Cleaning is a never-ending job, especially in a highly used space like a school.

As a former educator, classroom cleaning was always a top priority for the health of students and staff! It can feel impossible to keep your classroom clean throughout the day while also staying on top of the curriculum. Even if you’re not a neat freak, Covid-19 has forced us all to find ways to keep the learning environment free of germs.

The key for a clean classroom is simple: include the students, no matter how young, with a routine of a cleaning checklist.

That means all hands on deck!

Not only will it make for a more peaceful classroom, when everyone pitches in the process creates unity among the children. Students and staff working together on the same team towards a common goal, now that sounds fantastic!

Truly, your school benefits from helping in the classroom cleaning process! As they say, “clean classrooms = clear minds.”

In this article, I’ll discuss:

  • Creative ways to involve everyone in cleaning classrooms
  • How to implement a cleaning routine or checklist
  • How to eliminate germs from surfaces without harmful chemicals

What’s expected in your school?

It’s never too late to introduce and correct a cleaning system. Part of your role is to give a task to students and prepare them for what you expect. It takes time, in the beginning, to fully implement expectations. However, take the time now to teach proper cleaning procedures to save hours outside of class cleaning.

I will categorize a clean classroom into 4 sections: cleaning, disinfecting, tidying, and exterior cleaning.

1. Establish routines as early as possible.

What does cleaning mean?

Remember, “cleaning” means something different to each student. Consider ways to make it extremely clear what you expect.

What they learn at school can benefit them in other areas of their life. That’s why a classroom cleaning checklist is a valuable tool to teach at a young age. Reinforce what you think of when you think of cleaning.

What are cleaning systems?

There are two types of cleaning systems you can introduce to your class:

  1. Zone cleaning happens after an activity is finished, lunch is over, or the bell rings. With zone cleaning, each student is responsible for their zone which may include their desks, keyboards, papers, etc.
  2. Team cleaning is when a group of students handles the shared space. They may use disinfectants to manage the cleaning checklist, but each team has different touch points after specific activities, i.e. one team cleans after a STEM activity while another group tidies up after recess.

Encourage the children in your class to use Cleaning is a way of showing gratitude for the people and the school we have!

2. Make cleaning fun!

  • Sing songs! For younger children, songs are a great way to reinforce habits by adding fun. Everyone can practice a song they’re learning for the school musical, a favorite Christmas tune, or even the Barney clean-up song! You can listen to my favorites for cleaning time here!
  • Unique cleaning supplies! Look for dustpans designed like a truck or with bright colors. You can also use patterned disposable gloves for each child to wear.
  • Take photos! When you’re first explaining the task, take photos of your students in action and ask them to show you where supplies go. Print these photos, laminate them, and put them up in each station!
  • Fun safety tricks! To minimize the spread of germs, teach your students the “D.A.B. and sneeze” (Destroy All Bacteria)! This is sneezing into the crook of your elbow to prevent those airborne germs from spreading.

3. Give students a home for their belongings.

Providing a place around the classroom for their daily belongings helps to keep germs contained. It is their one-stop shop where all their items should come from and go back to after use. For my room, I used HangSafe Hooks. Each hook has ample space so students can store all their supplies in their space. Plus, the sleek design makes them easy to wipe with disinfectant and go! Instead of bulky cubbies, I like the HangSafe Rack. They are much easier to keep clean and keep everything off of the floor for easy sweeping throughout the day.

COVID-19 gave everyone a new perspective on a clean, organized classroom and while we hope the illness stops, we’re keenly aware of how to keep our rooms sanitized. One of the fastest ways to eliminate dirt and germs is to cut the clutter. It may be time to move furniture, equipment, fixtures, and resources into storage. Simplify your classroom so you can quickly grab a disinfectant and microfiber cloth so germs don’t have as many places to spread.

4. Give your kids the “why.”

Cleaning is a life-long skill. Include lessons in the curriculum on why we keep our environments clean. A great way to begin the conversation is through books! Some of my favorites are:

5. Student cleaning = leadership

Normalize cleaning as a regular activity of a good day. Here are some daily tasks they can tackle together:

  • Pick up trash.
  • Dropped items to go to lost and found.
  • Wipe away spilled water and throw away towel in the bathroom.
  • Help younger children with trays from the lunch tables.
  • Model good handwashing techniques and timing.
  • Turn off lights when you leave an empty room.

Tips for a Clean Classroom

You are your best line of defense in preventing germs from spreading.

1. Give special attention to detail in getting organized.

  • Make your own disinfectants for a cost-saving and chemical-safe way to disinfect throughout the day! I recommend a 4-ingredient disinfect like this one from the Clean Mama.
  • Supplies to have on-hand include: soaps, trash bags, microfiber cloth, ingredients like vinegar and rubbing alcohol.
  • Assess materials in your classroom and remove items that are not easily disinfected.

2. Prepare stations of high-touch areas with supplies to maintain a clean area.

I recommend one caddy per child to include:

  • Hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol)
  • Envelope of wipes
  • Extra disposable masks
  • Bottle of safe spray for hard surfaces and a microfiber cloth
  • Box of tissues

3. Leave the desks for outside lessons for fresh air.

  • Disinfection takes time. Once a surface is saturated it takes 5-10 minutes for the disinfectant to eliminate germs. Spray before you go outside and allow the spray to fight off germs and illnesses while students and staff get much-needed fresh air!
  • Plan and make outside learning possible for you and your students.
  • Remember Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, he writes, “Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).”
  • For example: Go on a nature walk for Science and allow them to discover rocks, plants, insects, etc., or use Language Arts for journal nature-inspired writings. Even Math can be found outside with symmetry and patterns to find the area or perimeter.

4. Clean alongside your students to show them proper washing techniques that will last a lifetime.

  • Think about your students who struggle with tidying up the classroom. Give them some special attention—without embarrassing them—and assist them by saying, “How about you pick up the blue blocks and I pick up the red ones?” or “What if you work on cleaning your desk and I will file away your papers in your folder?”
  • Provide accountability by overseeing clean-up time and helping them know what to do.
  • Model to them that everyone, teachers included, participate in the cleanup.

Classroom Cleaning Can be Simple

Classroom cleaning is more than hand sanitizer and wiping surfaces. It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach to teaching life-long skills. As teachers, our role is to model daily routines they can establish in their life outside of the classrooms.

As you work to create a healthy environment free of germs and illnesses, take these simple tips as a guide to a healthy classroom.