Protect your residents from pests with sanitation

Piling trash close to the building exterior can attract pests and encourage them to go inside. Photos courtesy of Orkin, Inc.

Caring for your residents is your utmost priority—unless those residents are of the multi-legged or winged variety. As the weather warms, fire ants, cockroaches, flies, rodents, and other pests will begin to emerge and look for a summer home. A thorough sanitation program can help prevent pests from mak-ing your facility

their long-term residence.

Most pests venture indoors in search of food, moisture, and shelter, three elements they need to survive. Once inside, they can threaten your residents’ health, cause structural damage, and jeopardize the integrity of your facility. One of the most dangerous summer pests in long-term care facilities in some parts of the country, fire ants can inflict painful bites and stings if they attack residents, and they also have been known to cause electrical malfunctions. Cockroaches, rodents, and flies can carry diseases like Salmonella and E. coli that can threaten food safety.

A good sanitation program that targets food, water, and shelter sources can remove the elements that attract pests and help eliminate infestations early on. A vital part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, sanitation efforts also can help limit the use of chemical treatments, keeping residents and the surrounding environment safe. To prevent pests from thriving in your long-term care facility, focus your sanitation schedule on the areas most susceptible to infestation, or “hot spots,” including resident rooms, foodservice areas, laundry facilities, and waste areas.

Resident Rooms

Pests are often lured by leftover food on trays in resident rooms or hallways, and leaking sinks or bathtubs can provide a moisture source. Personal items such as flowers, leftover drinks, and toiletries also can provide needed moisture or food for many pests.

Sanitation tips

  • Dispose of all food and snacks in lined trash cans with lids, and remove trash daily.

  • Keep clutter to a minimum to eliminate potential hiding and nesting spots for pests. Cockroaches in particular thrive in damp, dirty conditions.

  • Vacuum regularly with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter to remove dust and food debris from floors. Vacuuming also can eliminate the cockroach allergens that can aggravate asthma.

  • Monitor for standing water in the bathroom, and work with the maintenance staff to quickly fix any leaks.

Foodservice Areas

Many pests enter long-term care facilities via the kitchen, and cockroaches and stored-product pests can even arrive in food shipments. In addition to food preparation areas, pests can make cafeterias and eating lounges their home if not properly cleaned.

Sanitation tips

  • After each meal, thoroughly sweep, mop, and clean all counters, tables, floors, and serving spaces in the kitchen and cafeteria. Use a vacuum to remove debris from cracks and crevices.

  • Keep lined and sealed trash cans available in all dining areas.

  • Wash kitchen floor drains with a biological cleaner to eliminate waste that can facilitate drain and fruit fly infestations.

  • Store food in tightly sealed containers on open-backed shelves that do not touch the wall or the ground. Rotate all products on a first in, first out (FIFO) schedule, and immediately remove damaged or infested product from the premises.

  • Dispose of all cardboard and corrugated boxes on arrival to prevent cockroaches from hiding and nesting in them.

  • Set aside time each year to conduct a thorough cleaning of the kitchen, targeting grease runoff on equipment and the floors and walls behind and underneath all appliances.

Laundry Facilities

The warmth and moisture offered in laundry rooms make the area a prime hot spot for cockroaches and rodents. In fact, rodents often nest in sheet and towel storage areas

Even dirty dishwater attracts pests; be sure to mop up spill quickly


Sanitation tips

  • Maintain a regular laundry schedule to eliminate unnecessary piles of moist linens.

  • Thoroughly clean behind, around, and under all washers and dryers to remove lint and moisture.

  • Quickly report and repair any washer leaks.

  • Discourage employees from eating in laundry facilities.

Waste Areas

In waste areas, the decaying food odors that repel humans entice pests and send a clear message: There is more where that came from. Outside trash also encourages pests to search inside for more food

Remove drain caps to thoroughly clean kitchen drains and prevent buildup


Sanitation tips

  • Monitor trash chutes in the building for trash buildup, and clean them when needed.

  • Don’t allow trash to pile up outside the building, and work with your waste removal company to implement a regular trash removal schedule.

  • Clean and rotate dumpsters and keep them as far from the building as possible. Consider using organic cleaners like those used in kitchen drains to clean the inside of dumpsters.

For the best results, involve your entire staff in sanitation efforts and ask them to keep an eye out for unsanitary conditions that could attract pests. When pests realize that you keep your facility squeaky clean, they won’t hang around for long.

Frank Meek, BCE, is Technical Director for Orkin, Inc. As a board-certified entomologist and a 20-year industry veteran, he is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management.

For further informa-tion, please phone (800) 675-4699 or visit To send your comments to the author and editors, please e-mail

Topics: Articles , Facility management , Operations