While restroom cleaning should be a priority for every custodial department, schools face unique challenges that often require customized cleaning methods. Here, custodial executives discuss some of the obstacles that can impede restroom cleaning in school and around sensitive populations.

Sometimes it's not the number, but the type of people using the restroom that impacts the methods used when cleaning in school, as well as product and equipment choices. For instance, Laura Larsen, supervisor of buildings and grounds at Roseville Area Schools in Roseville, Minn., works around children, a population that is often sensitive to chemical and equipment emissions.

To overcome this challenge, Larsen works with her distribution vendor to identify green cleaning products and equipment, and incorporates their use whenever possible. She'll also often have these vendors come in to train the custodial staff on their proper use, as to minimize the effect cleaning in school has on the students and staff.

"We offer regular training from the vendors because they're the authority on how to properly clean using the restroom chemicals and equipment we've purchased," says Larsen.

But not all the chemicals outlined for restroom use have been effective at cleaning in schools. Those specified for graffiti removal have fallen short.

"Unfortunately the kids [in the high school] are always one step ahead of us in terms of graffiti," she says. Students often use ballpoint and felt-tip pens, pencils and even the occasional knife blade to vandalize stall partitions and restroom walls.

Larsen has tried various graffiti removers but hasn't found one that works on everything. For instance, what works on pencil might not remove permanent marker. When all else fails, the cleaning staff is forced to paint over the graffiti.

Techniques and challenges to restroom cleaning in school will vary by the facilty and the age of the students that occupy that school. At the Roseville elementary schools, custodians are often confronted with blocked toilets — stuffed with healthy portions of paper towels, or even the occasional piece of fruit.

The flushing of paper products resulted in large expenses for the departments cleaning the schools — paper products themselves, water destruction from overflowing toilets and the labor spent cleaning up the mess. To overcome this struggle, Larsen quickly switched from paper dispensers to hand dryers.

Unfortunately, addressing fruit blockages were not as simple. With a push towards healthy eating at the elementary school level, it was difficult convincing nutrition services not to supply whole fruit to the students.

"We've talked to our nutrition services people about not giving out whole oranges and apples because the kids will try to flush them down the toilet," says Larsen. Thankfully, there was merit to the request and it is now rare that the staff has to fish out full fruit from the toilet.

To read about how to clean high-traffic restrooms, click here.