The New Normal Presents New Expectations & Requires a Commitment to Basic Cleaning Principles
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented concern over whether schools will provide a clean and safe environment for students, staff and guests. And COVID-19 is not the only public health threat schools face. Schools must, therefore, take all necessary steps to ensure they reduce the level of risk and make a commitment to general cleaning principles.
Overall, to meet the new expectations, a school’s cleaning program needs to:
- Focus on the thorough servicing of surfaces, primarily “high risk”/ “high touch” areas
- Include the targeted use of disinfectants/sanitizers as part of an infection control strategy
- Use updated tools and technology to ensure efficiency
- Meet regulatory requirements and be flexible enough to respond to special risks
In general, the Triple S Partners in Protection (PiP) Program involves three key steps:
Principles Behind Partners in Protection
The goal is to remove pathogens and the conditions that help them thrive. This can include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.
Ensure availability of personal protective equipment. The school should have a policy that outlines:
- Ensure proper ventilation especially when disinfecting tasks are being performed.
- Use the highest MERV-rated filter for the ventilation system
- Assess whether the number of air exchanges per hour can be increased if needed
- Use the EPA’s “Tools for Schools Ventilation Checklist & Background Information for Checklist” for overall evaluation of the HVAC system.
- Although the terms are used interchangeably, cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection are different activities.
- Cleaning is the physical removal of soil, grime and other unwanted contaminants.
- Sanitizing refers to the reduction of germs and bacteria. Specifically, sanitizers can reduce bacterial and germ load by 99.9% when used as directed.
- Always clean with a general-purpose cleaner prior to disinfection (cleaning is the physical removal of visible contaminants accomplished with a cleaning product and physical agitation). For a disinfectant to be effective, contaminants must first be removed from the surface. Note: There are some products that are both a cleaner and disinfectant. Use of these products allows a user to perform both activities simultaneously although it may be necessary to remove extensive amounts of visible soil, dirt, and grime prior to use. Directions on the product labels should always be read and followed.
- Clean the highest areas/surfaces first and then proceed to lowest areas/surfaces.
- Clean the dirty areas/surfaces first and then proceed to the clean areas/surfaces.
- In general, disinfect last – after all other activities have been performed.
- Make sure the surface/item/area remains wet for the time specified on the product label. Complying with the product “Dwell Time” is necessary if the product is to work as intended.
- After wiping the surface, ensure there is a wet film and make sure there is enough to cover the full area.
- Spraying product onto a cloth or mop is preferable in most cases to spraying product directly onto the surface or item.
- Using a pump device to deliver chemical product as a foam is preferable to a sprayer if allowed by the specific product use instructions.
Consider implementing a system that uses color-coded cloths and mops:
- Utilize a dispensing system and concentrated products to improve safety and conserve resources by:
- Minimizing waste through accurate dilution rates
- Preventing exposures and spills from product concentrates
- Improving efficacy due to accurate dilutions
- If you do not use a dispensing system, make sure disinfectant solutions are prepared in a clean container, are not stored for long periods, and are always prepared correctly.
- Make sure cloths and mopheads are replaced as soon as they are soiled (Replace each time a bucket of disinfectant is emptied and replaced with fresh solution).
- Wear chemical resistant gloves each time a mophead or cloth is changed for a new surface or when the disinfectant solution is changed. If gloves are not worn, hands should be washed. Wash hands following the removal of gloves as well.