Choosing and Using Cleaning Products for your Classroom
Some general tips for cleaning surfaces in your classroom:
Use the appropriate EPA registered product for each job: cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, noting whether the surface must be pre-cleaned, how long the product must remain on the surface before wiping and whether the surface must be rinsed with water after use.
Avoid spraying any product when children are nearby.
Post manufacturer’s instructions clearly, preferably directly on the bottle.
Use a separate paper towel on each surface.
The variety of cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting products used in child care settings is rapidly growing. There are many new and different products, all with their own specific instructions for use. It is critically important to use EPA-registered products designed for each purpose; cleaning, sanitizing or disinfecting. These are distinct processes requiring specific products and procedures. It is equally important to use these products according to their instructions, not only to ensure surfaces are adequately treated but to ensure children are not exposed to any dangerous chemicals, particularly on eating surfaces, mouthed toys, and on changing surfaces that come in direct contact with their skin. As an example, some products require wait times of up to 10 minutes before wiping – a long wait in a room full of inquisitive little hands. Some require potable water rinsing after use – an additional step critical to removing harmful residue on feeding tables, but frequently skipped. Pre-mixed spray bottles stocked in classrooms should have instructions for use and warnings clearly posted, preferably directly on the bottle. Many programs find it helpful to post a step-by-step cleaning, sanitizing or disinfecting chart for easy reference. This is particularly helpful for floating staff who may not be aware of new products or directions for use when helping during meal prep or diapering/toileting routines.
If your child care program uses a bleach and water mixture for sanitizing and disinfecting, knowing the concentration of the bleach and the appropriate proportion of bleach to water is critical. Generic formulas are no longer appropriate given the variety of bleach concentrations available in today’s market. Too diluted and germs will linger, too strong and you’re creating serious health hazards for you and your children. Only bleach products that are EPA registered should be used and should be diluted according the EPA recommended formula for sanitizing or disinfection, depending on how the mixture will be used. Caring for Our Children has a step by step guide to finding the appropriate dilution and use instructions for your EPA registered products. http://cfoc.nrckids.org/WebFiles/AppendicesUpload/AppendixJ.pdf
For more details and additional information on best practices for safely cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces in your classroom, check the Caring for Our Children website: http://cfoc.nrckids.org/StandardView/3.3