It’s that time of year again! While students are readying their school supplies, teachers and staff are readying their classrooms and schools for the new year by cleaning and disinfecting all areas. Use our checklist below to make sure you have everything you’ll need for back to school cleaning and provide a clean and safe environment for students and staff!
Products we recommend for disinfecting:
Because of Covid-19, it’s more important than ever to make sure that school classrooms, cafeterias and other common areas are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Continue reading below to lean how to make sure students are in a safe and healthy environment.
Most people don’t realize that there is a difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Basically, cleaning removes the dirt, sanitizing lowers the bacteria and virus count, and disinfecting kills bacteria and viruses.
Cleaning removes dirt, dust, impurities and germs from a surface. This is generally done with a detergent or soap, and water. Think about laundering clothes and textiles or washing your counters with an all-purpose cleaner and a cloth. Microfiber and water are also an effective and detergent free way to clean since microfiber is positively charged and negatively charged dirt clings to it like a magnet, thus removing it from hard surfaces. Proper cleaning removes 97% of dirt and germs from surfaces.
Sanitizing uses a chemical to remove bacteria and viruses to an acceptable level as determined by public health standards and requirements. Oftentimes, the all-purpose cleaner that you’re using in your home is also a sanitizer. Sanitizers are great for routine household cleaning in high-touch areas, like counters, tables, desks, doorknobs, light switches, etc. Sanitizing removes 99.9% of illness causing bacteria and viruses giving you a 1,000 times reduction in potential exposure.
Disinfecting is the granddaddy of them all. Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill, not simply remove, bacteria and viruses. This is where we want to focus our efforts and we’ll go over everything you never wanted to know about disinfecting in a bit. Disinfecting must be done after thoroughly cleaning and the disinfectant must remain on the surface for a specified period of time, usually five to ten minutes, in order to be effective. If done correctly, disinfecting kills 99.999% of illness causing bacteria and viruses giving you a 100,000 times reduction in potential exposure.
There are four types of disinfectants: Oxidizers, Phenolics, Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats), and Acids. They’re all effective but they work in different ways and have their own pros and cons.
Oxidizers, like bleach or peroxide are the most common household disinfectants. They’re cheap and effective. Oxidizers work by destroying the cell walls and stealing electrons which basically pulls the cells apart. Oxidizers are an excellent disinfectant because they’re effective on a wide range of organisms. Their main downfall is that they are harmful to many surfaces and they’re unstable. Bleach is a corrosive and also stains so it’s best not to use it frequently. Also, once bleach, peroxide and other oxidizers are exposed to oxygen, they begin to breakdown. A bottle of bleach is actually only effective as a disinfectant for a few months after opening and the shelf life for peroxide is even shorter.
Phenolics work by disrupting the cell walls by coagulating proteins and basically drying them out. Lysol is a common phenolic disinfectant. Phenol is the oldest known disinfectant and was used by Dr. Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery. They’re best used in a healthcare setting because of their ability to inactivate the most difficult viruses. Phenols are toxic in high concentrations and can be harmful to people. When using phenolic disinfectants, it is imperative that the disinfected surface be rinsed after the appropriate contact time is up.
Quats work by denaturing proteins and making them fall apart. They are preferred by professional cleaners because they effectively destroy a wide variety of organisms without damaging surfaces. Quats lose their power on dirty surfaces so they will only be effective if they’re used after the surfaces have been thoroughly cleaned. Quats also are attracted to and become absorbed by fabrics meaning that less of the chemical is available to disinfect a hard surface because it stays on the towel that you are using to apply it. Basically, it dilutes itself by staying on the fabric. This can be compensated for by using a stronger concentration.
Acids work by basically dissolving cells. These disinfectants, like citric acid, are found in many popular bath and kitchen household cleaners. Acids are simple and effective disinfectants. However, they also can be damaging to hard surfaces.
To disinfect properly, you will need to remember two key rules: clean first and contact time. If you don’t follow these very important steps, you will not be killing the bacteria and viruses that cause illness. First, let’s talk about why we can’t just use a “disinfectant cleaner” and be done with it. Despite what commercials may tell you, there’s no such thing as a disinfectant cleaner; well, not one that is going to be effective that we’re aware of. A 2-in-1 just doesn’t exist. There’s no way to get around the fact that a disinfectant is only going to truly work on a clean surface. Dirt consumes disinfectant. Dirt also covers the germs that a disinfectant is meant to kill. It will act as a microscopic umbrella shielding the germs from the disinfectant. Then, the germs that were protected by the dirt will feed on it and multiply. The only way to properly disinfect is to clean first to remove the dirt and disinfect after to kill what was left behind. If you’re using your disinfectant on a dirty surface, you are simply wasting your time and chemicals.
The second facet to proper disinfection is “contact time” or “dwell time.” A lot of us make the mistake of just spraying the disinfectant and wiping it dry but we need to remember that disinfecting takes time! So, how do we do that? According to Becker Hospital Review, the best way to ensure that your disinfectant is effective is to make sure that the surface remains visibly wet with a disinfectant solution for the full recommended contact time, usually between five and ten minutes. EPA approved disinfecting agents will have the recommended contact time listed on their labels. Microfiber Wholesale’s PURE® Hard Surface Disinfectant only has a 30 second dwell time to be effective. This disinfectant is on the EPA Approved List N Disinfectant for use against COVID-19 (EPA Registration No. 72977-5) and is suitable for nonporous surfaces.
When cleaning and disinfecting schools, it is extremely important to focus on high touch areas and easy transition paths that can spread disease. One easy transition path that is overlooked is actually disinfecting your tools, like vacuum tools, brushes and dusters. Also, make sure that you are using chemicals appropriate for the surfaces you’re cleaning. Do not overuse chemicals. Using too much of chemicals does not make them anymore effective, can be a waste of resources and potentially harm your surfaces or you.
To disinfect a classroom, clean all surfaces with a damp microfiber towel (different towels for each area to avoid cross contamination). Use another microfiber towel and submerge it in your disinfectant or, if using a sprayer, spray directly onto the surface. Coat each of the surfaces, again using a different towel for each area – never put a used towel back into your solution. The surfaces would need to remain wet as long as the label indicates before being wiped away and air dried. It is not effective to simply take a wipe and run it across your desks, tables, doorknobs and light switches.
For hard flat surfaces, like floors, countertops and tables, soak your mop or cloth in the disinfectant solution and wring it out slightly, just so it’s not dripping. Apply the solution and leave it on for the recommended contact time and then rinse with clean water (if required) and let it air dry. For more challenging surfaces, like doorknobs, cabinet, appliance or drawer handles, spray on the solution or simply wrap your treated towel around the surface to let the chemical do its job. Use a clean cloth for each surface area and do not put a soiled cloth back in your solution.
In the bathrooms, after proper cleaning, prepare a disinfecting solution and wipe down all the frequently touched surfaces like faucets, door handles, light switches, dryers, and dispensers.
And there you have it! The best tips for back to school cleaning and disinfecting. More cleaning and disinfecting tips can be found on our website’s Clean Like a Pro section.