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How to Clean Your School’s Outdoor Spaces

We all know the importance of cleaning the inside of your school, but how much effort to you put into the exterior? It’s just as important, not only for the safety of students, staff and parents coming to the building, but to maintain the appearance of your school’s campus as well. 

Outdoor Focus Areas

Entrances and pavements are likely the main focus when it comes to outdoor cleaning at your school. After all, those areas need to be cleared of debris, snow and other potential hazards so students and staff can get into school safely.

While these areas are undoubtedly part of your cleaning team’s responsibilities, there are several other areas that may also need to be maintained and cleaned to ensure the health and safety of students and visitors.

S20 Ride-On Sweeper cleaning a parking ramp

Parking Lots and Ramps

CHALLENGE: Spaces where vehicles are parked are bound to have trash, spills, dirt and debris
Chewing gum, oil stains

Outdoor school courtyard with benches and walking path


CHALLENGE: Cleaning around benches, tables and other semi-permanent structures
COMMON SURFACE TYPES: Concrete, Stone, Brick

Tennant S5 walk-behind sweeper being used on running track

On-Campus Sports Facilities

CHALLENGE: Different types of surfaces to clean in limited time
Smashed food, liquid spills, dirt/mud
COMMON SURFACE TYPES: Astroturf, Bleachers, Concrete, Synthetic Rubber, Grass

Grassy common area at a school

Playgrounds / Grassy Common Areas

CHALLENGES: Efficiently cleaning debris from grass
BONUS CHALLENGES: Dirt/mud, immovable objects like playground equipment
COMMON SURFACE TYPES: Grass, Asphalt, Rubber or Rubber Chips, Sand

How to Clean Pesky Outdoor Messes

In each of the areas described above, there are bound to be pesky stains, spills or other types of soils that need to be spot treated to maintain the appearance of your school’s outdoor spaces. 

  • Fresh oil1 stains: Use a combination of soap and water to help prevent the oil from drying and staining the asphalt. Additionally, kitty litter and baking soda are good ways to prevent fresh stains from staining.
  • Dried oil stains: A pressure washer is one of the most effective ways to remove an oil stain. If you don’t have a pressure washer, powered laundry detergent and commercial degreasers can be used.
  • Light rust2 stains: Lemon juice is an inexpensive and natural way to remove light rust stains. After letting the juice sit for 10 minutes, use a wire brush to scrub the stain. You can also try unsweetened lemonade powder for a more unconventional method!
  • Medium rust stains: White vinegar is more potent than lemon juice, but the same process to remove rust applies. To increase the effectiveness, you can also add salt to the vinegar.
  • Tough rust stains: Hydrochloric acid is effective, but requires proper use and personal protective equipment, like gloves, for safety. You may also dilute the acid. Act quickly to prevent your concrete from turning blue. 
  • Gum3: Hot pressure washing with a higher flow nozzle is the recommended best practice for removing chewing gum from concrete. The heat from the water will help melt the gum for easier removal. A gentle massaging motion with the water spray is sufficient, as the heat will be doing most of the work. Age, porosity, and density all affect how the concrete will react to high pressure/hot water, so be sure to take proper care when pressure washing. 
  • Chalk Stains4: If chalk is left on concrete or asphalt too long, it can be tough to remove. A brush and water may do the trick, but for tougher staining, a paste of baking soda and water with some elbow grease can help remove the chalk. 
  • Leaf Stains⁵: Don’t let the beauty of fall stain your concrete! If wet leaves stain your pavements, OxyClean™ is a great way to remove the colour. Or, a paste of baking soda and water works if you want to avoid purchasing a product.
  • Graffiti6: Graffiti on school property is an unfortunate occurrence and removing it takes time away from other important cleaning. If you have graffiti on school grounds, the best course of action is to treat it within 24-48 hours. Depending on the surface type, mineral spirits like acetone or steel wool plus a pressure washer will help remove the unwanted paint. 

Spring flowers at a school

Seasonal Considerations for Outdoor School Cleaning

For parts of the country that experience different seasons or extreme weather shifts throughout the year, there are seasonal cleaning considerations that may impact the type of equipment or cleaning schedule needed. Depending on the outdoor conditions you experience, multiple pieces of equipment or tools may be needed to maintain your education facility.

  • Spring: Rain/wet conditions, clearing mud and salt stains from winter
  • Summer: Dust, lawn care/ grounds upkeep, flooding
  • Fall: Leaf management, preparing outdoor spaces for winter
  • Winter: Snow, slush and ice removal  

S10 Walk-Behind Sweeper cleaning outdoors

Your Toolkit for Outdoor Cleaning

Build your outdoor cleaning fleet to ensure your facility shines inside and out.

In addition to the general equipment needed to maintain school grounds like lawn mowers, snow blowers, shovels, rakes, and other outdoor care items, to keep your outdoor spaces free from debris, consider adding the following equipment to your fleet.

Outdoor Sweepers:

Walk-behind or ride-on sweepers can offer a versatile solution for many outdoor applications from sweeping pavements to keeping bleachers free of debris.

  • Dust control systems help maintain air quality
  • Collect smaller dust and dirt particles with HEPA filtration
  • Sweepers with extendable side brushes can reach under confined or immovable objects like benches and planters
  • Sweep up many types of debris with one piece of equipment

Outdoor Ride-On Sweeper-Scrubbers:

Sweeper-scrubbers perform double duty by not only sweeping outdoor spaces, but also scrubbing them using water and squeegee systems. Ride-on sweeper-scrubbers are helpful for sweeping pavements, parking lots or courtyard areas or scrubbing.

  • Multi-stage dust control systems enhance health and safety for students, employees and visitors
  • Filter shakers minimise airborne dust by cleaning from the inside out
  • Effective at capturing smaller dust and dirt particles associated with contaminated storm water
  • Dual performance sweeper-scrubbers can sweep, scrub or do both in one pass, enhancing productivity
  • Large capacity hoppers enable more active cleaning with fewer dump cycles
  • Optional vacuum wands help pick up larger debris like trash and optional pressure washers can help clean soils without needing an extra piece of equipment 

Pressure Washers:

Pressure washers help remove stains and soils on many types of outdoor materials like concrete, asphalt and brick. They can also clean windows, awnings, canopies and other areas outside to help save time and to maintain a positive impression of your school.

  • Removes soils from almost any type of material found on the exterior of a school
  • With different pressure settings on one machine, a pressure washer is a versatile piece of equipment to have on hand
  • Hot or cold applications allow for flexibility
  • Easy to use

Outdoor Vacuums:

For larger debris like leaves or trash, an outdoor vacuum is an easier and more efficient way to maintain the appearance of your school’s outdoor spaces.

  • Larger hose allows more efficient cleaning of large debris
  • Higher suction power allows you to pick up heavier debris
  • A variety of options ­ from backpack styles to ride-on vacuums ­ let you customise a solution for your needs
  • Some also double as leaf blowers

Floor Mats:

An unconventional add to an outdoor list, floor mats are another way to keep the inside of your schools clean. It’s nearly impossible to catch every bit of dirt or dust that enters the school on students’ feet, even if your parking lots and pavements are pristine. With proper floor mats at the school’s entrances and exits, dirt and dust have one final spot to be deposited before people enter the school, keeping classrooms and other gathering spaces cleaner overall.

  • Keep dust and dirt at the exits instead of in classrooms or common spaces
  • Easy to vacuum or swap out as needed
  • Help absorb moisture that may be on shoes to reduce the risk of slip-and-fall accidents
  • Catch contaminants that may be on people's shoes 

With an awareness of which outdoor spaces need to be maintained and the proper equipment to tend to the job, you’ll be set up for success to keep students, staff and visitors safe while also maintaining the appearance and positive first impressions of your school.

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