Cleaning spaces that are occupied by children, such as schools and daycares, need different strategies when compared to facilities that are used by adults. We forget that children are not small adults! Compared to adults, children have a larger lung surface area in relation to their body weight, and breathe 50% more air per kilogram of body weight. This means that their developing lungs present a large surface area through which pollutants may be easily absorbed. Children breathe faster and therefore inhale and absorb a relatively greater volume of contaminants compared to adults. As well, being smaller in size, their breathing zone is much lower than that of an adult. When cleaning spaces used by children, reducing the risk of exposure to potential contaminants that can have immediate or long term effects on their health must be a priority.
What a bout allergens
Another concern is the increase in the number of children being diagnosed with asthma. Exposure to allergens, such as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), dust mites, pests and moulds, plays a role in triggering asthma symptoms. These allergens are common in schools, daycares and other areas where children spend many indoor hours in a day. Asthma is the most common chronic childhood illness and has substantially increased in prevalence over the last two decades in particular in children under age 15. Cleaning plays an important role in reducing the triggers than can lead to an asthma attack.
To prevent contaminants and allergens from making kids sick, schools and daycares need to address their specific needs when developing a cleaning plan. A Green Cleaning Plan will reduce exposure to both toxins and allergens and minimize the overall environmental impact of the cleaning process. Follow these guidelines to improve the overall health of students and staff.
1) Choose Green Certified Cleaning Chemicals
Third party certifications such as ECOLOGO indicate that a product has undergone rigorous scientific testing and exhaustive auditing, to prove its compliance with stringent, third-party, environmental performance standards. Certified green cleaning products take the guesswork out of evaluating your cleaning chemicals. Today, most cleaning tasks can be accomplished using third party green certified cleaning products.
2) Choose Green Cleaning Tools and Equipment
The choice of green equipment and tools can greatly reduce exposure to allergens and improve the overall health of students and staff:
- Chose vacuum cleaners with high-efficiency (HEPA) filters. HEPA micro filters capture 99.97% of materials as small as 0.3 microns or 240 times smaller than a human hair. HEPA filters also prevent these particles from escaping and being recirculated into the air. Vacuums with HEPA filtration bags do a much better job of capturing and retaining small particles than dust mops.
- Use an auto scrubber to clean large areas of hard floor surfaces. Not only are auto scrubbers more efficient at removing soils and contaminants from surfaces when compared to mop and buckets, they can clean more square feet per hour.
- Choose microfibre flat mops to clean smaller areas, where the use of auto scrubbers is not possible. Microfibre captures and removes more soil and germs when compared to mop and bucket cleaning tools.
- Use of colour coded microfibre cloths to clean all above the floor surfaces (desks, tables, counters). Microfibre cloths are designed to capture soils and prevent them from redeposited soils and germs on other surfaces
- Place high-quality entrance mats at all entryways to trap contaminants before they can be spread throughout a building.
3) Implement Infection Control Practices
The most effective way to prevent illness is to combine best practices for infection control with a thorough green cleaning program executed by trained cleaning professionals. The following infection control and cleaning and strategies will ensure that your educational facility stays healthy:
- Encourage regular hand washing and hand sanitizing for all students and staff. Remind everyone to cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow or to cover their mouths with a tissue. Remind both staff and students not to use smart devices in the washroom!
- Clean and disinfect high touch points or germ hot spots regularly. Follow the recommendations on the label of the disinfectant regarding dwell time and whether or not the surface must be cleaned before disinfecting.
- Have a plan for when you facility has flu, norovirus or experiences other outbreak conditions. Increase the cleaning and disinfecting frequency of all high touch point areas (germ hot spots) such as phones, light fixtures, stair railings, door knobs and push bars, elevator buttons and water fountains. Use a disinfectant that has kill claims against the virus or bacteria that is the source of the outbreak.
4) Implement Green Cleaning Procedures
The way you clean also reduces general health risks. Your cleaning plan needs to focus on reducing potential allergens, germs or chemicals that can cause harm. There are a number of areas where you should focus your efforts:
- Avoid spraying cleaning and disinfecting solutions directly onto surfaces. When possible, use a flip top cap to apply the solution onto the microfibre cleaning cloth.
- Schedule carpet cleaning or floor stripping early in a school break to increase opportunities for ventilation and reduce chemical exposure for building occupants.
- Ensure the frequency of cleaning matches with the soil load. Areas where soils can accumulate need to have a higher cleaning frequency as they pose a higher risk of containing germs and contaminants that can make people sick.
This four step green cleaning plan will help to protect the health of children by reducing their exposure to toxins and contaminants. Once implemented, the result is healthier students and staff and a reduced impact on the environment – all good reasons to implement a green cleaning program in your school starting today!