Advice on hygiene and cleaning for school grounds and equipment outdoors

This page has a series of sections, offering guidance on the hygiene and cleaning practices for school grounds and outdoor spaces.

We have used formal guidance from the World Health Organisation and the UK Government. Where possible we have included source documents or links.

Additionally, we have suggested how this will work in practice, through ideas for implementing the guidance.

We will be adding to our resources for specific Covid-19 questions, please keep an eye on our news page and sign up to our newsletter.

We recommend that all decisions are made through a risk-benefit approach – understanding that no risk can be reduced to zero, and outdoors already offers a safer place than indoors for our staff and learner at present. Any risk-benefit assessment therefore must start with a more beneficial view of outdoor spaces than indoor spaces as we consider Covid-19.

Page updated on 24th January 2021

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Key Guidance on Hygiene and Cleaning Outdoors

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

DOCUMENT: COVID-19 in children and the role of school settings in COVID-19 transmission

The ECDC has produced some useful guidance on the level of risk which schools present to transmission of the Covid19 virus. A summary is that transmission in schools is uncommon, compared to the adult population. You can download the document and key messages here. There is a useful summary infographic too.


World Health Organisation (WHO)

DOCUMENT: Q&A Considerations for the cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces in the context of Covid19 in non-healthcare settings

Source WHO webpage is here. There a fuller answers on this link, we summarise:

What is the guidance for the disinfection of outdoor spaces such as open markets, roads?
In outdoor spaces, large-scale spraying or fumigation in areas such as streets or open market places for the COVID-19 virus or other pathogens is not recommended.

Are public systems for disinfecting individuals such as spraying via tunnel or chambers safe to use?
No. Spraying of individuals with disinfectants (such as in a tunnel, cabinet, or chamber) is not recommended under any circumstances.

What are the recommended practices once back home after outdoor activities?
Thorough hand hygiene: washing hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand gel, should be performed before touching surfaces, items, pets, and people within the household environment.

Are gloves recommended for the community in public spaces to protect against COVID-19, for example when going to the grocery store supermarket?
No. The use of gloves by the public in public spaces is not a recommended or proven prevention measure.


DOCUMENT: Cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces in the context of COVID-19

Source WHO Document is here. There are fuller answers on the document, we summarise key points:

What can I use to clean items outdoors, that might get rid of Covid-19?

“Items should have a properly diluted chemical disinfectant, such as chlorine or alcohol, applied to kill any remaining microorganisms.”

Our practical advice for learning of play equipment, loose parts, games equipment etc is further down the page.

Can I spray disinfectant onto surfaces outdoors?

“Spraying or fumigation of outdoor spaces, such as streets or marketplaces, is also not recommended to kill the COVID-19 virus or other pathogens because disinfectant is inactivated by dirt and debris and it is not feasible to manually clean and remove all organic matter from such spaces. Moreover, spraying porous surfaces, such as sidewalks and unpaved walkways, would be even less effective. Even in the absence of organic matter, chemical spraying is unlikely to adequately cover all surfaces for the duration of the required contact time needed to inactivate pathogens. Furthermore, streets and sidewalks are not considered to be reservoirs of infection for COVID-19.

In addition, spraying disinfectants, even outdoors, can be harmful for human health. Spraying individuals with disinfectants (such as in a tunnel, cabinet, or chamber) is not recommended under any circumstances. This could be physically and psychologically harmful and would not reduce an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through droplets or contact. Moreover, spraying individuals with chlorine and other toxic chemicals could result in eye and skin irritation, bronchospasm due to inhalation, and gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and vomiting.”

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Key Guidance on Hygiene and Cleaning Outdoors

HM Government (UK)

DOCUMENT: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Safer Public Places – Urban Centres and Green Spaces

This document is aimed at public spaces, covering guidance on parks, shopping areas, pavements and wider greenspace. The source HM Government document is here. There are fuller answers on the document, we have summarised below:

  • Focus on heavily trafficked areas, pinch points and hand contact points. Note in schools, early years and childcare settings you need to think about the contact points relative to the size of the child.
  • There must be access to handwashing outdoors and should be reminder signs for all to wash regularly. We would suggest routines such as hand cleaning every time you enter or leave a building.
  • Use one-way systems, all fire doors, alternative access into school grounds and similar to reduce pinch points. Additionally, use all the space you have outdoors to assist with distancing of class bubbles.

DOCUMENT: Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings

Source HM Government Document is here. There are fuller answers on the document, we summarise key points:

  • minimising contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does, do not attend childcare settings, schools or colleges
  • cleaning hands more often than usual
  • ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach
    cleaning frequently touched surfaces often using standard products, such as detergents and bleach
  • minimising contact and mixing by altering, as much as possible, the environment (such as classroom layout) and timetables (such as staggered break times)
  • Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended.


DOCUMENT: Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care

Source HM Government Document is here. There are fuller answers on the document, we summarise key points:

To prevent the indirect spread of the virus from person to person, regularly clean frequently-touched surfaces, such as:

  • door handles
  • handrails
  • table tops
  • play equipment
  • toys
  • electronic devices (such as phones)
  • When cleaning, use the usual products, like detergents and bleach, as these will be very effective at getting rid of the virus on surfaces.
  • All education, childcare and children’s social care settings should follow the Public Health England (PHE) guidance on cleaning for non-healthcare settings.


DOCUMENT: COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings

Source HM Government Document is here. There are fuller answers on the document, we summarise key points:

  • Use household cleaners and manufacturers recommendations.
  • Do not spray cleaners. Were possible wipe with cleaner or immerse in a cleaner, leaving a damp surface behind to allow time for the cleaner to work.
  • Steam cleaning for carpets or similar surfaces is suggested.
  • Consider isolating items for 72 hours after use if they have been in contact with persons suspected of having the virus.

Again, there are practical ideas further down the page to support these.

Scottish Government

DOCUMENT: (Covid-19): re-opening schools guide

You can download the original document here.

This document covers many areas, including recommendations that outdoor spaces are an important element in schools, early years and childcare re-opening strategy.

A key section of this document covers hygiene and cleaning – and has links to more Scottish Government documents on the subject.

Centre for Disease Control 

Cleansing Decision Tool

A good infographic to support decision making on cleaning regimes, including outdoor spaces such as schools or nursery grounds. Download it here

We publish guidance on all things school grounds, outdoor learning and play.

Practical ideas for school grounds hygiene and cleaning, handwashing and equipment cleaning

Handwashing in school grounds

For temporary handwashing stations, we suggest visiting this blog post by Juliet Robertson of Creative Star Learning. Although aimed at Early years and for temporary installations, it offers good ideas.

Handwashing outdoors will become an ongoing issue through the autumn. The main challenge here is the number of handwashing stations needed, access by multiple class bubbles and protection from weather. We recommend looking for full sink and soap solutions, attached to buildings in multiple locations and likely with a cover.

Note that many European schools and early years settings have cleaning areas at entrances, this area being in an Estonian Nursery. They had washing machines in a drying area behind this area as well, ideal for washing waterproofs.


Washing loose parts play and sports equipment

Wiping, immersion, steam cleaning or 72-hour exclusion are the recommended processes for cleaning of play equipment, sports equipment, clipboards or loose parts.

Cleaning with a cloth is the same protocol as indoors, where desks, handles, seats etc will be wiped down with a suitable dilution of a cleaning fluid.

If possible fabrics such as tarpaulins or den building can be steam cleaned, as the carpets will be indoors at present.

‘Hard to clean’ items can be fully immersed and hung to dry. Outdoor centres typically use a large blue barrel or sink, filled with a suitable dilution of a cleaning fluid. These are items such as ropes, hoops, tennis balls, fabric, sticks and more.

With some thought, surprising things can be cleaned reasonably well. LtL has used Disinfecting Fluid to clean mouldy sand before, applied by watering can and left to the air and sunlight for example.

That said, in line with WHO and UK Government there is a recognition that full cleaning is not possible, or needed, when outdoors in public spaces. We do recommend that you undertake a risk-benefit process and once again point out that the consensus is that outdoors is a safer place than indoors when starting your assessment.

“I believe the work of Learning through Landscapes is needed even more than ever. I hope you will share our passion for giving children opportunities for discovery and learning that will illuminate their entire lives.”

Sir David Attenborough, LtL Patron

Waterproofs, wellies and personal equipment.

Children should not share personal equipment such as clothes. Clothes should also be washed reasonably often. An important point is that disinfectant will break down waterproofing, and therefore pure soapflakes should be used only. Schools and nurseries may need to invest in a washing machine and drying area.

Children’s equipment, from coats to pencils, are best stored in their own bags or boxes, ready for pupils to access themselves. This storage is separate to outdoor play and sports equipment storage.


Pinch-points, building entrances and bubble management

The Guidance above makes it clear that this is a significant element of protecting our learners and staff, alongside handwashing and bubble management.

Ensure that you use all areas of the school grounds for play and learning. You may well need a rotation to ensure that as many areas as possible are being used at any given time.

You should maximise as many entrances to the building as possible for pupils, taking account of their route around building and grounds. Some schools are making use of one-way systems, floor markers and reminder signs.

Queuing areas or entrances should have the handwashing available before pupils enter the building.

Chris Raven of Atkins Global has also produced a briefing sheet on organising outdoor spaces to maintain social distancing – you can download his poster here.



Final notes

Note that we will be updating this School grounds hygiene and cleaning page on a weekly basis, or if important new information is presented by World Health Organisation, HM Government or other similar body. You can help us by sending in suggestions to

If you have specific questions, please email

This school grounds hygiene and cleaning page was updated on the 5th June 2020.

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