Clear Out The Clutter

We don’t always think about it, but dust comes from our clothes, our skin, and various other items we use during the day. It also, importantly, contains dust mites and cockroach dander (yes, it’s true!) that can be very harmful to breathe, especially to kids with asthma or other respiratory problems.

Nearly one in every 13 school-age kids suffer from asthma. The EPA’s Tools for Schools Indoor Air Quality program gives tips for keeping a healthy classroom, and one of the simplest and most crucial steps is to clean out the clutter. Those corner piles of paper and decorations and science experiments serve as great collection areas for dust—not to mention their tendency to block daylight from windows and get in the way of air conditioning and heating vents. Clean them out, and your classroom will be automatically easier to keep clean and healthy.

Remember to measure your impact by doing a cleanliness assessment of the area (guidance for this is available in the resources below). If possible, partner with a college or university to measure particulates in the air before and one day after your clean-out project or measure the decrease in absence related to respiratory illness.

Get started:

  • Interview your school’s custodial and maintenance staff to understand what green cleaning and health and safety practices are in place.
  • The school district may want to form a specific team focused on green cleaning, due to its health and safety benefits. Key participants to consider for this team are nurses, Environmental Health & Safety staff, custodians, and community health experts. The Healthy Schools Campaign has published tips for forming a team as part of their Green Clean Schools program.
  • Organize and clean classrooms, removing un-used papers, books and supplies. Strongly consider removing items that typically collect dust and mites, including stuffed animals, cloth pillows, and fabric. Clean all carpet thoroughly to remove all dust and dirt build-up. Ensure that the heating and cooling units, windows and vents supplying air to your classroom are free of obstructions. Ensure that animal cages and fish tanks are regularly cleaned.
  • Encourage teachers to incorporate air education into their lesson planning using in-depth curriculum resources from Learning Lab.

Find additional tips for improving cleanliness at school through these resources: