Cleaning and Maintaining Class 'A' Schools
May’s edition of “Cleaner’s Corner” examined the cleaning philosophy of one of my former customers. I shared insights from Principal Tom Smith, who believed that maintaining clean, shiny floors and unsullied, odor-free restrooms was as important as any other function his job entailed. He was convinced that if these areas were up to par, that everyone who visited his school would leave with a great first impression. Parents would understand that every aspect of their child’s educational experience was carefully managed, and that not only were their children receiving a quality education, they were learning in a clean, safe environment.
Last time, we discussed how to create and maintain great looking floors, but I should add that schools strip and refinish floors during the humid summer months. High humidity can cause floor finish to dry and cure more slowly. Chairs often stick to the floor and can damage the tile. Avoid this problem by air conditioning the area. Air conditioners remove moisture and lower humidity. Use fans to create good air flow and to facilitate drying. As a rule, wait 48 to 72 hours after the final coat of finish dries before replacing furniture. A good precaution to take: place a piece of waxed paper under furniture legs, ensuring that they do not stick to the floor.
Tom Smith also believed that restrooms are the second most critical area for creating a good impression. The key to keeping them clean and odor free is to pay them constant attention. Schools that have smelly restrooms often clean them once or twice per day, but that just isn’t enough. Custodians should deep clean each day after school and spot clean several times throughout the day. For best results, touch up by sweeping, spot mopping, and wiping down sinks, urinals, and commodes with disinfectant cleaner between each class period.
It goes without saying that one should clean restrooms with a good disinfectant cleaner; however, bleach should never be the disinfectant of choice. It does a marvelous job of killing viruses and bacteria, but the negatives far outweigh any perceived benefits.
Many school systems buy bleach for cleaning because they believe it lowers costs. Granted, the product cost is low, but it is not inexpensive to use. Most people do not measure the bleach used in their cleaning solutions; rather, they pour freehand. Bleach is not easily metered through a chemical management system, so it is usually used in super-high concentrations. Not only does overuse destroy any possible economy, it also exacerbates the negative characteristics of bleach. Strong concentrations of bleach not only create dangerous fumes, but they can damage surfaces or clothing.
The two products needed for cleaning restrooms are a pleasantly fragranced quaternary germicide and a bioactive enzyme solution. All surfaces should be cleaned with the germicidal cleaner, and walls, floors, and partitions proximate to commodes and urinals need to be sprayed with the enzyme solution.
Restroom floors should be flooded weekly with a solution of bioactive enzymes and allowed to dry slowly overnight. Mix one quart of enzyme cleaner in a mop bucket of warm water for the task. This procedure allows the solution time to deeply penetrate the grout and establish bioactive colonies that will digest the organic materials that produce malodors. Enzymes also work well when poured into restroom floor drains because they keep the drains open and they deodorize.
Tom Smith’s philosophy served him well — his school was clean and his students were well educated. While a clean building and a quality education are not directly related, someone who strives for excellence in one area usually seeks the same in everything they do. It is part of the way they approach life. That is something we should all consider.
Louie Davis Jr. is a 23-year veteran of the jan/san business, having worked on the manufacturing and distribution sides. He is currently director of sales for Central Paper Co., in Birmingham, Ala.
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