Helpful Information for Cleaning Childcare Facilities
- Author: T/TAS at WKU
- Author: Thursday, March 5th, 2020
*Article updated March 6, 2020 to include newly released EPA information, listed in Item 4.
The T/TAS team is continuing to research and share information and resources about coronavirus (COVID-19) as they become available from reliable sources.
To prepare for possible community transmission of COVID-19, the most important thing for Head Start programs to do now is plan and prepare. As the global outbreak evolves, programs should prepare for the possibility of community-level outbreaks. Head Start wants to be ready if COVID-19 does appear in their communities.
Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in childcare facilities is fundamental in reducing the potential contribution of those surfaces to the incidence of healthcare-associated infections. In addition to proper hand-washing protocols, cleaning and disinfecting can help minimize the transfer of microorganism between people and the things they touch.
1. Know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing. Cleaning physically removes dirt, grime, impurities, and possibly a small amount of germs from a surface. Cleaning does not kill germs, but instead removes a small amount, so it may reduce the spread of infection. Cleaning is usually a best first-step before sanitizing or disinfecting. Sanitizing lowers the number of surface germs further, with a chemical often used to do so. Sanitizing is more effective after a surface is cleaned. Disinfecting kills germs on a surface, after cleaning, often by using stronger and/or different chemicals.
Even under “non-coronavirus conditions,” disinfecting is usually the best option for diapering surfaces and restrooms. Contact Time or Wet Time is the amount of time which may be required for a sanitizing or disinfecting agent to remain on the surface (before being wiped or rinsed off), to ensure that the agent is effective. This varies from product to product, so check the label, contact the manufacturer, or refer to the product’s Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
Does your program have contracts or at least have identified firms to clean, sanitize, and/or disinfect your facilities? For many of us these tasks will likely be beyond the scope of actions we currently undertake and may require outside expertise and assistance. While planning, be sure to consider the projected cost of these additional considerations and tasks.
2. Clean and sanitize surfaces and objects that are “high-touch,” to try to reduce the spread of viruses. This means daily cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces and objects that we touch a lot. This might include desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands-on learning items, faucet handles, phones, elevator buttons, and toys. Some schools may also require daily cleaning and disinfecting of these items instead. Standard procedures –even before COVID-19--required cleaning and disinfecting specific surfaces, which might have come into contact with blood, feces and/or other body fluids. Those areas include diaper changing tables and bathrooms. Overall, your increased sanitation and safety vigilance efforts will likely require to internal budget modifications to pay for the goods and services.
3. Continue to do routine cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting—unless your decision is to bump it up a notch by cleaning and disinfecting instead. It is important to match your cleaning and disinfecting activities to the types of germs you want to remove or kill. Most studies have shown that the coronavirus can live and potentially infect a person for several days after being deposited on a surface. As an aside: if students and staff are dismissed because the program cannot function normally (e.g., high student or staff absenteeism during an outbreak), it may not be necessary to do extra cleaning and disinfecting. We will have to see what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates if the facility is temporarily closed due to these circumstances.
4. Clean and disinfect vigilantly. In an announcement on March 5, 2020, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued List N: EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products for Use Against Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the Cause of COVID-19. Always follow label directions on cleaning products and disinfectants, as there may be separate procedures for using the product as a cleaner or as a disinfectant.
5. Use products safely. Staff must pay close attention to hazard warnings and directions on product labels. Cleaning products and disinfectants often call for the use of gloves and/or eye protection. For example, gloves should always be worn to protect your hands when working with bleach solutions. Also, do not mix cleaners and disinfectants unless the labels indicate it is safe to do so. Combining certain products (such as chlorine bleach and ammonia cleaners) can result in serious injury or death. In addition, use caution applying any aerosol cleaners/sanitizers/disinfectants when young children are present.
6. Handle waste properly. Follow your program’s standard procedures for handling waste, which may include wearing gloves. Place no-touch waste baskets with working lids in areas they are readily available and easy to use. Throw disposable items used to clean surfaces and items in the trash immediately after use. Avoid touching used tissues and other waste when emptying waste baskets. Wash your hands with soap and water after emptying waste baskets and touching used tissues and similar waste.
Remember, the goal is to work proactively to develop a plan for your program/agency, and to not instill panic but use current research-based information available from reliable sources.
Information adapted from:
J. Christopher Watkins, Executive Director
Training & Technical Assistance Services (T/TAS)
Western Kentucky University