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The Winning Formula: Helping Protect Schools Against Germs Without Breaking The Bank

By Dr. Lisa Ackerley, Director of Medical and Scientific Engagement, Hygiene, at Reckitt's Lysol Pro Solutions — August 03, 2023 4 min read
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School may be out for the summer for students, but school administrators and facilities staff are already thinking ahead to the upcoming school year. They will be considering how to help protect educational spaces for students and staff as well as streamline operations, including cleaning and disinfecting.

Schools can present a particular challenge with regard to cleaning and overall environmental management because of the variety of spaces and surfaces. As with many organizations, there may be staff shortages, budget constraints leading to lack of appropriate cleaning of equipment and products, and the need for more rigorous staff training.

As we head into the new school year, how can facility managers ensure their spaces are protected against the spread of germs, so that schools can focus on shaping the future of the nation through education?

Getting the science right

Close quarters, shared spaces, and high-touch surfaces can make it easy for germs to spread in schools, particularly those leading to respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses. While a school hygiene program should be holistic, for example, encouraging good hand hygiene and ensuring students and staff stay home when sick, efficacious surface hygiene is key.

Evidence suggests that poor indoor environmental quality in schools is common, and adversely influences the performance and attendance of students.¹ To help improve indoor environmental quality, cleaning and disinfecting programs should be informed by science and target high-touch points such as desks, cafeteria tables, door knobs, light switches, restroom, and locker room surfaces at the times that matter most to help break the chain of infectious disease transmission.

Optimizing efficiency

While facility managers have a role in helping protect students and staff, they also have a responsibility to manage budgets, resources, and drive efficiency.

Hygiene practices commonly used by cleaning teams in schools typically involve two steps. First, a person sprays the area and wipes it clean to remove dirt. This step is important because dirt may interfere with a disinfectant’s efficacy by reducing the physical contact between the disinfectant and the germs. Next, a person resprays the area a second time, waits the required time for the disinfectant to kill germs, and then wipes again.

Schools should consider that just by optimizing their cleaning and disinfection practices, they can cut costs and reduce labor time while also elevating the standard of hygiene they provide for students and staff. Rather than a two-step process that involves pre-cleaning and then disinfecting, school cleaning teams can use a product such as Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes that is designed to facilitate a more efficient one-step cleaning and disinfecting process that just involves wiping the area thoroughly with a wipe that is effective at simultaneously cleaning and killing germs.

Ensuring efficaciousness

A priority for any school hygiene program must be to ensure that it is as successful as possible in its mission to keep students and staff protected from germs. To help deliver on this mission, facility managers must ensure that cleaning teams are using effective products, in the right manner, and on the right surfaces.

Lysol Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol Disinfectant Spray, for example, kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria,² including cold, flu, RSV, and norovirus,³ which are common in school environments, as well as help remove allergens and dust mites. To help ensure product efficacy, cleaning teams should be trained to use such products following specific label directions, combined with the science-led targeted hygiene approach discussed above.

Inspiring confidence and trust

Protecting school spaces is no easy feat – it is a complex challenge requiring a science-based approach to hygiene that doesn’t come at the expense of cost and labor efficiency.

With the right products and procedures in place, schools can prepare themselves effectively and efficiently, and help drive confidence among parents on the wellness of their young ones throughout the coming school year.

In summary, schools seeking to establish best practices in hygiene could consider the following:

  • Teaching children good hand hygiene at key moments that matter, such as after using the toilet, when arriving at school, or before eating.
  • Using efficient, cost-effective products that are efficacious against viruses that are common in schools.
  • Targeting cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and objects that are touched often, particularly if by many different people, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, and faucet handles.
  • Considering how surfaces could become contaminated during the day and working out a frequency that is practical. For example, increasing frequency of cleaning and disinfection at busy times, and reducing it when there is little occupancy.
  • Immediately cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that are visibly soiled.
  • Implementing appropriate policies for cleaning up and disinfecting surfaces or objects that are soiled with bodily fluids or blood.
  • Following label directions on cleaning and disinfection products so they work effectively on surfaces they are suitable for use on.

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¹ Mendell, MJ Heath, GA (2005). Do indoor pollutants and thermal conditions in schools influence student performance? A critical review of the literature, Indoor Air, 15:27-52. (can you see if there is a more recent study?)

² When used as directed

³ Lysol® Disinfectant Spray is effective against norovirus, when used as directed