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Cleaning, Disinfecting and COVID-19

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Cleaning, Disinfecting and COVID-19

What Disinfectants to Use to Limit the Risk of COVID-19 Spread

The COVID-19 virus can remain on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces for up to 3 days and on other surfaces for a few hours, which can vary, depending on surface type, temperature or humidity.  With this in mind you need to make sure we are using products and procedures that will minimise the spread of infection.

Cleaning and Disinfecting:

  • Regular cleaning and disinfecting are strongly advised to help limit the spread of the virus.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting are two different things:
    • Cleaning is about removing contaminants on a surface
    • Disinfecting is about killing pathogens
  • Not all cleaning solutions are also disinfectants, so you need to check that what you are using either cleans, disinfects or does both.
  • If a surface is dirty, first clean it with soap or detergent and water. Then use the disinfectant product to disinfect the surface.  A clean surface allows the disinfectant to work more efficiently.
  • Read the label and be familiar with what the product consists of.
  • When disinfecting, follow the instructions, as some disinfectants need to stay in contact with the surface for a stipulated time to be fully effective.
  • Ensure you wear appropriate personal protective equipment (i.e. mask, gloves, apron) not just to protect from the virus but also fumes and chemical contact, which can cause skin, lungs or eye irritation.

Recommended Disinfectants:

  • Choose a disinfectant product that contains at least 62-71% ethanol or 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hydrochlorite.
  • Some disinfectants that are available contain benzalkonium chloride, but some studies have shown this to be less effective against coronaviruses.
  • Alcohol based, such as Ethanol or Isopropyl alcohol are the best option.
  • Due to sensitive components and coatings, electronic devices, like smart phones and tablets, should not be cleaned with bleach solutions, but it is safe to wipe them with a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or an alcohol based disinfectant wipe.
  • Methylated spirits are not as effective as other cleaning agents but better than nothing if that is all that is available.

Disinfectants don’t need to be complex or expensive

  • Another very effective disinfectant is also the cheapest and most readily available at supermarkets – Sodium hydrochlorite – which is commonly referred to as bleach.
  • To make up the 0.1% solution, the ratio is 100mls bleach to 900mls of water.
  • If you are going to make up this solution then please note, hydrochlorite solutions do loose their strength if stored, so best to prepare enough for each day.
  • Another product that also contain sodium hydrochlorite and is readily available in supermarkets is Janola.
  • Some of the spray and wipes also claim to contain sodium hydrochlorite, but again you need to check out the active ingredients and follow the recommendations on the product.

Cleaning Wipes

  • There are many pre-soaked wipes available and it is important to understand their different purposes and choose the right option for cleaning or disinfecting.
    • Anti -Bacterial wipes (like Wet Ones) – these are intended to clean hands and skin or to reduce microorganisms to a level that is considered safe rather than killing or eliminating them.
    • Baby wipes – these will not necessarily have any cleaning or disinfecting properties within the wipe as this can cause skin irritation
    • Disinfectant wipes – these contain active ingredients as noted above and can also be very effective as they are not wiped off, giving the disinfectant time to work.


  • Do not mix natural cleaning products with bleach or any other chemical products.
  • Vinegar and natural products are not recommended as disinfectants
  • Always refer to the manufacturing recommendations on the back of the product as the last thing you want to be doing is damaging the surfaces that you are treating.
  • Alcohol based products are highly flammable so make sure you use and store them safely away from any ignition source.
  • And obviously do not ingest any disinfectants or cleaning products, these will not work internally and are considered poisonous (Not that anyone in NZ would consider doing that!)

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