Flushing out Germs

Do your school buildings have a reputation for cleanliness? It might depend on your restrooms.

Students and visitors often cite restrooms when they are judging the overall condition of a facility and the quality of a maintenance operation. Therefore, it is vital to have an effective restroom-management program.

This means training workers to ensure proper cleaning, disinfection and restocking of supplies such as paper towels, toilet paper and hand soap. It also may involve embracing the latest technologies, such as touchless fixtures. Users may prefer touchless systems, and they may help reduce labor, improve disinfection, save water and promote health.

Go with the flow Before training employees, create a flow chart to define the best way to clean each type of restroom at a particular facility. It is crucial to establish the correct way to clean a restroom rather than let workers perform duties a different way every time. Wasted steps cause inefficient cleaning, and missed functions can lead to inadequate disinfection and related odors. A precise cleaning pattern provides a template for workers to follow and a basis for standardized training. Washroom checklists can be helpful, and can be mounted on the restroom door or wall to facilitate inspections.

Some basic cleaning steps to follow include:

-Put all supplies-cleaners and disinfectants (standardized for all employees), and paper, soap and other items that need restocking-on one cart to avoid repeat trips to the supply closet. A mop, bucket and wringer with a refill hose that allows a worker to refill the bucket in the restroom can help to ensure adequate solution changes to properly clean and disinfect floors.

-Prop the restroom door open, as needed, and place warning signs in the entranceway.

-Flush all commodes and urinals, and apply a premeasured disinfectant. This will allow proper dwell time for complete germicidal action (10 minutes is standard).

-Refill soap, paper and scent dispensers.

-Dust and clean. Spray all fixtures with a cleaner/disinfectant, then wipe with a clean, soft, lintless cloth. Pay special attention to contact points, such as door and toilet handles, where cross-contamination can occur.

-Clean commodes and urinals with a disinfectant applicator/agitator.

-Clean stalls and walls as needed daily, and deep-clean weekly.

-Sweep or vacuum the floor. A lobby pan and broom are effective for spot cleaning.

-Wet-mop rather than damp-mop floors. Wet mopping allows sufficient disinfectant dwell time to kill odor-causing bacteria in floor grout. Use clean tools and solutions to avoid redistributing soil.

-Start at the farthest point from the entrance, and work back toward the entrance. This prevents backtracking over mopped floors.

-Schedule cleaning times before or after class sessions or during non-peak hours.

-Workers should wear safety goggles/gloves and follow Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) precautions.

-Use non-acid bowl cleaners daily and stronger acid bowl cleaners weekly or less frequently for deep cleaning.

-Inspect restrooms several times daily, and spot clean as needed. Document inspections and results.

Proven advice Keeping restrooms disinfected and deodorized is easier using the right system, says Brad Coury, director of environmental and custodial services for Gwinnett County Public Schools, Atlanta. After classes are out, custodians begin "spray point" restroom cleaning. They restock supplies, flush toilets, clean fixtures and sweep. A worker sprays the entire restroom with disinfectant solution from a hose attached to a restroom spigot. Concentrated disinfectant cleaner is siphoned from a bag-in-a-box mounted on a rolling cart.

Controlling bacteria is key to preventing restroom odor. Most unpleasant odor comes from the improperly cleaned underside of urinal and commode rims. These areas must be cleaned weekly using a brush and disinfectant cleaner to remove bacterial buildup and prevent odor.

Use a black (ultraviolet) light to locate areas that have not been properly cleaned, including urine left around toilets and urinals. Missed soil deposits show up clearly using this technique.

Labor is the biggest expense in cleaning restrooms. Touch-free cleaning dispensers may reduce costs by automatically injecting premeasured cleaner/germicide into water pathways of urinals and commodes. Automated cleaning prevents bacterial growth, while freeing workers from applying the cleaner manually.

Automatic faucets also can make restroom maintenance easier. Users do not touch the faucets, so fixtures need less maintenance. The surface stays cleaner, and there are fewer moving parts to wear out. Water usage drops since touch-free units stay on only as long as someone is using them. In addition, ADA mandates are satisfied with touchless systems.

Toilets that flush automatically are another way to reduce labor, prevent cross-contamination, improve public health, control odors, save water and reduce maintenance. There are no contaminated flush handles to clean, and programmed flush intervals can reduce soiling and odors from unflushed urinals and commodes. In addition, valves can last longer because users will not kick the flush handles.

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