By Jim Flieler, VP of Sales Canada for Charlotte Products Ltd

As the wheels on the school bus go round and round, so do the germs. School buses have always harbored all the gross bits of food and dirt students leave behind, in addition to the invisible microorganisms that make them sick. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into a new school year, anxiety on the bus is running high. 

Many parents, students and staff are worried about safety measures on the school bus. School districts, in an effort to ease worry, have been going overboard with their efforts to display their disinfection protocol, especially on buses. This form of “hygiene theater” has wound up on news clips and Youtube videos where we are seeing alarming overuse of disinfectants. That’s why we want to provide some simple steps to effective cleaning and disinfection of school buses that will safely prevent a COVID-19 outbreak.

How Not to Clean a School Bus
We are seeing the overwhelming use of foggers and misters, even robots, dousing school buses unnecessarily. Using this high amount of disinfectant in a small space presents serious health risk to staff and students who ride the bus along with drivers. You cannot go into a space—whether it is a school bus or a class room—and randomly spray massive amounts of disinfectant, without following the directions on the disinfectant label. If you are spraying a disinfectant through a fogging device without following the label, you are failing. 

The Five Steps of Disinfection Security
It is critical for all cleaning staff to follow the five critical elements of cleaning and disinfecting to ensure public safety. If you follow these principals with your school buses at an increased frequency, you can rest assured that you are doing your part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the school bus. Of course, school buses should also have a plan to ensure social distancing and mask wearing for students and staff who ride as part of a robust pandemic transportation plan.

  1. Use a registered product, and thoroughly read and understand the label.
  2. Dilute it properly, regardless of your method- use (PPM)  litmus paper to test your dilution frequently depending on the type of facility and protocol 
  3. Always pre-clean the surface using a high quality all purpose cleaner or disinfectant
  4. Respect and ensure the dwell time IS met
  5. Include a potable water rinse when possible, especially on food contact surfaces

Tips for disinfecting a school bus:

  • Surfaces must be pre-cleaned of dirt and debris, food stuffs and all visible and organic matter before disinfectant is applied. This is removed to ensure that when you apply the disinfectant it comes in direct contact with the contaminants and ensures a proper disinfection. Pre-cleaning surfaces can be done using general purpose cleaners or a disinfectant, depending on the required detergency to clean the surface. 
  • After pre-cleaning, you must disinfect using a registered disinfectant (see EPA list N or the Health Canada List for disinfectants effective against coronavirus) and delivery method. Foggers are not necessary, and can spray excessive product, leading to waste and health risks. There are many other safer and more effective delivery methods, including pump sprayers, that will get the job done on a school bus. The idea is to apply your disinfectant thoughtfully and sparingly.
  • Next, you must respect the dwell time listed on the bottle. This is the amount of time needed for the disinfectant to do its job, eradicating all microorganisms, including COVID-19, on that surface. You must ensure the surface remains wet for the duration of the contact time.
  • A water rinse and a wipe dry is recommended. On a school bus,residual chemicals could pose health risks to students, especially younger students.

Stay informed.  In this ever-changing pandemic atmosphere, those of us in the cleaning industry are first responders. It is our obligation to provide our customers and all frontline workers with the knowledge and tools necessary to stop the spread of infection and create healthy, safe places for people everywhere. This information is based on information shared in a recent Charlotte webinar on Disinfection Protocol and School Buses. Continue to check back on our blog or tune into our bi-weekly COVID-19 webinar series to stay up-to-date on the latest information related to the virus.