Categories: Pro Cleaning Tips

How To Deep Clean A Jail

How To Clean A Jail

There are many tutorials on how to clean an office.  However, there are very few resources teaching how to clean a jail cell, the wing of a jail, the holding cells at a correctional facility, isolation rooms, showers, breakrooms and other secured areas.  Simply sweeping and mopping aren’t enough; dust generally builds up, overhead lights aren’t maintained, toilets and sinks have hard water build up, mold grows in areas tough to clean, etc.  Here is a guide on how to clean a jail.

Cleaning A Jail

Coordinate with the Correctional Officers

Deep cleaning a jail isn’t terribly difficult; however, due to security, logistics are critical if you want to be efficient.  Many jails have wings where the inmates should not cross paths in order to prevent safety issues.  Correctional officers (COs) know the lay of the land.  They know where the breakrooms are.  They know where the yards are.  They know the schedules.  And they know the inmates.  The most efficient way is for the COs to coordinate a particular wing to go to certain areas during the cleaning.  If the inmates can be allowed access to these areas for a specified period of time, say, 2 hours, then the cleaning can be scheduled and completed during that time.  However, the cleaning must be completed during that time frame.  Disrupting the inmates schedules too much can have adverse affects for the jail and the COs.

Logistics Are Critical

Imagine cleaning a secured facility and running out of disinfectant.  Imagine using an electric pressure washer inside but not bringing enough hose or extension cord.  Or, imagine bringing plenty of hose for the pressure washer, but not bringing door stops to prevent the heavy metal doors from crushing the water hose.  Before you start, create a full list of items you will need to clean.  This list should include razor scrapers, which are useful when scraping off dried toothpaste from walls and ceilings.  Bring an inventory list and have the COs check it before you start and after you finish.  Imagine if one of your team members drops a razor and an inmate finds it later.  Spend time planning each area to clean before committing to a plan.  And have a back up plan in case things go wrong.

Inventory List

Your inventory list can vary, but you should consider bringing the following items:

  • Janitorial cart to transport cleaners
  • Glass and window cleaner
  • Stainless steel cleaner
  • General purpose cleaner
  • Industrial degreaser
  • Calcium, lime and rust remover
  • Medical grade disinfectant
  • Mold cleaner
  • Battery operated pressure washer with 5 gallon bucket and replacement batteries OR
  • Electric pressure washer with multiple garden hoses, extension cords, door stops, and cleaner
  • Squeegie
  • Shop vaccum
  • Air mover
  • Blue scrub pads
  • Green scrub pads
  • Magic Erasers
  • Pumice stone
  • Foamer
  • Razor scraper with replacement razors
  • Paper Towels

Where To Begin Cleaning

If you haven’t worked in the facility before, pick an area close to the entry to the cells (generally, the wing to the right or left of the main door).  Even great plans can have holes and getting access to additional supplies will help you tremendously.  Choose a cell on the wing.  Fill the pressure washer with cleaning solution and spray the ceiling, walls, bed frames, and floors and allow the solution to sit for 10 minutes.  Next, re-wash the areas with clean water.  Use the squeegie and Shop Vac to remove excess water from the floor.  Use general purpose cleaner or industrial degreaser on areas that will not come clean (pen marks, drawings, toothpaste, soap, the corners of the floors, etc).  Use the scrub pads or Magic Erasers if necessary.  If persistent stains remain on the stainless steel toilet or sink, use calcium, lime and rust remover on those stains.  Identify areas that have mold and remove the bulk of the mold.  Use mold cleaner on the surface where the mold was removed.  After the cleaning is complete, apply an EPA-registered disinfectant to every surface of the cell, including the ceiling.  We generally use foamers to apply disinfectant to the ceiling to allow proper dwell time.  Once the disinfectant has been applied and the dwell time observed, use an air mover to dry the floor in the cell.  Repeat this process for each cell and each hallway.  Once the entire wing has been completed, inform the CO.  Restock your inventory and prepare to clean the next wing.  Note – some wings house inmate for longer durations.  The artwork is generally more extensive and will take much longer to remove than the short term holding cells and will take much longer to properly deep clean.

How To Proceed

Each jail has a different layout.  After cleaning one wing, it may be easier to clean the breakroom adjoining the wing or the shower.  If it makes logistical sense, move into that area.  If the wing simply ends, pick a new wing to clean.  Keep in mind, the schedules of the inmates should stay as similar as possible to non-cleaning days, so you may be forced to take a break before you are complete or before it is convenient for you to finish.  This is simply part of the job.  Use the same cleaning procedure for the breakroom and the shower as you used for the jail cells.  However, it is very common for excessive soap buildup to exist in the showers, as they are rarely cleaned properly.  Use your razor scraper to remove as much soap and soap scum as possible before attempting to clean.  Proper pressure washing will help, but the water will be very soapy as it runs down the wall and into the drain.  Once the secure areas are completed, you should be able to proceed to the other areas, including booking, visitation, admin, CO breakroom, common area bathrooms and common area hallways.  These areas should be much easier to clean.


Supervised cleaning in a jail is much different than cleaning a commercial building.  Understanding the scope of the entire project will help you be more efficient.  Being patient during the process is vital, as the COs may not be as efficient in changes to the daily routines in the correctional facility, especially when it comes to multiple contractors working in secured areas.  Make an inventory list.  Allow the COs to check your items when you arrive and when you leave.  Make good decisions about where to start and when to finish.  Don’t rush the cleaning.  Be respectful.  And be professional.  The COs are doing their job and want to ensure everyone is protected while you are working.

Mike Young

About the Author

Mike Young owns Palmetto Commercial Services in Columbia, SC.  He has completed thousands of commercial deep cleaning jobs, including multiple jails and psychiatric wards.  Mike has attained all 3 IICRC Master Certifications, as well as HAZWOPER certification, crime scene clean up certification, environmental disinfection certification, meth lab remediation certification, and many other trainings.  PCS has won multiple cleaning awards, including The State’s Best Cleaning Services from 2017 – 2021, Post and Courier/Free Times Best Cleaning Company 2019 – 2021, Columbia Metropolitan Magazine Best commercial cleaning Service 2019 – 2022, Lexington Life Magazine Best Restoration Service 2021 and 2022, Top Rated Local Best Janitorial Service in South Carolina 2019 – 2022, Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Business Ethics 2017 and SC Best in Business Best Janitorial Service in South Carolina and runner up for Company of the Year 2021.  Mike currently helps other cleaning companies by writing cleaning service SEO blogs for them.

Mike Young

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