Cleaning School Floors: Cliffs Notes for Distributors
Reading, writing, ‘rithmatic. Learning is easier and more enjoyable for students and staff when the educational environment is clean and safe. Regular cleaning of school floors by keeping them free of dirt, germs and deposits that can cause slips and falls is an important part of a maintenance program. While it’s possible to write an entire book on the subject, we’ve broken it down into to an easy-to-read “Cliffs Notes version” that hits the highlights of an effective program for grade schools, high schools, colleges and universities.
A good floor maintenance program aims to keep soils from entering the building whenever possible. Walk-off mats both outside and inside entrances can help prevent debris from being tracked into your educational facility and can extend the life of your flooring. Ideally, mats should be long enough to allow for 4 to 6 steps. For high schools and colleges this may mean 8’ – 12’ long matting, however that length can be adjusted downward for grade schools where student steps are shorter. Make special consideration for entrances that see a lot of traffic, or where students re-enter the building from outdoor activities, as these areas can be especially susceptible to dirt and may require larger mats.
Overview and Analysis
As a first step, take inventory of all flooring surfaces in your facility and record the dimensions of each. Different surfaces require specific cleaning methods and products. By calculating the square footage of each area you can determine the labor hours and amount of chemicals or cleaning product you will need. Also consider how much traffic each area receives, as this will help determine your maintenance schedule. This article gives some helpful details on workloading for a school floor maintenance program, using the ISSA Cleaning Times publication.
Cast of Characters
It’s important to have a diverse group of products on hand for cleaning school floors since there are several types of floor surfaces in a typical school building. Make a list of chemicals needed for each floor surface, ensuring that there is plenty on hand in case emergencies arise. Following are suggested cleaners for each school area:
- Hallways & Classrooms – These areas see a lot of traffic, so the flooring is usually a durable material like vinyl composition tile (VCT). A neutral cleaner (a pH of 7) is a good choice, since it is safer for the environment and will not leave a cloudy residue. Nyco’s MARVALOSA cleans and deodorizes in one step, while Nyco’s Balance EC is a no-rinse cleaner that removes soils without damage to the floor finish. If surfaces are carpeted, a spot cleaner is essential along with carpet cleaning solution for when deep cleaning is needed.
- Gymnasiums – Athletic flooring may be VCT, wood, sheet rubber or another synthetic. Whatever its composition, student safety should be a top consideration. Dust mop regularly with a water-based solution and avoid using any kind of oil-based treatment that could leave behind a slippery residue. Floors made of wood will benefit from a specialized cleaner like Nyco’s Wood Floor Cleaner. It’s easy to apply and keeps floors looking their best.
- Restrooms and Locker Rooms – These areas merit special attention as bacteria contamination can pose a serious health threat to students. Deadly superbugs like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) spread easily in close quarters and those who play contact sports are especially susceptible. It’s recommended that a disinfecting cleaner such as Neutral Q64 be used on these floors.
- Kitchens & Cafeterias – Floors in these areas can get greasy, increasing the possibility of slips and falls. A degreaser like Sure Grip Daily Cleaner-Degreaser is your best bet for surfaces including porcelain tiles, VCT and finished flooring and should be used at least every other day. For additional information on keeping school floors safe, here’s an article that gives a good overview of facility floor safety.
Having the right products is important, but they won’t take you very far in cleaning school floors if you don’t have the proper equipment. Following a list of the most important items to have on hand, as well as some pros and cons of each:
Vacuum – Effective for removing dirt, especially from carpeting and mats. Can be time-consuming and more labor intensive than sweeping or mopping in larger areas.
Mop & Bucket – Cost effective option for smaller areas that can be used wet or dry on smooth surfaces to remove spills and dust. Allows for freer movement in tighter spaces like kitchens and restrooms, or where there are many desks or chairs. Variety of natural and synthetic options are available for specific tasks. Ideal for applying degreasers and disinfectants. Can be time consuming and requires physical effort. Cleaning solution must be changed often to completely remove germs from floors, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.
Broom or Sweeper – Best for removing dirt from irregular surfaces like tile and stone.
Auto Scrubber – Efficient and effective for cleaning large areas like hallways and cafeterias. Eliminates puddles so slips and falls are reduced. Hard to maneuver around tight spaces or obstacles like desks and chairs. Bigger initial investment upfront, but cost effective in the long run.
Manual Brushes – Work well on irregular surfaces to remove dirt and grime. Available in a range of compositions for different tasks. More labor-intensive to use.
Hand-held Auto Scrubber – Recommended for tighter areas, especially in restrooms and locker rooms as it can more easily reach crevices. Not practical for large surface areas.
Extraction Machine – For periodic deep cleaning of carpets.
The Main Plot
Once you have the necessary products and equipment in place, you can begin to plan your school floor cleaning program. Take into consideration how much traffic each area receives, being mindful that high traffic areas as well as those with a high likelihood of bacterial contamination will merit greater attention. The below Floor Maintenance Schedule for Schools may help with planning.
Additionally, the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) has compiled a framework to help schools assess the effectiveness of their cleaning programs, which members can download here. Nyco can help inform schools in this area.
Clean school floors are an important contribution to a positive educational experience. Having the right products to use on each surface and following a regular cleaning schedule are effective ways to keep everyone safe, healthy and focused on the important work of education. Your well-maintained school floors are just one way this important “theme” is conveyed to all students, staff and visitors.
Extra Credit Reading Assignment
Floor care in the winter requires some additional knowledge. Read about overcoming winter floor challenges to understand these special challenges.