The Tennant Company
T500 Education Disk1

Cleaning from the Ground Up

June 18, 2020
Effective floor cleaning can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Clean School Floors are Essential in Our New Normal

Routines help keep teachers, students and staff stay on task and instill a sense of order. Maintaining floor cleaning routines creates a healthier, safer and inviting environment. But routines are changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus can live for up to 72 hours on hard non-porous surfaces, including floors, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Beyond the pandemic, which chemicals are used in schools is gaining attention as products can potentially be hazardous to the health and safety of students, custodial staff, teachers administration and parents. Cleaning chemicals are proven to cause side effects such as coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath, sore throat, skin & eye irritation, headaches, nosebleeds and even asthma. It’s very important, when cleaning and disinfection is in the spotlight and being performed more frequently, we take the safety precautions needed and use them appropriately as the average custodial worker uses 194 pounds of chemical each year, 25% of which are considered hazardous substances, according to healthyschools.org.

It’s becoming increasingly important to employ a cleaning program that supports the health and well-being of the school’s population — while addressing new routines during the pandemic. 

Protocols for Cleaning School Floors

Maintaining clean school floors should be a key component of the overall cleaning routine for schools and universities. Floor cleaning removes soil, debris and organic substances from the floor surface. Floor cleaning can also be done with equipment like auto-scrubbers while teachers, students and staff are present because the cleaning solution is applied to the floor, agitated and then quickly removed from floors to prevent slip-and-fall accidents. As auto-scrubbers have reduced their noise levels they can even be used in hallways when classes are in session without disrupting learning.

Every school environment is different and may have special considerations based on possible contamination factors that determine floor cleaning procedures. Today a common practice is daily cleaning and only using disinfectants on the floors when blood and bodily fluids are a concern. Floors that students frequently sit on and touch have a higher risk of transmission and should be in separate category vs a hallway that would be considered less critical due to less human touch.

Precautionary Measures for Disinfecting

Disinfectants are required to be available in the facilities for a variety of reasons, however reduced availability and disinfection prioritization should be identified as part of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). In a situation where a school uses disinfectant on floors, there are steps that need to be taken to apply these solutions properly and effectively. Loose debris, soil and other substances need to be removed before you begin to disinfect the floor; auto-scrubbers offer high cleaning performance that can help you efficiently handle that step.

It’s also vital to make sure you choose a disinfectant that matches your specific desired efficacy and flooring type to prevent damage. Efficacy claims often have different contact times for different organisms listed. Disinfectants labels and Safety Data Sheets should be reviewed closely for proper PPE, contact time for efficacy desired and hazards to avoid.

Floors are not typically a focus for disinfection but if deemed important, disinfectants can be applied to floors by a variety of means. No matter how you apply disinfectants, it’s critical that the disinfectant is prepared according to label instructions and that directions for contact times are followed to ensure efficacy. For example, auto-scrubbers in traditional scrubbing mode applies solution and recovers it in two to three seconds, which is not sufficient contact time to disinfect hard non-porous surfaces. Additional steps of raising squeegees or removal must be done to provide required contact time.

Finally, while the disinfected floor is drying, care to restrict foot traffic must be taken; barricades and signage need to be posted to help prevent slip-and-fall accidents on wet floors. Disinfected floors should always be allowed to air dry completely and machine tanks or mop buckets should be drained right after use. Floors that will have high amount of skin contact such as gyms, cafeterias and gathering areas should also be rinsed with water after drying to reduce skin irritations from disinfectant residues. Children of all ages are still growing and developing and have differing health concerns, chemical exposures can be significant risks to their health.

Equipment should be cleaned thoroughly after the disinfection process is completed to prevent chemical interactions with equipment materials and avoid premature failures.

Prepare Now for Students’ Return

With schools and universities temporarily closed for in-person learning — and many campuses closed for the remainder of the school year — the time is now to prepare for students’ return. This may not only help address the spread of COVID-19 for the short term but also improve healthy learning and working environments for the long haul. Forward-thinking schools and universities can begin laying the groundwork for creating SOP’s that identify the various surfaces in areas that need cleaning and disinfection together with their frequency and necessary equipment.

Evaluate Cleaning Products & Processes

To create cleaner and safer education environments, much of the focus is on the cleaning products that schools choose. Changing cleaning supplies can be time consuming, but it’s time well spent to help ensure teachers, students and staff to enjoy a safer learning and working environment. There are alternative “sustainable cleaners” that are certified by independent organizations as less harmful to the environment and safer to use. Tennant auto-scrubbers offer optional on-board cleaning technology that uses water electrolysis to minimize the use cleaning chemicals used on floors. 

When evaluating options, there are items, products and processes to review in your facility.

  • Provide consistency of products used by custodial staff and used by teachers in classrooms. This helps reduce accidents of mixing, irritation and ensures all SDS are available.
  • Use low volatile organic compound (VOC) products & fragrance-free options.
  • Create routine checks of products from concentrate systems ensuring proper dilution.
  • Review chemical storage and use of products to keep out of reach from children.
  • Reduce dangerous accidental mixture reactions by eliminating some of the products.

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