Cleaning and Disinfecting: How to Protect Schools from Coronavirus

Cleaning and Disinfecting: How to Protect Schools from Coronavirus

Cleaning and disinfecting are an important part of preventing infectious diseases like coronavirus in schools. A vaccine, once available, will help keep kids safe from disease, but until one is developed, proactive measures include staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and washing hands often are critical

Here are tips on how to reduce the spread of coronavirus in your school:

1. Understand the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing, as explained in a previous article:

Cleaning removes germs and dirt from surfaces. You can use soap and water to clean surfaces. This doesn’t always kill germs, but removing them lowers their numbers. It’s suggested to clean surfaces before you disinfect them. 

Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces. Disinfectant chemicals are stronger than soap but do not necessarily clean visibly dirty surfaces or remove germs. Killing germs lowers the risk of infection. To properly disinfect, products need to remain on a surface for a specific amount of time — usually 3 to 5 minutes. 

Sanitizing also kills germs, but disinfecting kills more of them. Some products are capable of doing both, but disinfecting requires a bit more work. Still, sanitizers effectively lower the risk of infection.

2. Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces and objects. Desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, light switches, hands-on learning items, push-buttons on vending machines and elevators, faucet handles, phones, and toys are examples of frequently-touched surfaces that need to be routinely sanitized and disinfected, particularly in areas like bathrooms. Surfaces and objects that are visibly soiled should be immediately cleaned; if the surface or object is soiled with hazardous fluids like blood, use gloves and other precautions to avoid contact while cleaning up the spill and disinfecting the surface.

3. Schedule routine cleaning and disinfecting. Standard cleaning and disinfecting practices are sufficient to remove or kill flu viruses. Special cleaning and disinfecting processes, including wiping down walls and ceilings, or using room air deodorizers, can be used as needed.

4. Clean and disinfect correctly. Follow label directions on cleaning products and disinfectants, and use an EPA-registered disinfectant to kill germs and viruses. Again, be sure to read the label directions carefully, as disinfection usually requires the product to remain on the surface for a certain period of time (e.g., letting it stand for 3 to 5 minutes). Use disinfecting wipes on electronic items that are touched often, such as phones and computers. 

5. Use products safely. Heed any hazard warnings and directions that may be on product labels, especially regarding safety gear like gloves or eye protection. Do not mix cleaners and disinfectants unless the labels indicate it is safe to do so. 

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