Deep Cleaning The Winter Blues Out Of Schools

By John Engel

Winter months tend to keep students and faculty cooped up indoors, causing germs to spread more easily and for dirt to accumulate. With students spending an average 14,000 hours in school from first grade until they graduate high school, ensuring a clean learning environment helps promote health, safety, and productivity, while reducing long-term maintenance costs that affect tight school budgets.

learning environment
(Credit: Jetta Productions)

In fact, studies show a correlation between the cleanliness of a school’s facilities and student’s academic achievement. According to a joint study between APPA and the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), 88 percent of students polled found a lack of cleanliness in school as a distraction, and cleanliness ranked fourth as the most important building element to impact student learning.¹

To maintain a healthy learning environment, performing regular deep cleaning is important. Although the school year has just started, it’s never to early to plan ahead: Deep cleaning over the winter break can help schools create a healthy and safe learning environment by improving facility appearance and air quality.

The Benefits of A+ Cleaning

Deep cleaning within schools has a positive impact on the following:

  • Facility appearance: School floors have to withstand almost constant foot traffic from students, staff and visitors during in-session months. But during winter months, shoes track in even more unwanted dirt and liquids throughout schools, from mud to snow to gravel to salt to sand. Cafeteria floors also have to stand up to spilled food and beverages. Shoes and the contaminants that they carry are responsible for dirtying and scratching floors and can dull finish over time. Deep cleaning floors can help restore both their appearance and traction.
  • Indoor air quality (IAQ): According the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air levels of many pollutants may be two to five times, and occasionally more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels.²
    This is especially concerning because most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors.Research suggests that poor IAQ can negatively affect student performance and attendance because it can trigger issues like asthma and allergies.³ There are several ways schools can improve IAQ through deep cleaning. Many schools have carpeted surfaces, which in addition to providing insulation and noise reduction, also act as an air filter by trapping airborne pollutants. Periodically removing these pollutants through a deep cleaning process reduces heavy build up that can affect allergy and asthma sufferers.Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems also impact IAQ. Environmentally-friendly deep cleaning services of these units will remove pollutants, dust and even mildew that can end up in the air. Clean units also run more efficiently, providing greater comfort to indoor occupants.
  • Budget: Facilities that ignore or delay deep cleaning tasks during extended school breaks may think they’re reducing costs, but this only provides short-term savings. Investing in deep cleaning keeps floors looking their best and HVAC units working efficiently, which reduces the likelihood of future repair and replacement. Efficient HVAC units also consume less energy, leading to lower bills for schools.

The Syllabus Of Deep Cleaning

If you’re not deep cleaning carpets, you could be reducing their life significantly. A Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI)-certified provider will use truck mounted and portable units that rely on heat, pressure, and extraction to remove particulate soil that becomes embedded into carpet.

Certified technicians can recommend a plan for tile, grout and other hard surfaces that will restore them to a like new condition. Doing so extends the life of these assets and improves appearance and the overall image of your facility.

Coil cleaning services use proprietary equipment and chemicals to kill bacteria, mold and mildew within HVAC units. This improves airflow and temperature accuracy while removing potential odors. Look for a professional service provider that offers a certified green process and properly disposes of pollutants from the units.

Regular Cleaning Homework

To keep your school in top shape between regularly scheduled deep cleanings, consider installing matting. Ideal for building lobbies and hallways, mats trap dirt and moisture from snow and rain. By providing hurried students and busy teachers with a place to wipe their shoes, you can reduce the formation of slippery and unsightly puddles. Mats also help protect floors from damage, prolonging your investment. You can also customize your mats with a school mascot or logo allowing your school to celebrate team pride as soon as they enter.

Properly caring for mats extends their lifespan and ensures they continue to capture contaminants. When it comes to the removal and replacement of soiled or damaged mats, leave it to a qualified service professional.

Another important detail to everyday cleanliness is the sanitary state of surfaces in restrooms. To limit odors and reduce the buildup of dirt in grout and other areas, regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces within classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, gymnasiums and other frequently used rooms. Window washing and the replacement of light fixtures will ensure appropriate lighting, including natural daylight. It’s important to also switch out HVAC filters and check for leaks and unusual noises to catch issues before they become larger problems.

Smarter Clean, Smarter School

Extended student breaks provide schools an opportunity to perform deep cleaning activities. When combined with routine cleaning while school is in session, deep cleaning can help schools maintain sparkling surfaces, improve health and safety and reduce long-term repair and replacement costs. Make sure your cleaning program makes the grade by incorporating deep cleaning processes during your school’s winter break.


John Engel is Director of Marketing for Cintas’ Facility Services division. He has more than nine years of industry experience and is responsible for Cintas’ Facility Services product line management and development.