Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection

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Custodians are First-Responders for Cleaning and Disinfection

Corona Virus

The worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 brings the important work of school custodians into sharper focus and reminds us of the critical role they play in disease prevention. Disinfectants and cleaning chemicals are important components of your antivirus arsenal, but you'll want to make sure all staff are properly trained to follow label instructions, school policies, and state requirements to ensure their safe and effective use. If you haven't already done it, now is the time to review and update your cleaning/disinfection protocols. Provide good training for custodial staff. Work with your administration and school nurse to provide guidance to classroom teachers, other staff and families.

The National Pesticide Information Center has a newly updated fact sheet on disinfectants and sanitizers at and a video at

Find additional information about cleaning and disinfection below.

Image credit: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Interim Guidance for Administrators of US K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs

New guidance from US Center for Disease Control includes the following guidance on stepping up your school cleaning and disinfection protocols to prevent and address coronavirus infection in schools. Here is an excerpt:

Prevention: Intensify cleaning and disinfection efforts.

  • Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched. This may include cleaning objects/surfaces not ordinarily cleaned daily (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, classroom sink handles, countertops). Clean with the cleaners typically used. Use all cleaning products according to the directions on the label. For disinfection, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. A list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available here. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.). (NOTE: Not all EPA-registered disinfectants are approved for use in Maine. See Maine Board of Pesticides Control for more information).
  • Provide EPA-registered disposable wipes to teachers and staff so that commonly used surfaces (e.g., keyboards, desks, remote controls) can be wiped down before use.
  • Ensure adequate supplies to support cleaning and disinfection practices.

Maine School IPM Program note: Instruct teachers and staff that disinfectant wipes are not for use by children. Many of these products require the use of gloves or specify that hands be washed immediately after use. Provide gloves to users if needed. 

Response to a Confirmed Person with COVID-19 in the Building: Clean and disinfect thoroughly.

  • Close off areas used by the individuals with COVID-19 and wait as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection to minimize potential for exposure to respiratory droplets. Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area. If possible, wait up to 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfection.
  • Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas (e.g., offices, bathrooms, and common areas) used by the ill persons, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.
  • If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
    • Additionally, diluted household bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.  Prepare a bleach solution by mixing: 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.

More Disinfecting and Cleaning Tips

cleaning and disinfecting

-adapted from NY Department of Health Interim Cleaning and Disinfection Guidance for Primary and Secondary Schools 

Soiled and frequently touched areas can be reservoirs for pathogens that cause illness in people, therefore routine cleaning should continue as part of standard infection-control protocols in schools.  Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects, while disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects.

Before a confirmed case of COVID-19 occurs in the schools, specific high-risk locations within a school warrant cleaning and disinfection:

Health Office: Clean and disinfect health cots regularly (after each student use). Cover treatment tables and use pillow protectors. Discard or launder coverings after each use Lunchrooms. Clean and disinfect lunch tables regularly (at least once daily).

Athletic Rooms: Establish a regular cleaning schedule for shared environmental surfaces such as wrestling mats or strength-training equipment. Disinfect mats and other high-use equipment at least daily.

Other Frequently Touched Surfaces: Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least once daily after students have left for the day.

After a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19 was symptomatic while in the school setting occurs:

Custodial staff should perform cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched areas throughout the school.

Step 1: Cleaning: Always clean surfaces prior to use of disinfectants in order to reduce soil and remove germs. Dirt and other materials on surfaces can reduce the effectiveness of disinfectants. For combination products that can both clean and disinfect, always follow the instructions on the specific product label to ensure effective use.

Step 2: Disinfection: Cleaning of soiled areas must be completed prior to disinfection to ensure the effectiveness of the disinfectant product. Disinfect bathrooms, food preparation surfaces and frequently touched surfaces using a disinfectant labeled to be effective against human coronavirus (see list of EPA registered products here), if available, or use a freshly mixed chlorine bleach solution (approximately 1 tablespoon of bleach in 1 quart of water) if an approved disinfectant is not available.

Examples of frequently touched areas in schools: Classroom desks and chairs; Lunchroom tables and chairs; Door handles and push plates; Handrails; Kitchen and bathroom faucets; Light switches; Handles on equipment (e.g., athletic equipment); Buttons on vending machines and elevators; Shared telephones; Shared desktops; Shared computer keyboards and mice; Bus seats and handrails.

Note: Computer keyboards are difficult to clean due to the spaces between keys and the sensitivity of its hardware to liquids. When shared, they may contribute to indirect transmission. Locations with community use computers should provide posted signs regarding proper hand hygiene before and after using the computers to minimize disease transmission. Also, consider using keyboard covers to protect the hardware against spills and facilitate cleaning.

Label directions must be followed when using disinfectants to ensure the target viruses are effectively killed. This includes adequate contact times (i.e., the amount of time a disinfectant should remain on surfaces to be effective), which may vary between five and ten minutes after application. Disinfectants that come in a wipe form will also list effective contact times on their label.

For disinfectants that come in concentrated forms (including bleach), staff should carefully follow instructions for making the diluted concentration needed to effectively kill the target virus. This information can be found on the product label. Disinfecting is the responsibility of school custodial staff. They are trained to use disinfectants in a safe and effective manner. Staff are reminded to ensure procedures for safe and effective use of all products are followed. Staff do not need to wear respiratory protection (e.g., masks) while cleaning. Safety instructions are listed on product labels and include the personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves) that should be used. Place all used gloves in a bag that can be tied closed before disposing of them with other waste. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds immediately after removing gloves or use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly soiled.

More Resources for Dealing with the Novel Corona Virus

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