Healthy Facilities™

Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools® (PC4HS®) - How the Non-Profit Got Started

By Laura DiGiulio

When Rex Morrison began his career in the cleaning industry 25 years ago as a frontline custodian in a K-12 school setting, he found that he often faced the same scenario when it came to the training process:

"In a typical K-12 school, this is how it happens: The custodian is hired. They are given a set of keys and shown the custodial closet. They are then taken into a classroom and restroom and are told what needs to be cleaned. This training could last a couple of hours, or if they are fortunate enough, an entire eight-hour shift. Then, the new custodian is set out on their own and basically told, 'Don't get any complaints,''' explains Morrison, founder of the non-profit Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools® (PC4HS) Consortium and formerly the Housekeeping Training Supervisor for Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada.

In addition to this substandard training process, Morrison also witnessed custodial carts in the school hallways that were big, bulky and stocked with a month's worth of harsh cleaning chemicals, and tools and equipment that were non-ergonomic for the custodians and not efficient or cost-effective for the task at hand.

"Traditionally, the whole system of management in a K-12 setting has been complaint-driven. As long as there are no complaints, everyone assumes that the current cleaning process is fine. However, teachers, parents, students and custodial staffs stopped complaining a long time ago," explains Morrison.

Therefore, ten years ago, after Washoe County School District underwent an audit and Morrison was asked to standardize the district's cleaning process, he began developing a quality-based management system built around K-12 school buildings — a simple system managers and custodians could easily follow that would standardize cleaning products and processes across the school district, while promoting ergonomics, increasing efficiency, and saving time, labor and budget dollars.

This management system, known as Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PC4HS), also proactively addresses issues in the cleaning process before any complaints can be made; in fact, facility managers are likely to get praises and compliments from students, teachers, parents — and the custodial staff.

"The biggest challenge I faced when creating PC4HS was making it easy for the custodian," says Morrison. "I wanted to create a simple, straightforward, easy approach to cleaning — something the average custodian could grasp and understand in a few days. A consistent system and standard that works not only throughout the facility, but the entire school district."

The Development of Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools

By definition, PC4HS is "a unique management based cleaning system set in a K-12 environment with emphasis on cleaning student and staff spaces for health." But, as Morrison explains, PC4HS is a lot more than just this 20-word definition.

"Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools is like a stack of dominoes; you hit one domino and the rest fall down, one after another," explains Morrison. "When you perform a cleaning function, you are setting yourself up for a future function in your cleaning shift, without even knowing it. Workers get into a state of perpetual 'flow.' The way PC4HS is designed is that everything that you do now is going to effect what you are going to do later. PC4HS studies the entire process and eliminates the redundancy and the wasted time and motion that goes into many cleaning systems and processes."

When Morrison first began developing PC4HS in Washoe County School District, he went out into the industry and looked for best practices of every cleaning system he could find. He then combined all the systems and added to it to fit the K-12 school sector.

Afterwards, he tested the best practices for six months with 20 custodians on his staff. During this time, he studied the time and motion involved in all cleaning processes and environments to ensure they were practicing the most ergonomic, efficient, effective processes available.

"In a typical K-12 school setting, the custodian will walk in a classroom, dust the room, vacuum or mop the floors, turn out the lights, lock the door and move on to the next classroom. This process causes a tremendous amount of starting and stopping and changing tools. Every time you stop and start something else, you lose time, motivation and concentration," says Morrison. "In PC4HS, once you start vacuuming, you vacuum every classroom. We don't dust one room, put it away, vacuum one room, put it away and so on. We do all the cleaning for that function at one time. The philosophy of PC4HS is to bring the tool to the job, not the job to the tool."

To keep PC4HS simple and organized for the managers and custodial staff, every cleaning process, including daily and deep cleaning, is outlined on an easy-to-read, day-by-day, color-coded map of what should be cleaned and how. A service assessment log is also followed, with a check box provided to fill in as each task is accomplished.

"This system not only keeps the custodian organized, it makes it easy for the manager to check their work and ensure the tasks were completed," says Morrison. "If the custodian has completed a task in a lower quality manner or in a less productive way than the standard the school district has set, the manager can then explain to them how to accomplish the task in a better, more productive way."

Applying Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools

Since PC4HS has been applied, every classroom and restroom is cleaned using the same steps, following the same pattern, using the same tools by the 450 custodians across the 100 schools of the in Washoe County School District. Each custodian is provided the tools they need to properly clean the classrooms on one convenient, light and mobile roll-around trash receptacle and caddy, with a day's worth of cleaning supplies and tools. Then, at the end of their shift, they restock all the tools on the caddy so it is ready to go, no matter who comes in the next day to clean. Classrooms and restrooms are cleaned separately, using different tools, in order to prevent cross contamination.

Based on time and motion studies involving different tools and processes in the industry, Morrison promotes the use of microfiber, backpack vacuums, green cleaning, and spray-and-vac technology for cleaning classrooms and restrooms.

"Healthy schools do not saturate the environment with harmful chemicals," says Morrison. "It's important to use tools that remove germs from the environment, rather than poison the environment or spread the germs around. PC4HS is an ever-evolving system that will continue to be refined as new effective, efficient, ergonomic technologies are introduced."

Since implementing PC4HS, Washoe County School District has saved hundreds of thousands of budget dollars per year, due to standardizing the products they purchase and reducing the expense in chemical purchases and staffing. In addition, due in part to the fact that WCSD sanitizes all high-touch surfaces every night — including student desktops, door handles and light switches — as part of their daily cleaning routine, the schools' daily average attendance record has risen by a remarkable six-and-a-half percent!

Spreading the Success of PC4HS

Two years ago, Douglas County School District, a neighboring district to Washoe County, heard about PC4HS and decided to connect with Morrison to implement in their 11 school buildings.

"Our school district was looking for a more efficient way for custodians to clean and we wanted to raise the standard of current practices," says IEHA member Bill Blumenthal, Custodial Supervisor of Douglas County School District. "We began talking with Rex and Washoe County School District about their processes, went there to take a look at some of the schools and decided to pilot a program."

Before implementing PC4HS, custodians at the different schools in Douglas County were doing things their own way — there was no standard process or system put in place regarding how to clean a classroom or restroom. Since standardizing the school district's cleaning processes and systems, Blumenthal says they have raised standards, cut budget and reduced absenteeism. In addition, administrative staff, teachers and students have all been very responsive to the changes and compliment the custodial staff on a regular basis.
"Your custodial staff, especially veteran employees, may not like the changes at first," warns Blumenthal. "But you have to show them where you're coming from. Let them know that this isn't an attack on the way they've been doing things, you are simply standardizing the processes in order to better the health of the school district as a whole."

If you are interested in implementing process cleaning in your K-12 school, contact Rex Morrison at

Reprinted with permission from the March 2011 issue of Executive Housekeeping Today, the official publication of the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA). Learn more at