detergent.

Sanitising reduces the number of bacteria, viruses and fungi on objects or surfaces. Meanwhile, disinfecting kills microorganisms.

It’s important that objects and surfaces are first thoroughly cleaned before they can be sanitised or disinfected, since most chemical sanitisers and disinfectants may not work effectively unless all visible contamination is removed.

  • Read and follow label directions carefully.

Each manufacturer will have different directions printed on product labels. Don’t disregard these instructions to ensure proper usage and application.

Some products have the combined effect of cleaning and disinfecting, but there may be a separate procedure for using the product for either purposes.

For sanitisers and disinfectants, manufacturers may specify that the products must remain on the surface for a certain period of time, such as letting the product stand for 5-10 minutes. It’s important to follow these instructions for maximum product effect.

Still, other labels may specify the types of surfaces on which the product may be used. Make sure to only use these products as directed to avoid damaging objects or surfaces.

  • Use the products safely.

Following on from point #2, labels also include hazard warnings that must be followed closely to ensure safety. Make sure that usage instructions are read and understood by janitorial and custodial staff, as well as teachers and other faculty members who might use the products.

Some product labels indicate that personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves or eye protection, must be used when handling and using certain products.

Other products specify that certain products must not be combined to avoid risking injury or even death.

  • Keep to a regular cleaning and disinfecting schedule and policy.

If you haven’t already, develop a regular cleaning and disinfection schedule and policy and make sure that your janitorial crew follow it diligently. The schedule should include daily cleaning and sanitizing, as well as a more thorough weekly program.

Objects and surfaces that are shared between students and faculty, or those that are touched frequently, must undergo daily cleaning and sanitising. These objects include desks, doorknobs/handles, computer keyboards and mouses, faucet handles, and cafeteria tables, to name a few.

High traffic areas should also be paid close attention to, such as bathrooms, gymnasiums, shower/locker rooms, and cafeterias.

  • Establish a proper waste disposal policy.

As with the cleaning and disinfecting schedule and policy, educational institutions also need a waste disposal policy to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria. Make sure that cleaning staff understand and adhere to these regulations.

The policy should include wearing of gloves when handling waste and waste bins. It should also indicate that disposable rags or wipes used for cleaning objects and surfaces must be thrown immediately in designated bins. Avoiding touching tissues and other waste products when emptying these bins is also a good rule to follow.

  • Teach basic hygiene principles.

Students and faculty members will both benefit from constant reminders about basic hygiene principles, such as frequent and proper handwashing; refraining from touching their eyes, mouth and nose; and, covering their mouths with a tissue or the crook of their arm when coughing and sneezing.

One good way to do this is to put up signs in prominent areas around the classrooms/campus so that they will be visible throughout the day. For small kids, it’s good practice to bring them to the sink before and after snack time; after playing outside during recess; touching an animal; and using the bathroom.

  • Involve the kids in the clean-up process.

Getting kids involved in the process of maintaining a clean and sanitary environment helps them to learn responsibility that they will bring with them into adulthood. Start them young by getting smaller kids to put away their chairs and tables and picking up items off the floor.

Older kids can be taught to clean shared areas (desks, computer keyboards and mouses, etc.) before and after using them.

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