As vets we have a lot of experience with infection control in our hospitals. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed everyone's behaviour and awareness of hygiene due to its extremely infectious nature and ability to remain on surfaces like countertops and doorknobs for several days. We thought we'd share with you how to keep your household COVID-19 free using common household disinfectants.
First things first - we must stress these products are not to be used on your pets, and are to be kept out of reach of pets.
Why cleaning and disinfection is important
COVID-19 can be transferred from a contaminated surface onto our hands and cleaning tools, which can then infect:
- Other surfaces we clean
- Other people we touch, and
- Our own bodies by touching our eyes, nose or eating without washing our hands
This is why thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces we frequently touch is vitally important in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping us all healthy.
Which disinfectants should you use?
All coronaviruses are encased in what is called a fatty envelope. It is this fatty envelope which makes them quite easy to remove with detergent and warm water, and deactivate with disinfectant, compared to other viruses that don't have this envelope.
Types of disinfectants
- Benzalkonium chloride with a concentrate greater than 0.05%. Includes:
- Pine O Cleen Disinfectant
- Coles and Woolworths homebrand disinfectant
- Pine O Cleen Floor Cleaner
- Dettol Wipes (floor wipes, general purpose wipes)
- Dettol Laundry Sanitiser
- Dettol Washing Machine Cleaner
- Dettol Kitchen Spray
- Mr Muscle Bathroom
- Hydrogen peroxide with a 0.5% concentration. Includes:
- Dettol Bathroom Spray
- Ethanol with a concentration greater than 70%. Includes:
- Strike Antibacterial Wipes
- Glen 20 Spray
- Sodium hypochlorite with a concentration greater than 0.05%. Includes:
- Mr Muscle Mould and Mildew
- Ultra Mould Killer
- Easy-Off Bam Bathroom
- Dettol Bathroom Mould Spray
- Rubbing alcohol (99% isopropyl alcohol/IPA isopropanol) Can be diluted with water to make a concentration of >70%. This is 1/4 part water to 3/4 part isopropyl alcohol 99%. Can be found in:
- Hardware stores
- Methylated spirits (95% ethyl alcohol and 5% methyl alcohol). Can be diluted with water to make a concentration of >60%. This is 1/4 part water to 3/4 part methylated spirts. Can be found in:
- Hardware stores
Disinfectants with specific claims of being able to kill viruses
For disinfectants to make the claim of being able to kill viruses they must provide the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) with evidence of their germ-killing ability to meet the TGO 104 Standard. They must also be listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) before they may be labelled and sold in Australia as a:
- Hospital grade disinfectant, or
- Household/commercial disinfectant that makes specific claims, such as being able to kill viruses (referred to as virucidal)
You can search the ARTG to check if a disinfectant making such claims is TGA registered. Be aware the TGA has recently issued a warning that it is illegal to claim a product can treat or prevent COVID-19 without evidence or being registered on the ARTG.
The disinfecting process
Whichever disinfectant you choose to use, it is vitally important you follow the manufacturer's instructions when you prepare and use it, otherwise it could be totally ineffective.
The following are general guidelines for using disinfectants. Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions and Department of Health guidelines.
It is important to note the concentration of the disinfecting agent in the product, and the length of time it has contact with the surface, are critical to its ability to kill viruses.
General guidelines when using disinfectants
- Check labels and use according to instructions - be aware of potential hazards of the product
- Avoid contact with skin and eyes when handling cleaning products by wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, masks and eye protection
- Use in a well ventilated area
- Clean the surface to remove all organic matter, such as grim, debris and saliva, or it can prevent the disinfectant from working
- Leave the disinfectant wet on the surface for the recommended contact time to allow it to work, which can be up to 10 minutes
- Some disinfectants must be rinsed away or they can damage the surface or burn skin, such as bleach, and some must be left to air dry
- Keep all pets and children away from disinfectants