The second part of this three-part article looks at how cleaning programs can improve in order to fight absenteeism.

Absenteeism and last year’s health scares are proof there’s room for improvement in infection control in schools. What’s wrong with current cleaning programs? Plenty, say the experts.

First, using the wrong procedures and products can reduce cleaning’s effectiveness or even cause more harm than good. For example, some janitors reuse the same cloth rags or sponges instead of changing them out.

“Fecal bacteria can grow in large numbers in sponges and cleaning cloths, and when you clean you spread them all around the facility,” says Gerba.

Janitors may also mistakenly believe that “more is better” when it comes to chemicals. If a 1:10 dilution ratio is good, they may think 1:5 is even better. This is not only wasteful, but also increases potential exposures to harmful chemicals.

In addition, cleaning crews need to allow adequate dwell time for disinfectants.

“Many disinfectant products to be effective need to dwell for one, five or even 10 minutes,” says Bishop. “If you don’t heed that information, you’re wasting product, creating unnecessary exposures and not addressing the underlying need to disinfect or sanitize.”

Administration and management are causing problems by not providing cleaning staff with proper training. Walker says the most common problem he sees in schools is the lack of a clear training program, based on science, with an engineered process for dealing with everything from daily disinfection to handling blood-borne pathogens.

“It is actually shocking how status quo this is,” says Walker. “Pretty much every new client I work with has a procedure for this somewhere, but it’s rarely delivered to the custodial department in a quantifiable manner.”

Distributors can train — or retrain — their customers to ensure they are following these proper cleaning techniques.

Exacerbating the problem, many schools simply don’t clean at the frequencies required to effectively control the spread of infectious diseases. Budget cuts often reduce the size and capabilities of custodial departments, which sometimes leaves teachers and students helping with cleaning tasks.

“Who ever trained an 8-year-old how to properly clean a desk?” says Darrel Hicks, author of “Infection Control for Dummies.” “School boards are looking at dollar savings, and if it’s between teachers and custodians, they usually choose teachers over custodians — until an outbreak happens, and then they can’t clean fast enough.”

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How School Cleaning Affects Attendance
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School Cleaning Procedures And Policies