1091 Project: Clean All The Things!

1091map1This month’s 1091 Project post discusses lab cleaning policies… and makes some confessions about how well they do and don’t work.

We have a Monthly Cleaning Checklist which MonthlyCleaninginspires perpetual good intentions on our part to clean on the last day (or is it the first day?) of every month. Except, sometime that day falls on a weekend or a holiday. Or it falls on a day of the week when only one of our students works. So then we might push off monthly cleaning, intending to do it on the next day that our students and volunteer and all staff members are at work… and sometimes we remember to do so, and sometimes (perhaps a bit more often) we don’t.  A monthly group cleaning schedule does not seem to work all that well for us.

In addition to the monthly well-meaning to-do list, we have “The Big End-Of-Semester Cleaning Checklist,” and to be honest, this one works much more effectively for us. We deploy it in December, right before the students leave for Winter Break, and likewise in May before students leave for the summer, and then again at the end of the summer.  So, we reliably have a big lab deep-cleaning about three times per year, with the occasional additional cleaning spree interspersed.  We post the cleaning checklist out in the lab area, and tasks are taken on a first-come basis. Students and staff check off or initial tasks as they tackle them, and everyone keeps going until all the jobs are done.


Lest it sound like our lab is a dirty mess for most of the year, I will add that monthly cleanings have seemed much less necessary over the last few years as effective daily lab practices have been established and maintained. Our staff and current student workers practice good clean-up habits throughout their daily work routine, emptying out the catch-bin of the board shear after every use, washing down their benches at the end of their shift, and making sure the last person to wash glue brushes for the day also flushes the sink drain with hot water.

Finally, we have a supply of rags and towels, aprons, and lab coats which regularly need laundering. We were recently invited to join a campus-wide lab coat laundry service contract with Prison Industries, so whenever our lab coats are looking dingy, we can send them off for laundering and they come back to us neatly ironed and on hangers.  However, we’re on our own for towels and aprons, so periodically one of our staff members will take the lot home, launder them, and bring them back. I would love to have a washer/dryer for the lab, as some labs I have worked at in the past do, but so far that is not high on our list of funding priorities.

Don’t forget to head over to Preservation Underground to find out how the Conservation Lab at Duke University Libraries keeps things clean and tidy. And please share in the comments if you have any lab cleaning practices or policies that work particularly well for your institution.


  1. How do you get people to clean the cutter bin every day? can you come teach us? I love that your campus has a service contract for lab coats. That seems like a good thing to clue into. How did you find out about that?

    1. Lol, we took the opportunity of setting some good habits in motion when our student staff changed over completely four years ago. They took our example very seriously, and now we staff members feel compelled to keep it up because the students are so good about it.

      We actually got a direct call from the laundry service letting us know we were eligible, and we’ve had great customer service from them ever since.

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