Asumag 2657 Headshot Stephen Ashkin

Green Cleaning: Getting Ready for Winter

Dec. 1, 2016
Don’t hibernate. Prepare your custodial staff for the rigors of winter.

It’s  that time of the year again. Most students and staff will be leaving for the holidays while facilities departments will be hard at work. The following are some thoughts to consider during this period.

General Building Inspection. December ushers in winter, which is associated with snow, ice, rain and other weather-related challenges. Take this opportunity to audit roofs, drains, exterior water faucets, heating systems, tools and supplies so that a major freeze results in only minimal damage. Also, if weather-related contingency plans haven’t been reviewed since last winter, take time to review plans with staff so everyone is prepared in the event of an emergency.

Cleaning Audit. In addition to a general audit of the physical structures, use the winter break as an opportunity to audit cleaning suppliers. A couple of places to look: supply rooms and janitor carts. Disorganization and clutter indicate wasted time. This audit will help identify timesaving opportunities. And because winter is coming, check to see if liquid cleaning and other products are at risk of freezing. If so, reorganize the storage areas before the freeze happens.

Ice Melt. There are lots of options for keeping exterior stairs, entrances and sidewalks free of snow and ice. Sodium chloride (rock salt) is effective and relatively inexpensive, but it can damage concrete surfaces, grass and other vegetation. Plus, rock salt typically leaves an ugly white track in entrances and damages floor finishes. Talk to janitorial product suppliers about environmentally preferable options, and make sure there is some on hand. Once snow starts, it may be difficult to get products in a timely fashion. And take a look at plows, shovels and other equipment to make sure everything is ready to go.

Mats. Take a look at exterior entryway mats, as well as those immediately inside the doors. This may be the time to add scraper mats to capture ice and snow before it is tracked into the building. Ask janitorial products suppliers about mats with deep channels that capture and hold the moisture, as well as the recycled content used to make the mats. And remember that inside mats are also important because they dry shoes and reduce slips and falls. This is also a time to discuss cleaning requirements with custodial staff to make sure that outdoor mats are shoveled and indoor mats are kept dry. This may require wet/dry vacuums, mops and buckets, wet floor signage and other tools.

Disinfectants. Winter often coincides with cold and flu season, so make sure disinfectant cleaning products are on hand. Talk to janitorial product suppliers about their “green” disinfectants; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a pilot program to promote these safer products. If there are concerns about products freezing, EPA has approved alcohol-based disinfectants as part of its green disinfectant pilot program. This can help eliminate freezing concerns (as a side note, there is virtually no concern relative to fire or other hazards with storing these alcohol-based products).

Training. Finally, find time to make sure that custodians are trained and prepared for the winter. This includes everything from proper use of ice and snow melts, the proper way to shovel to minimize back and other injuries, and proper clothing, including shoes, boots, jackets and gloves. Don’t forget emergency contingency planning so they know how best to keep buildings, students and staff safe, protected and comfortable.

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