Written by Nate Josephs

Sr. Systems Engineer/Data Center Manager

Most data centers are cleaned once or twice per year by contractors who specialize in thoroughly cleaning mission-critical spaces from “top to bottom”.  Cleaning from “top” may mean HEPA vacuuming and scrubbing above the lay-in ceiling plenum, cable tray and wiping down racks and server cabinets. “Bottom” typically means HEPA vacuuming and scrubbing floors and under raised floors.  These vendors often include before and after particulate testing which prove cleaning effectiveness with lower particulate counts after the cleaning is completed.

Since data centers are only thoroughly cleaned annually, or semi-annually, how can data center staff minimize dirt, lint and fine particles that can damage valuable IT equipment between cleanings? 

The following are three simple ways:

  1. Enforce a “No cardboard or pallets” rule. Not only is cardboard and wood a fire hazard, but cardboard generates dust when boxes are opened. Pallets usually contain dirt and dust due to being stored in warehouses, trucks, or even outside.  Also, wood splinters off of pallets leaving fragments all over the data center floor. For these reasons, make sure anything slated to enter the data center is removed from its pallet and/or box beforehand.
  2. Install tacky mats at entrances to the data center. Tacky mats remove dust and dirt from people’s shoes before they walk into the server room space.  Tacky mats can be ordered in a variety of sizes and frame styles to fit your space.  Once the mats are installed, tear off the top sheet as soon as it’s full of dirt and no longer sticky.
  3. Avoid sweeping the data center! Although sweeping the floor gets rid of the majority of dirt, it also raises fine dust particles and lint into the air only to get sucked into IT equipment’s air intake.  Instead, buy rolls of disposable microfiber cloths that come in tear off sheets.  These cloths hold onto dust and dirt, are oil free and don’t require any liquid cleaning products.  To clean larger floor areas, attach these microfiber cloths to flat mops.  If stubborn spots or stains remain on the floor, water can be safely used by leaving the mop bucket outside the data center.  Thoroughly wring out the mop so it no longer drips before bringing it into the data center.  Using a wet mop this way may require multiple trips in and out of the data center, but prevents hazardous water spills.  Depending on the amount of foot traffic in your data center, the floors may need to be cleaned often.  Twice per week is not uncommon.

The time between annual or semi-annual data center cleanings is enough for dust and dirt to accumulate and cause problems for mission-critical IT equipment.  Three simple methods to keep the data center sparkling are: enforce a no cardboard or pallet rule, install tacky mats, and use dirt and dust grabbing microfiber cloths to dry mop the floors regularly.