School cleaning: How to disinfect after a confirmed COVID-19 case

Your school cleaning and disinfecting program is likely more robust than ever, but even with the most carefully updated procedures in place, there’s still a chance your school will experience one or more confirmed cases of COVID-19. You need to have a plan for disinfecting.

According to the CDC, the virus passes primarily via airborne droplets and can survive for prolonged periods of time on various surfaces. So, what’s the best way to clean? What disinfectants should be used? And how clean is clean enough? It’s a good idea to prepare ahead of time with a plan that addresses this type of situation. Follow CDC guidelines to help develop a plan for advising staff and families of home isolation criteria, isolating and transporting those who are sick, and notifying health officials and close contacts.

Initial steps

After those administrative steps have been taken, the next step is disinfection. Before cleaning, it’s crucial to make sure you do the following:

  • Immediately close off areas used by the sick individual.
  • Temporarily turn off in-room HVAC to avoid contamination of the HVAC units, but do not deactivate central HVAC systems. These systems tend to provide better filtration and can help circulate outdoor air into the affected areas. 
  • Open outside doors and windows to increase circulation in the area.

After the initial 24-hour period has passed, safely begin the cleaning and disinfection process. Start by vacuuming the space if needed, using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum. If surfaces are dirty, clean surfaces using a detergent or soap and water before disinfection.

Clean before you disinfect

  • Focus on bathrooms, common areas and classrooms where the person with COVID-19 was for extended periods of time.
  • Concentrate on high-touch surfaces, including desks, tables, chairs, doorknobs, handles, toilets and sinks.

Disinfect hard surfaces

After cleaning, disinfect with an appropriate Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectant on List N. There is a wide selection to choose from, but KleenMark experts have established several disinfectants as their go-to weapons against COVID-19. All are EPA approved and have proven track records. This includes:

  • Virex II 256
  • Oxivir wipes
  • Alpha-HP

When disinfecting a facility that has a confirmed COVID-19 case, it’s highly recommended to use an electrostatic sprayer.

Electrostatic sprayers ensure all surfaces are evenly coated in disinfectant. Because they create an electrostatic mist, the disinfectants are able to “cling” to surfaces and work their way into crevices and other hard-to-reach areas. For more information, read: Do I need an electrostatic sprayer for disinfection?

“Our COVID-19 response teams are specially trained to clean and disinfect a facility following a confirmed case,” said Mike Staver, KleenMark’s director of operations. “We always use electrostatic sprayers to ensure total disinfection of a space.”

That said, make sure not to overlook manual cleaning and disinfection in the process. KleenMark technicians recommend going one step further by combining electrostatic sprays with manual wiping of school supplies such as electronics.

Anyone disinfecting a space following a confirmed COVID-19 case should wear a Tyvek chemical suit, respirator, gloves and eye protection, Staver said.

Additional soft-surface disinfection

Disinfection is generally trickier for soft (porous) surfaces than hard surfaces. Start by cleaning the surface with detergents or cleaners appropriate for use on porous materials, or follow the textile’s label. KleenMark’s technicians recommend using an anti-microbial soft surface cleaner for carpets and upholstery. If you want to go a bit deeper on how to clean these types of surfaces, check out: Tips for tackling soft-surface disinfection.

Disinfecting soft (porous) materials:

  • Remove visible contamination if present.
  • Disinfect with a product approved for disinfection for use on soft and porous materials. A limited number can be found on List N.
  • Launder items following the manufacturer’s instructions, using the warmest water setting possible.
  • Dry items completely.

Once an area has been appropriately disinfected, it can be opened for use, according to the CDC.

What about bio protection?

You may have heard about “bio protection” solutions positioned as “shield” that protects surfaces for up to 90 days against germs.

The truth is, these solutions aren’t proven to protect against COVID-19. It’s critical to use disinfectants proven to kill the virus, and approved by the EPA, rather than occasionally applying bio protection. For more information on this topic, check out the reasons why long-term bioprotectants are not a viable solution.

Still have questions? Email or call us any time. We’re always happy to provide advice and guidance.


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