Project Cleaning For Schools And Universities

Expert program tips to boost your summer cleaning projects.

“Well begun is half done” says the axiom, and starting projects before the need becomes critical is an important way to be sure these tasks are done while manageable.

That is why successful systems, such as team cleaning programs and the nonprofit Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools®(PC4HS) program recommend incorporating project work into weekly and monthly schedules.

For example:

  • Routine Cleaning is performed Monday through Friday and completed daily.
  • Detail Cleaning is performed in quadrants Monday through Thursday and completed weekly.
  • Project Work is performed on Fridays and completed monthly.

However, if you reserve projects for the “Big Summer Cleaning Push” — here are suggestions for making these projects easier to manage.

Clean Your Closets &  Tools

Consultant John Walker, principal of Salt Lake City-based ManageMen, is fond of saying, “You can’t clean with dirty tools” — and he is right.

Clean your tools and clean out custodial closets.

Create A Task List

Otherwise, knowing what work must be done is the first step to completing it.

Make a list, for example:

  • Scrub, strip and refinish floors
  • Perform high dusting
  • Clean vents and grilles
  • Perform low dusting
  • Wash blinds
  • Replace lights, clean covers and lenses
  • Wash windows
  • Replace ceiling tile
  • Wash walls
  • Remove ink and other substances (e.g., chewing gum) from desks and tables
  • Clean trash receptacles
  • Clean recycle containers
  • Extract carpet
  • Clean lockers and gym mats
  • Paint walls and other areas as needed.

Establish Time-to-task

Use ISSA’s 540 Cleaning Times Book & Calculator to assess the time required for various tasks.

For example: As you prepare to strip hard floors, understand that dust mopping in classrooms is often slower than vacuuming, as the productivity of an 18-inch dust mop is less than 7,000 square feet per hour, compared to a backpack vacuum with a hard floor tool which ranges between 7,000 and 10,000 square feet per hour.

Vacuuming also removes fine, gritty soil from crevices for thorough, deep cleaning.

When scrubbing floors, autoscrubbers reduce drudgery, improve results and free up human resources for other work.

With a range of sizes and configurations available, there is an autoscrubber for most maintenance budgets.

This is especially meaningful when you consider that an autoscrubber consolidates a number of procedures into one — mopping, scrubbing, rinsing, squeegeeing and vacuuming — lowering costs, while providing superior cleaning and greater floor safety.

With the trend toward downsizing in large and small maintenance firms, automating floorcare is an idea whose time has come.

Answering the call, manufacturers now provide autoscrubbers ranging in cleaning width from 17 inches up, with compact designs proving practical on even modest-sized floors.

Hefty productivity gains allow greater floor coverage with fewer personnel and in less time compared to manual floorcare.

Floor production rates for light scrubbing with 17-inch and 20-inch scrubbers average 18,500 and 20,500 square feet per hour respectively.

Actual cleaning speed will depend on usage conditions, but increases of two to 10 times over mop-and-bucket maintenance are common.

There are even robotic scrubbers available for unattended floorcare, and propane-powered stripping machines for large areas needing rapid coverage.

There are also low cost dispense-and-vacuum platforms that enable dispensing floor cleaning solution, scrubbing, then vacuuming the solution off the floor and from grout lines.

These enable wise use of resources on a budget.

Worker Scheduling

Plan in writing who will handle which projects and when.

Notify everyone in advance, including school principals, teachers, staff and custodial crews, what projects are planned for the summer.

This allows:

  • Proper accommodation and scheduling of areas for cleaning
  • Gathering needed supplies for each project
  • Brushing up on skills to streamline job completion.

Allocate the types of floorcare needed by color coding a building map to show areas needing deep scrubbing and recoating versus total stripping and refinishing.

Use task and labor allocation software including “cloud” or web-based support offerings to track and schedule workers, tasks and other facility parameters — including square footage, surface varieties and budgets — remotely from any handheld, Internet-capable device.

Working With Other Departments

Remember the work of other departments affects the quality and healthfulness of your own processes.

No man, woman or custodian is an island.

Talk with HVAC personnel to be sure AC and ventilation systems are left operational in the summer months during high-moisture processes such as floor stripping and carpet extraction, to enable enough fresh air for workers, promote shorter drying times and prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.

Additional fans, ventilation and dehumidifiers may be helpful.

Make sure HVAC filters are changed, efficient and that moisture and mold are not accumulating inside units and drain pans.

Remember what grows inside your school’s HVAC system eventually gets blown throughout otherwise “clean” buildings and classrooms affecting the health of students, teachers and staff.

Be alert for leaky ceilings and other areas, and report these to maintenance staff.

Unusual Surfaces, Special Tools

In locker rooms and empty lockers, use a spray-and-vacuum machine to thoroughly clean, agitate, then vacuum and blow dry the surfaces inside and out.

Be sure surfaces are safe to spray with water before commencing operations and, if in doubt, minimize or avoid spraying inside lockers or on sensitive water-vulnerable areas.

Alternately, and especially on wrestling mats, dry steam vapor is very effective at removing built-up body oils and sanitizing surfaces without harsh chemicals or excess wetting.

Spray-and-vac machines excel on locker room and shower floors, especially for cleaning grout lines.

Cylindrical brush scrubbing machines are also useful.

Train Don’t Strain

Ask vendors and process trainers and the Cleaning Management Institute (CMI), to assist your staff with training and re-training as part of your “Sharpening the Saw” program during summer months.

You can’t get enough training.

Make it a goal to have your operation become CIMS and CIMS-GB-certified (under ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard and Green Building portion) as this is an excellent platform for successful programs all year round.

Finally, have your workers certified by IEHA for individual skills.


Posted On May 6, 2014

Rex Morrison

President of the 501c3 Nonprofit Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PC4HS) Group

Rex Morrison is president of the 501c3 nonprofit Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PC4HS) group. He helps school districts across the nation implement the PC4HS program to save money and jobs while enhancing the health of the indoor environment. Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PC4HS) is “schools helping schools” gain mastery of maintenance budgets, improve cleaning processes, health and the bottom line. Visit for more information.

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