Classroom Cleaning Tips for Teachers

School custodial staff is responsible for cleaning schools. Some teachers choose to do additional cleaning. Here is how to ensure those efforts tackle dirt and germs safely and effectively.

Teach Good Handwashing Habits

The number one way to keep germs from spreading is to teach good handwashing. Use plain soap and water for handwashing before eating, after using the bathroom, after recess, and anytime they get dirty. Antibacterial soap isn't recommended. Use plain fragrance-free soap.

When there is no access to a sink, as on a field trip, alcohol-based (at least 60% alcohol, dye-free and fragrance-free) hand sanitizer or alcohol-based sanitizer wipes can be used. Hand sanitizers are not a substitute for handwashing. They aren't effective when hands are dirty or greasy.

Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting

Know the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Use the right product for the task:

In schools, custodial staff use disinfectants and sanitizers regularly only in high-risk areas – nurse's office, bathrooms, cafeterias, kitchens, drinking fountains, sink and door handles, and athletic facilities; preferably, when students are not present. Overuse does not provide any additional protection and can expose students and staff to harmful chemicals.

Students should never use disinfectants. Disinfectant wipes shouldn't be used to clean hands. This includes Clorox wipes.

If students are helping to clean:

Rely on Cleaning to Remove Dirt and Germs

If staff, besides trained custodial staff, needs to assist with classroom cleaning, they should use a school or district provided basic cleaner. A third party certified green cleaner is preferred.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is "cleaning for health" important at school?

Kids are more vulnerable to chemical exposures. Many common cleaning products have ingredients that can harm health, especially the lungs.

How does cleaning reduce germs?

Cleaning works by removing dirt and organic matter that contains and protects germs. Soap breaks down oils and allows dirt, contaminants, and germs to be more easily removed. Cleaning with soap, water, and a microfiber cloth will remove most germs.

Why is handwashing better than hand sanitizer?

Soap and rubbing hands together under running water removes oil, dirt, and harmful surface germs. Hand sanitizer doesn't remove dirt in which germs hide and only kills a few easy-to-kill germs.

Why use plain soap for handwashing?

Antibacterial ingredients, in particular triclosan and quaternary ammonia compounds (quats), only kill a few types of germs and are unnecessary when washing hands. It doesn't matter if germs are alive or dead when they are washed down the drain.

What about non-alcohol hand sanitizers?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only recommends hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Non-alcohol ones are even less effective than alcohol hand sanitizers.

How does this guidance affect fall classroom supply request lists?

Okay to request:

Do Not request:

See our School Supply List, Guidance for Healthy Classrooms (PDF).

What are the issues with disinfecting wipes?

Why is it important to use fragrance-free products in school?

Fragrance is one of the most frequently identified allergens, can irritate the respiratory system, cause headaches, and exacerbate asthma.

What's so great about microfiber cloths?

Their split fibers create more surface area and are superior for removing dust, dirt, and germs. They are reusable and can be laundered or washed by hand.

Why should teachers not bring common cleaning products (including bleach) from home into the classroom?

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