COVID-19: General cleaning and disinfection advice

Information on cleaning and disinfecting non-health care settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last updated: 7 December 2021

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COVID-19 transmission

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 is mostly transmitted through direct or close contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. In crowded enclosed spaces this risk is higher compared to outdoor open spaces.

It is possible but considered a lower risk that infection can occur if someone touches a contaminated object or surface, then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes without washing their hands first.

You can protect yourself by being fully vaccinated, staying home if unwell, wearing a mask, cleaning your hands regularly, maintain physical distancing from others and recording your movements for contact tracing.

Increasing air flow and appropriate cleaning and disinfecting surfaces will also help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Further details are shown below.

General hygiene principles

  • Effective hand hygiene is essential to minimise transmission of infectious droplets to yourself, others, and other surfaces.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, making sure you dry them thoroughly. If soap and water are not available and your hands are not visibly dirty, use hand sanitiser (containing at least 60 percent alcohol). Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching the face (eyes, nose or mouth) to reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus from contaminated surfaces or items.

Improving air quality

Improving air quality through increasing the supply of fresh air into rooms can help to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by preventing virus particles accumulating in the air.

Steps you can take to increase air flow:

  • keep doors and windows open to improve airflow
  • regularly maintain air conditioning and ventilation systems.

Business owners may want to contact a registered heating and ventilation specialist for specific advice.

Read more about reducing the risk of COVID-19 through air ventilation

Reducing surface transmission

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 has a fragile outer membrane so it only survives on surfaces for a limited amount of time, and it is easy to kill through effective cleaning and disinfection using regular cleaning and disinfecting products.

Cleaning is needed to physically remove germs (bacteria and viruses), dirt and grime from surfaces using a detergent and water solution. It is an essential first step in any disinfection process.

Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. The disinfectant concentration and contact time are also critical for effective surface disinfection.

Lower risk settings

Lower risk settings are those when there has not been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 indoors.

In general, routine cleaning performed effectively with detergent (not disinfectant) at least once per day substantially reduces viral levels on surfaces.

Surfaces that are touched more frequently throughout the day such as door handles, light switches, computers and tabletops should be cleaned more frequently to further reduce the relatively low transmission risk from surfaces.

Higher risk settings

Higher risk setting are those in which there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 indoors within the last 24 hours.

Wait as long as possible (at least several hours) before you clean and disinfect.

Open windows (where possible) to improve air flow/ventilation.

Clean and disinfect with household/supermarket products to reduce the risk of infection through touching surfaces. 

Clean and disinfect high touched surfaces such as door handles, light switches, computers and tabletops which have a higher risk of being contaminated and require more frequent cleaning.

Recommended cleaning method

Use a products suitable for each surface, following the directions on the product label including any personal protective equipment you may need to wear to protect you from chemicals.

Clean surfaces with detergent and then use disinfectant.

If disinfectants are required, ensure that it is effective against the COVID-19 virus. Follow the instructions to use them safely and effectively. Dwell times – the length of time a product should remain wet on a surface – are needed before drying a surface with a clean cloth to kill germs.

Start by cleaning surfaces higher up and work your way to the floor. This method ensures that any particles, dust or dirt fall to the floor which will then be cleaned last.

First clean surfaces and objects that are less frequently touched.

Work your way to cleaning more frequently touched items that have a higher risk of being contaminated (eg, door handles and toilets).

Avoid going from an area that has not been cleaned to an area that has been cleaned. This prevents contaminating the cleaned area and will ensure you aren’t cross-contaminating items or surfaces.

Clean cloths and mop heads after use.

When finished wash and dry your hands.

You can wear household gloves when cleaning/disinfecting to protect your hands from any cleaning chemicals. When finished, wash reusable household gloves and then wash and dry your hands. If using disposable gloves, remove after use, discard in a rubbish bin and then wash and dry your hands.

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