School Hotspots to Deep Clean During Summer Break

As a former school superintendent, I’ll share tips for school areas that need your focus this summer

school, students, summer break

As kids celebrate the beginning of summer and freedom from school, it’s a perfect opportunity for school custodians to clean, shine, and disinfect areas they may not have time to maintain as thoroughly during the school year. Providing a clean, organized space for students is more than a “nice” thing to do—it’s critically important to their comfort and education.

 Part of my role as a school superintendent was working closely with facility management staff to ensure they had the proper equipment, supplies, and training to perform their jobs at the highest level of service. In the summertime, we focused on deep cleaning our schools, doubling down on our efforts to eliminate grime, dust, and even bacteria that build up over time. Because a short amount of time exists to tackle so much, it’s important to prioritize the tasks.

Deep clean the floors


Clean floors are one of the top priorities of any school district, no matter the type of flooring. Summer is often the only time available to put in the time and work to get the floors in tip-top shape.


The schools in my district were older and had vinyl composition tile (VCT), so our staff used a three-step process: cleaning, stripping the wax, and then applying several coats of new wax.


It’s crucial to use a chemical stripper to remove the old wax. If you apply new wax over old, the floors will look dirty and dull, rather than clean and shiny.


Each new wax layer needs to cure or harden for at least one day before it’s ready for the next layer of wax or for foot traffic. You don’t want people walking on floors before the wax is set, so that’s another good reason to do this over summer break.


Newer schools tend to have polished concrete floors or luxury vinyl tile (LVT). Taking care of these types of floors is not as labor intensive as VCT, but still requires work. A scrubber machine using water and chemicals is very effective, and cleaning staff often perform this task in high-traffic areas daily or weekly during the school year. But summer break allows staff to deep-scrub, going over surfaces several times to remove all the dirt and grime and achieve that shiny surface that tells people it’s really clean.  


Applying an extra polish on concrete flooring will allow the surface to sparkle even more, with a shine that can last for a few years.


Ensure clean air with HVAC system repairs


Next, focus on cleaning or replacing HVAC filters to provide good air quality. While these tasks can be done throughout the year, your staff can perform a deeper cleaning process that involves disinfecting coils and condensers when the building is empty and the HVAC system is shut off.


While some districts outsource HVAC maintenance to a service contractor, your cleaning staff can still contribute to indoor air quality by cleaning the vent covers throughout the building. As they will probably need to use a ladder, be sure that your crew is following safety protocols.


Tackle walls, doors, and everything else


When you think about the hundreds of kids in an elementary school who may have dirty hands from art projects, food, or playground time, you realize the walls and doors will be soiled. Summer break allows time for scrubbing and disinfecting these areas.


Summer is also a good time to think about corners. Mops or floor scrubbing equipment don’t always reach corners, so cleaning by hand using “elbow grease” is important. Deep cleaning of bathrooms is also recommended, particularly in the elementary school buildings.


Wiping down ceiling light fixtures to remove dust is another good summer project that contributes to better lighting and improved air quality.


Summer is also a great time to clean and disinfect trash cans, as you don’t always have a chance to do this throughout the year when receptacles are in constant use.


Get out your pressure washer to take advantage of low foot traffic on sidewalks and in entryways. Think of these outdoor areas as an extension of the building; they need deep cleaning too.


After you and your staff catch up on a lot this summer, you can feel proud when the first day of school rolls around and your facilities are clean and tidy. The students may not seem to notice and may not express their thanks, but their growing brains will appreciate the clean sparkle and attention to detail that supports their learning.

Alan Yarbrough

Business Development, Education Facility Services, 4M Building Solutions

Alan Yarbrough is a retired school superintendent in Arkansas who now works in Business Development—Education Facility Services for SG360 and its parent company 4M Building Solutions. 4M is a nationwide provider of cleaning services for a wide variety of clients including school districts, private schools, colleges and universities, as well as commercial and industrial facilities.

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