The third level of cleaning

Infectious outbreaks are potentially costly, and not just for students’ health and education

Preventive cleaning can protect a university’s reputation and budget as well, says Ashley White, Commercial and Safety Manager of cleaning and FM services specialist Nviro.

Like any accommodation, halls of residence and student facilities require thorough routine cleaning and periodic deep cleans. University facilities managers tend to have this much under control. But there is a third level of cleaning often absent from their planning.

The risks of infectious outbreaks are well known. When large numbers of young people, from a variety of regions and countries, live and breathe in close proximity, contagious diseases are more likely to spread rapidly. No university is immune, as the meningitis outbreak at Princeton in 2013 – 2014 showed.

Some universities at the centre of outbreaks – whether it’s of mumps, Norovirus, virulent flu or foot and mouth – have resorted to emergency planning on the hoof. It’s far better to have plans in place for communication with students, inoculation programmes, quarantine areas, and alternative accommodation, along with, of course, full decontamination cleaning.

Managing the risk of contagion on campus doesn’t begin and end with contingency planning and emergency response

This at least involves wiping down all surfaces with a powerful disinfectant. Depending on circumstances, we may specify an accelerated hydrogen peroxide solution, or a broad-spectrum anti-microbial, used in conjunction with ultra low-volume fogging. This creates a mist that kills airborne microbes as well as sanitising surfaces where it settles. But managing the risk of contagion on campus doesn’t begin and end with contingency planning and emergency response. Preventive measures should form part of the cleaning regime.

Decontamination cleaning can be scheduled for the end of the academic year or other gaps in occupation, and should include steam cleaning of soft furnishings and mattresses. It’s also important that cleaning staff are contracted to respond rapidly to incidents such as vomiting and spills that spread contamination. Delegating routine cleaning of communal areas to students increases the risk of compromising hygiene, especially in kitchens and dining areas.

Conversely, offering enhanced cleaning services can make a university more attractive to students or parents. The premium for preventive third-level cleaning is low compared with the potential impacts of a major outbreak on student wellbeing, educational progress, the institution’s reputation and its property budget.


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