Coronavirus: How to properly clean and disinfect to kill COVID-19

Scientists warn the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can survive for extended periods of time on surfaces - and one sick person in your house could infect you all.

However experts say the coronavirus can be killed pretty easily if you know what you're doing, and with some sensible precautions and common household products you can stay safe.

The Australian Science Media Centre talked to scientists to get their advice on how to clean and disinfect to kill the coronavirus.

How to clean

"The important thing is to make sure you cover surfaces properly with disinfectant and scrub with pressure using a sponge or towel," La Trobe University epidemiologist and Associate Professor Hassan Vally says.

"Currently, cleaning surfaces more often than usual is good practice, as is paying more attention to personal hygiene."

University of New South Wales senior postdoctoral scientist Dr Sacha Stelzer-Braid says a good cleaning routine would include:

  • Wiping high touch surfaces with soap then decontaminating with a product like diluted bleach
  • Wearing gloves when cleaning and dispose afterwards immediately
  • Washing hands often with soap and water
  • Always closing the toilet lid when flushing
  • Keeping the house well-ventilated so the virus can be flushed out
  • Disposing of used tissues in a bin with a closed lid
  • Handling bedding and clothing of infected person with gloves and wash in regular laundry liquid, hot wash if possible. Dry in the sun
  • Keeping utensils and plates used by infected person separate and wash often
  • Limiting visitors to the infected person

What household cleaning products should you use?

Professor Stuart Tangye, head of the immunology and immunodeficiency lab at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, says common household cleaning products will do the business.

"Regular bath soap is great. Any common cleaning products that contain bleach. Alcohol-based hand sanitisers are also very effective as long as they are >60 percent alcohol/ethanol," he says.

Prof Vally adds that heat is effective at killing the virus.

"A steam cleaner will work well to clean surfaces too," he says.

If someone sneezes or coughs on food, what should you do?

"Food should be cooked thoroughly, and as for vegetables, on the side of caution perhaps steaming briefly wouldn't hurt for now - but there is no specific recommendations regarding this," Senior Monash University Fellow Dr Clovis Palmer says.

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