School custodians do a great job of keeping things clean, but the battle against germs in the classroom is never-ending. As a teacher or educator, you can help keep your students healthy and contain the spread of germs with a few extra cleaning and disinfecting steps—such as identifying and tackling the places you might not have known that germs congregate.
#1: The perils of the pencil sharpener
Whether it’s an old-fashioned wall-mounted sharpener, or a small collection of hand-held sharpeners that get passed around, the humble pencil sharpener could be the germiest item in your classroom.
How to conquer it: Encourage students to bring in and keep track of personal pencil sharpeners. You can also send home notes to parents asking them to supply sharpeners. Consider getting rid of your wall-mounted classroom model, if you have one, in favor of hand-helds that you keep in your desk and lend to one child at a time (and wipe down after each use).
#2: A case for banishing bean bags
Comfy seats are cool, but they could be making your students sick. Kids with allergies or asthma are especially prone to becoming infected by the pathogens that soft items collect.
How to conquer it: You can reduce pathogen levels from dust, pollen, and pet dander by minimizing the objects that attract them—and that can’t be easily cleaned. Items like bean bag chairs, sofas or recliners, stuffed animals, and rugs or carpets can trap and hold pathogens and germs. Ditch as many of these dust-traps as possible for a healthier classroom.
#3: Surprising sink issues
With all the soap, water, and hand washing that goes on at the classroom sink, you might assume it’s the cleanest place in the room. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Not all students will follow proper hand washing techniques—so the tap handles, the counter around the sink, and any dispensers become havens for germs.
How to conquer it: Post a chart at the sink that shows the proper way to wash hands: Use soap, scrub for several seconds, and then rinse and dry thoroughly. Hold a classroom hand-washing demonstration, especially if you teach younger kids. Keep a package of disinfecting wipes at the sink for wiping counters, sink handles, and dispensers.
#4: Safe scrubbing for common areas
There are some areas that see a lot of student traffic—and germs are bound to follow. Desktops, tables, and counters are constantly touched throughout the day, and the same goes for door handles, door frames, and toys like blocks, dolls, trucks, and books. On the other hand, you can’t use harsh chemicals on surfaces your students frequently contact.
How to conquer it: Regular cleaning with soap and water washes away grime and dirt, but doesn’t kill germs. Using a disinfectant like Lysol Power & Free, which is gentle enough to use without gloves or masks, will begin to destroy germs on contact, creating safer surfaces for kids.
Bonus tips for cleaner, healthier classrooms
- Stock up for the year: Having the right supplies on hand to fight germs is crucial. Invest in a supply that will last the entire school year. Keep items like tissues, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes in convenient locations.
- Enlist students in germ-fighting efforts: Encourage your students to wash their hands frequently—not just after bathroom trips, but also after meals or snacks, class activities, and sharing materials with others. Also, reinforce covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze, either with a tissue or their sleeves (never use bare hands!).
- Keep an eye on sick students: If one of your students seems unable to stop coughing or sneezing, or is showing other signs of sickness, don’t hesitate to send them home when appropriate. This not only helps protect classmates from catching germs, but also enables the sick child to recover faster.
When your whole classroom works together to prevent germs, you can enjoy a healthier, happier school year.