Thirty-six states have released school disinfecting guidelines in some capacity.
State education departments recognize that each school district faces a unique situation, from significant differences in student body sizes to varying levels of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area; this means that these guidelines are recommendations, not mandates.
There are some universal guidelines, and one of those is that the occurrences of cleaning and disinfecting need to dramatically increase.
A 2018 study performed in classrooms found that school cleaning schedules were not nearly adequate to reduce the amount of bacteria and fungi on students’ desks. The initial cleaning only removed 50% of the bacteria and fungi present on desks. Levels were then tested after 30 minutes, then at one, three, seven and 21 days.
From the initial 50% of microbes that remained, original levels were replenished between 2-5 days. However, schools were only cleaning once a semester.
To top it off, over 50% of the fungi on the desks contained known allergens.
What all of this means is that a cleaning schedule needed to occur at least every other day just to maintain microbe levels at 50%. Of course, if disinfectants were used along with the cleaning product, those levels could have been reduced to almost zero.
Enter 2020 and COVID. We now have an urgency to pick up school disinfecting schedules.
This has a lot of school administrators worried. One survey found that 62% of respondents think current staffing and resources are insufficient for cleaning, food service, busing and other essential services.
What this means is that schools need a disinfecting option that 1) is extremely affordable and 2) applies rapidly, yet sufficiently, to minimize labor resources.
Where to Find School Disinfecting Guidelines
Let’s look at some of the specific recommendations coming from the state level.
First, a number of states simply refer school districts to the CDC and EPA school disinfecting guidelines. If they do provide anything more, it’s usually just a brief comment mentioning the importance of adhering to federal or state school disinfecting guidelines or asking the district to set protocols for more regular disinfecting.
Second, for those states that do provide more information, there is a great deal of consistency that lines up with the CDC’s guidelines. Here’s some of the common recommendations:
- All high touch surfaces (door handles, stair rails, desks, sink handles, drinking fountains, etcetera) should be disinfected at least daily. Some sources are suggesting closer to two to three times a day.
- Walls and floors likely only need regular cleaning; however, one source described seeing kids touch walls every day, so you might still consider weekly disinfecting after the school week is over.
- Items that are shared between students (such as physical education equipment, art supplies, toys and games) should be limited where possible, or completely disinfected between uses.
- Sharing electronic devices, toys, games and other learning aids should be avoided.
- Soft items, like cushioned chairs, should be replaced, as these are much more difficult to disinfect.
- Outdoor equipment does not need to be disinfected. Standard, regular cleaning is sufficient.
- Buses and bathrooms should be disinfected multiple times a day or between uses as much as possible.
Interpreting School Disinfecting Guidelines
In their school disinfecting guidelines, the CDC and EPA recommend against overusing disinfectant. In other words, don’t spray an excessive amount on surfaces that don’t actually need it. There’s a couple of reasons for this. One, even with the safest chemicals, you want to limit exposure as much as possible, both to students and staff who are exposed to it. Second is purely a matter of cost and wasting product.
What this means is that you’ll have a range of application timelines to take into consideration. Everything needs cleaned, regularly. Surfaces like walls and floors can either just be cleaned, or disinfected daily or even just weekly, depending on location and your specific needs. Others, like lockers, that receive a higher level of touch but are usually only touched by the student who owns that locker, can be done daily, at the end of the day. High touch surfaces (everything from bathrooms and desks to door handles and light switches) need disinfected at least several times a day, and preferably between uses where possible. Remember to build in time between classes for disinfecting.
Obviously, this can get complicated quickly. You need to determine the amount of disinfectant and cleaner to buy based on this varied schedule. You need to dedicate staff to doing the cleaning and disinfecting or outsource it to another company. Time is an issue. For example, are you going to take the time to wipe down every surface in a classroom with disinfectant wipes while the next class is standing in the hallway waiting? This presents a challenge for those schools trying to follow guidelines regarding minimizing crowding in the halls.
How to Estimate Disinfecting Cost
In addition to estimating coverage, one of your largest concerns is, of course, cost. Estimating the cost of your disinfecting program is a little more complicated than just getting a quote from a manufacturer. You need a couple of numbers:
- The dilution rate of the disinfectant: how many gallons of solution can one gallon of concentrate make? For example, one gallon of bleach is diluted at a ratio of 48:1, so one gallon of bleach makes 48 gallons of solution.
- The coverage area: how many square feet can one gallon of solution cover? In our example above, one gallon of bleach solution covers about 250 square feet.
- The square-foot-per-dollar rate: based on the previous two numbers, we can calculate how many square feet you can cover per dollar of cost. So if the cost of a gallon of bleach is $2.67, that’s the cost to cover 12,000 square feet (48 gallons of solution from the single gallon of bleach, times 250 square feet). Dividing 12,000 square feet by $2.67 gives us about 4,495 square feet for one dollar of cost.
If story problems like this stump you, just use the calculator we created. It can give you an idea of how much space you’ll need to cover, as well as a way of comparing costs between different disinfectant products. Products like bleach and a standard retail disinfectant product are already built in for comparison, but there is space to add your own preferred product. You can also read our article about all the elements that go into figuring out your disinfecting cost.
To simplify the range of surfaces you’ll need to cover in different timetables, we created a surface factor. This factor simply multiplies your total square footage by 1.5 to estimate the full range of surfaces you might need to disinfect. We then assume you’ll disinfect twice a day, as an average between those things that will be disinfected more often than that as well as less often.
More than getting an exact amount of product you’ll need however, the point of the calculator is to compare costs, both on an annual basis and a cost-per-15,000 square foot basis. Use this to price your options intelligently and work out the best value-for-dollar for your specific scenario.
How to Maximize Your Disinfecting Program
To follow school disinfecting guidelines properly, you need an effective, affordable disinfectant product and an efficient application method. This will minimize your costs, maximize staff productivity and reduce delays and transition times during the school day.
Midwest’s Disinfecting System does just that.
More than just a product, it’s an entire program that will ensure you get the results you’re looking for at a better value than anywhere else. Here’s what you’ll get:
- Proxitane® AHC. A hospital-grade disinfectant, the active ingredients in Proxitane® AHC are hydrogen peroxide and peracetic acid. Both of these are on the EPA’s safer choice chemical list; when they break down, they only leave water, vinegar and free oxygen molecules behind, meaning there’s no harmful residue or need for a post-clean. These ingredients are also ranked as high level disinfectants and are considered more effective than products based on chlorine or quaternary ammonium. Additionally, Proxitane® AHC contains a detergent, which eliminates the need to pre-clean (in most cases – see product label).
- Unlike most other disinfectants, Proxitane® AHC is diluted at a ratio of 320:1, which means a single gallon of concentrate makes 320 gallons of solution. This keeps the cost per applied gallon remarkably cheap, as low as $0.26 per gallon applied. But wait, there’s more…
- Most disinfectants are applied at a rate of one gallon of solution per 100-250 square feet of space. At best, this would require 60 gallons of solution to cover a 15,000 square foot space. Yet with Proxitane® AHC, a single gallon of concentrate covers 15,000 square feet. Yes – one gallon of Proxitane® AHC solution does the work of 60 gallons of a comparable disinfectant.
- When you are comparing prices of products to meet school disinfecting guidelines, focus on how many square feet you can cover for every dollar spent. For Proxitane® AHC, that’s nearly 54,000. To reach a comparable price point with other products, you’d need to pay less than half a cent per gallon of solution.
- Using Proxitane® AHC enhances your productivity; effectively eliminates a wide range of bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens you may be concerned about; and does so at the best rate available.
- Dema® MixRite Water-Driven Injector. A wall-mounted, water-powered proportioning pump that requires no electricity to accurately dispense your disinfecting solution.
- Graco® Sanispray HP™ Series airless sprayer (varying sizes). The only sprayer series on the market designed specifically for sanitizing, disinfecting and deodorizing. A rapid-application, consistent spray eliminates missed spots where viral particles could linger.
As you can see, every component of this system has been fine-tuned to save you money, time and hassle. Complying with school disinfecting guidelines can be easier and cheaper than you might have thought. To learn more, visit MidwestDS.com.