For building service contractors that clean and maintain educational facilities, the summer months – when many major cleaning projects are undertaken – is an excellent time to remember that the work they perform plays a vital role in keeping children healthy and performing well in school. And the best way to make this happen is to transfer from traditional to Green Cleaning products and methods.
We’ve heard this before, but today there is plenty of tangible evidence that this is true. One study often referenced is the “Kat’s Study,” published in 2010. Officially named, Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits, this study found the following to be true when effective cleaning and Green Cleaning strategies are in place in educational facilities:
- There is “… a three to five percent improvement in learning ability and test scores in Green schools [and this] appears to be conservative.”
- Overall, there is a 15 percent increase in school attendance in schools cleaned using Green Cleaning solutions and methods
- Separately, in Washington State, there was an average five percent increase in student test scores in Green schools
- When compared to prior years, when non-Green cleaning products were used, there was a 19 percent increase in student reading fluency.
The study concluded that many of these improvements were the result of improved indoor air quality. This reduces respiratory problems, even asthma attacks, that typically keep children out of school, interfering with their learning.
Plus, Green Cleaning tends to send a “caring message” to children and their parents, according to the researchers. “High-performance schools (referring to Green schools) tend to be inviting. Students, teachers, and the local community want to be there.”
So how can school administrators and cleaning professionals improve the health of their schools and by so doing, the health and learning performance of children? The following are some of the steps to take:
- Transfer to environmentally preferable cleaning products
- Put greater emphasis on building entries by installing high-performance matting systems; most of the soil in a school facility is walked in from building entrances
- When using cleaning solutions, always apply the cleaning solution directly to the cloth, preferably a microfiber cloth, and not the surface to be cleaned; this helps protect indoor air quality
- Switch to high-filtration vacuum cleaners
- Carpets should be extracted; this is the most effective way to remove soils. Also, use cold water to clean carpets, this reduces the possibility that fumes will be released into the air. We recommend encapsulation process method where the encapsulation cleaning solution dissolves soils so they can be extracted out of the carpet. With encapsulation, the chemical ingredients suspend and dislodge soil from carpet fibers. Little water is necessary
- Use disinfectants where needed and as needed; very often, cleaning professionals start using disinfectants throughout the school. These are powerful cleaning solution and should only be used when and where necessary. Typically, dilutions range between 1:128 – 1:512
- Install auto-dilution systems so that cleaning solutions are diluted properly. Important to note that too strong a solution will leave a sticky residue behind.
- Finally, make sure everyone – students, staff, teachers, and parents – are aware that a Green cleaning program is in place and why it is in place. This tends to make everyone proud of the school system and more respectful of school property