Coronavirus second wave: Countries across Europe are seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases after successfully slowing outbreaks early in the year. The vast majority of countries are declaring more cases
- The most likely way you’ll catch the virus is by breathing in micro-droplets a person close to you has released by sneezing, coughing –or just breathing out
- You can, however, also catch it via the hand-to-face pathway: touching a surface where live virus material is present, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes
- Spread of COVID-19 is highest from people with symptoms
- Spread of COVID-19 before symptoms appear is less common
For more information about COVID-19 please see the resources available from the Australian Government Department of Health.
You can also call the National Coronavirus Help Line on 1800 020 080 if you have questions about COVID-19. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you require translating or interpreting services, please call 131 450.
COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person can acquire the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.
A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by implementing appropriate cleaning and disinfecting measures for your workplace.
A combination of cleaning and disinfection will be most effective in removing the COVID-19 virus.
Workplaces must be cleaned at least daily. Cleaning with detergent and water is usually sufficient. Once clean, surfaces can be disinfected. When and how often your workplace should be disinfected will depend on the likelihood of contaminated material being present. You should prioritise cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that many people touch.
Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant.
How to clean and disinfect
Cleaning means to physically remove germs (bacteria and viruses), dirt and grime from surfaces using a detergent and water solution. A detergent is a surfactant that is designed to break up oil and grease with the use of water. Anything labelled as a detergent will work.
Disinfecting means using 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. Disinfectants containing greater than equal to 70% alcohol, quaternary ammonium compounds, chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in). These will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging.
Cleaning should start with the cleanest surface first, progressively moving towards the dirtiest surface. When surfaces are cleaned, they should be left as dry as possible to reduce the risk of slips and falls, as well as spreading of viruses and bacteria through droplets.
Before a surface is disinfected, it is important it is cleaned first because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. Disinfectant may not kill the virus if the surface has not been cleaned with a detergent first.
The packaging or manufacturer’s instructions will outline the correct way to use disinfectant. Disinfectants require time to be effective at killing viruses. If no time is specified, the disinfectant should be left for ten minutes before removing.
You should provide your workers with suitable cleaning and disinfecting products and personal protective equipment, and ensure they are trained on how to use them.
Our cleaning guide provides more information on cleaning and disinfecting, including for specific surfaces.
What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?
Cleaning means to physically remove germs (bacteria and viruses), dirt and grime from surfaces using a detergent and water solution. A detergent is a attractant that is designed to break up oil and grease with the use of water.
Disinfecting means using 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. Disinfectants containing ≥ 70% alcohol, quaternary ammonium compounds, chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in).
Which areas should be cleaned and disinfected, and how often?
Any surfaces that are frequently touched should be prioritised for cleaning, such as door handles, counters, phones, EFTPOS machines and workplace amenities, such as toilets. Any surfaces that are visibly dirty, or have a spill, should be cleaned as soon as they are identified, regardless of when they were last cleaned.
You should regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch. At a minimum, workplaces should be cleaned at least once daily. If your workplace has many customers or others entering each day, more frequent cleaning and disinfection is recommended. If your workplace is only attended by the same small work crew each day and involves little interaction with other people, routine disinfection in addition to daily cleaning may not be needed.
Which areas should I prioritise for cleaning?
Any surfaces that are frequently touched should be prioritised for cleaning and disinfection. These include tabletops, door handles, light switches, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles. You should also prioritise cleaning and disinfecting surfaces which are visibly soiled (dirty) and which are used by multiple people (e.g. trolleys, checkouts, EFTPOS machines).
How often should I clean?
Regular cleaning is key to minimising the build-up of dust and dirt and allows for effective disinfecting when required.
Cleaning must be undertaken at least once per day. Cleaning should be more frequent if surfaces become visibly dirty, there is a spill, or if they are touched by a different people (for example, if your workplace has a high volume of workers, customers or visitors that are likely to touch surfaces such as EFTPOS machines, lift buttons and door handles). If your workplace operates in shifts, it should be cleaned between shifts. If equipment is shared between workers, it may also be cleaned between uses, where practicable.
For more information, refer to our cleaning guide.
What if there is a case of COVID-19 in my workplace?
If you have a case of COVID-19 in the workplace, your state or territory health authority should provide you with advice on what you need to do in your workplace. Follow their instructions.
Your workplace will need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before people can return to the workplace.
- Using an ISO accredited cleaner is not required.
- Fogging is not required and is not recommended by the Australian Government Department of Health for routine cleaning against COVID-19
- Swabbing surfaces following disinfection is not required.
For more information on what to do if there is a case of COVID-19 see our infographic What to do if a worker has COVID-19.
How often should I disinfect?
You should regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch. You should consider disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at least once daily.
All surfaces should be cleaned with detergent prior to disinfection. Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant.
Does every surface need to be cleaned?
You don’t need to clean every surface. The virus is transmitted by breathing in droplets produced by an infected person coughing or sneezing, or contact with contaminated surfaces, so you only need to clean surfaces that are touched. This is true whether the touching is deliberate (e.g. a door knob) or incidental (e.g. brushing a door when reaching for the door knob). There are some surfaces that are never touched (e.g. ceilings and cracks and crevices in machinery) and these do not need to be cleaned and disinfected.
Do I need to clean areas or equipment daily if no one has entered the area or used the equipment recently?
Research suggests that the virus can survive on soft, porous surfaces (such as cardboard and fabrics) for up to 24 hours and hard surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours (three days). Any areas which have not had recent human contact, that is within the last few days, are unlikely to be a potential source of infection. You should consider this when deciding whether an area or equipment needs to be cleaned and disinfected.
What about workers’ personal items?
You should instruct your workers to clean personal items used in the workplace such as glasses and phones regularly using disinfectant wipes.
What are the best products for cleaning and disinfecting?
When cleaning it is best to use detergent and warm water. This will break down grease and grime so that the surface can be wiped clean. Anything labelled as a detergent will work. Disinfectants should only be used once the surface is fully cleaned.
Disinfectants that contain greater than or equal to 70 % alcohol, quaternary ammonium compounds, chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools and does not soak in). These will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging.
If using a store-bought disinfectant, choose one that has antiviral activity, meaning it can kill viruses. This should be written on its label. Alternately, diluted bleach can be used. If using freshly made bleach solution, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for appropriate dilution and use. It will only be effective when diluted to the appropriate concentration. Note that prediluted bleach solutions lose effectiveness over time and on exposure to sunlight.
More information about disinfectant selection and preparing bleach solutions can be found in the Department of Health’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for health and residential care facilities.
Is a sanitiser a disinfectant?
A sanitiser is a chemical that is designed to kill some bacteria and some viruses that can cause disease in humans or animals. These chemicals are not as strong as disinfectants, which makes them safe to use on skin. If you’re disinfecting a hard surface or inanimate object, a disinfectant is the best option.
If everything is sold out, can I make my own disinfectant?
Store-bought disinfectants meet government standards, so you know they will work. However, if you don’t have store bought disinfectant available, you can prepare a disinfecting solution using bleach and water. Do not use products such as vinegar, baking soda, essential oil, mouthwash or saline solution – these will not kill COVID-19.
If preparing a disinfecting solution, make sure you handle chemicals carefully, as they can be dangerous. Always read and follow the instructions and safety directions on the label. If the solution is not prepared and used as described in the instructions, it is unlikely to be effective. More information about the preparation of chlorine (bleach) disinfectant solutions can be found on the Department of Health’s website.
Can I use a product that claims to clean and disinfect at the same time?
Yes, some products can be used for both cleaning and disinfecting, which can save time and effort. If using these products, make sure that you read and follow the instructions on the label to ensure they work effectively.
What’s the difference between frequently touched and infrequently touched surfaces?
A frequently touched surface is a surface that is touched multiple times each day, regardless of whether it is touched by the same person or different people. Door handles and kitchen taps are examples of frequently touched surfaces.
An infrequently touched surface is any surface that is not touched more than once each day. If you are unsure, you should treat your surface as if it is frequently touched.
Does heating or freezing kill the virus?
Extreme heat will destroy COVID-19 but is not recommended as a general disinfection method. Steam and boiling water can easily burn workers and should only be used by trained personnel with specialised equipment.
Viruses are generally resistant to the cold and can survive longer if frozen than if left outside at room temperature.
Will an antibacterial product kill COVID-19?
Antibacterial products are designed to kill bacteria. However, COVID-19 is caused by a virus rather than by bacteria, so an antibacterial product is not necessary.
Detergent and warm water are suitable for cleaning surfaces and should be used prior to using a disinfectant.
For cleaning hands, regular soap and warm water is effective.
Should I be using hospital grade disinfectant for normal cleaning in the workplace?
No. The Department of Health only recommends the use of hospital grade disinfectant when cleaning in a hospital or healthcare setting if an infectious patient has been present.
What is the difference between household grade disinfectant and hospital grade disinfectant?
Hospital grade disinfectants must meet government standards for use in health care, beauty and allied health settings. A household or commercial grade disinfectant must also meet government standards, but the testing is not as comprehensive as it is for hospital grade disinfectants and the standards to be met are lower.
Household or commercial grade disinfectant are suitable for use in workplaces that are not health care settings.
Are there any cleaning methods I shouldn’t use?
The best cleaning method is to use warm water and detergent. You should avoid any cleaning methods that may disperse the virus or create droplets, such as using pressurised water, pressurised air (including canned air cleaners), dry cloth and dusters.
Fumigation or wide-area spraying (known as ‘disinfectant fogging’) is not recommended as it does not clean surfaces and there is insufficient evidence that it is effective at killing COVID-19. Additionally, if not done correctly it can expose workers and others to hazardous chemicals.
I prefer to use environmentally friendly or natural products, do I have to use detergent to clean?
Yes. Using only water and a cloth, or other forms of cleaning agents, such as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, will not be as effective as using detergent.
What is disinfectant fogging, and do I need to do it?
Disinfectant fogging (sometimes called disinfectant fumigation) is a chemical application method where very fine droplets of disinfectant are sprayed throughout a room in a fog. The disinfectant has to reach a certain concentration for a certain length of time to be effective.
Disinfectant fogging is not recommended for general use against COVID-19 and can introduce new work health and safety risks. Physically cleaning surfaces with detergent and warm water, followed by disinfecting with liquid disinfectant, is the best approach. If you are looking for a faster or easier method, consider a combined (2-in-1) cleaning and disinfecting agent.
Note that if you already use fogging as part of your normal business processes (such as in health care or food manufacturing) you should continue to do so.
The chemicals used in fogging solutions also introduce work health and safety risks which must be managed. Chlorine and hydrogen peroxide-based products are highly irritating to the skin and eyes. Alcohol based products are highly flammable, which may lead to fire or explosion if an ignition source is present.
In all cases, sufficient time must be allowed following fogging to allow for the chemicals to disperse to ensure that workers returning to the area to ensure they are not exposed to hazardous chemicals. If fogging is undertaken, it must only be performed by trained persons and using appropriate controls in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions. It should not be undertaken as a response to, or element of a response to contamination of an area with COVID-19.
How do I clean linen, crockery and cutlery?
If items can be laundered, launder them in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions using the warmest setting possible. Dry items completely. Do not shake dirty laundry as this may disperse the virus through the air.
Wash crockery and cutlery in a dishwasher on the highest setting possible. If a dishwasher is not available, hand wash in hot soapy water.
More information about how to clean specific items refer to our cleaning guide.
What else can I do?
You can work with your employer to minimise the touching of surfaces at your workplace and practice good hygiene (for example, washing your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds).
Is there someone I can talk to for more information about Coronavirus?
The Department of Health runs the National Coronavirus Hotline - 1800 020 080.
You can call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can find more contact options for the Department of Health on their website.
What about information published by other organisations?
- Department of Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Physical distancing for coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Department of Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information about routine environmental cleaning and disinfection in the community
- Department of Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for health and residential care facilities
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand: Novel Coronavirus and Food Safety
- Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: COVID-19 Business Support
- Australian Industry Group: Coronavirus COVID-19 Advice and Resources
- Australian Council of Trade Unions: Coronavirus Updates - Workers' Rights, Tools & Resources for dealing with COVID-19