Last Updated: 11 Oct 2021 9:54am

Cleaning to slow the spread of illness

How COVID-19 spreads

COVID-19 is most likely to spread from person to person through:

  • direct contact with a person while they are infectious (while they are sick and in the 48 hours before they got sick)
  • contact with droplets when an infectious person near you coughs or sneezes without covering their mouth and nose
  • touching objects or surfaces that were recently contaminated with the virus from an uncovered cough or sneeze from a person with the infection, and then touching your mouth or face.

Hand hygiene and cleaning are important ways to slow the spread of illness.

Hand hygiene

Hand washing facilities with liquid soap (not soap bars) and paper towel is essential. Alcohol-based hand rub in common areas, entry and exit points and areas where hand washing facilities are not available, is also good practice.

Frequent hand hygiene will help prevent the spread of illness, including colds, influenza, stomach bugs and COVID-19.

Hand hygiene instructional posters are available on the Resources page.

Routine cleaning

Simple cleaning measures will also help prevent the spread of illness.

Cleaning is an essential part of disinfection because dirt and grime can inactivate many disinfectants. Cleaning reduces the amount of dirt and so allows the disinfectant to work. Removal of germs such as the virus that causes COVID-19 requires thorough cleaning followed by disinfection.

Coronaviruses can survive on surfaces for many hours but are readily inactivated by cleaning and disinfection.

Cleaning frequency

Increase frequency of cleaning for:

  • frequently-touched surfaces, like desks, reception counters, key pads, benches, tables, door handles, railings, kettle and microwave handles, backs and arms of chairs
  • shared bathrooms/toilets and communal kitchen areas.

For staff who share equipment or ‘hot-desk’, instruct them to clean equipment (including shared phones, keyboards, mice) and desk surfaces after and before use.

General principles for cleaning staff

  • Ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, cleaning equipment and solution.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes, when cleaning.
  • Clean from higher to lower surfaces/items and from cleaner to dirty items/surfaces.
  • Ensure waste bins are regularly emptied and not left to overflow.
  • For routine surface and item cleaning, use your normal workplace cleaning products and instructions, including safety recommendations, on the label.
  • For blood or body fluid spills or gross contamination with respiratory secretions, wear disposable gloves, a disposable apron and eye protection/mask/face shield.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water (or use alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not soiled) before putting on and after removing gloves.
  • Dispose of gloves and other personal protection equipment straight after use and wash your hands.
  • Seek advice from work health and safety consultants on correct procedures for wearing personal protective equipment.

Cleaning after a suspect or confirmed case of COVID-19

Removal of germs such as the virus that causes COVID-19 requires thorough cleaning followed by disinfection.

Before anything can be disinfected, the surface or item must be clean so the disinfectant can work. This means:

  • using a detergent to clean the surface and then using a disinfectant; or
  • using a 2-in-1 product to clean and disinfect at the same time; these products are preferred in healthcare facilities.

At a minimum, wear the following personal protective equipment (PPE) when preparing chemicals and during cleaning:

  • protective eyewear or face shield
  • disposable gloves
  • plastic apron.

Use a detergent followed by a disinfectant for all cleaning (or a 2-in-1 product as above). The recommended disinfectant is 1000 parts per million (ppm) of bleach/chlorine. Always use freshly-made solutions.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning products, including appropriate dilution and contact time for disinfectant solutions and the cleaning technique when using wipes.

Wipe the surface or item using a disposable cloth.

When cleaning rooms that may have been contaminated with respiratory secretions, put on disposable gloves, a disposable gown or apron, and eye protection/mask/face/shield before entering the room.

After cleaning:

  • remove personal protective equipment
  • wash hands using soap and water and pat hands dry with paper towel; alternatively, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub.

Change PPE when it is visibly contaminated or when going from an area or surface that is dirty to clean, eg going from an area potentially contaminated by COVID-19 to another area, or going from a toilet block to work stations.