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We can all help slow the spread of COVID-19. To protect others you must:

How to clean your house to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other infections

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Brett Mitchell, University of Newcastle

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world, it’s a good time to understand how cleaning can help prevent the spread of disease and what you can do to cut the risk of infection in your home.

Coronavirus is mainly transmitted from person to person via tiny droplets of saliva or other bodily fluids that float in the air after a cough or sneeze.

Contaminated objects and surfaces can also be important in the transmission of disease. It’s not entirely clear what role they play in transmitting the new coronavirus, but they play an important one for related viruses such as SARS and MERS.

However, it makes sense that something contaminated with the virus could pass it on, for example if a person touches it and then touches their nose, mouth or face.

So, if someone at risk of having the virus has been in your home, cleaning to reduce the amount of contamination on surfaces may help cut down your risk of further transmission of coronavirus. (It will also cut the risk of transmitting other pathogens.)

What’s the difference between cleaning and disinfection?

There’s a useful to distinction to make between cleaning and disinfection.

Cleaning means physically removing organic matter such as germs and dirt from surfaces. Disinfection means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces.

Cleaning is very important, because organic matter may inhibit or reduce the disinfectant’s ability to kill germs.

Read more:
Can coronavirus spread through food? Can anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen make it worse? Coronavirus claims checked by experts

How long will coronavirus survive in my house?

We are not exactly sure how long this coronavirus will survive on surfaces. If it is similar to other coronaviruses, it could survive a few hours – potentially up to several days. How long it survives could depend on temperature, humidity and what the surface is made of.

What could be contaminated in my house?

It’s hard to say exactly. When someone coughs or sneezes, especially if they don’t cover their mouth, it is likely surfaces close to them will be contaminated.

Hands are often responsible for transferring pathogens from one place to another, so items that people often touch are at greatest risk of being contaminated.

Frequently touched items may include TV remotes, fridge doors, kitchen cupboards, kitchen surfaces, taps and door handles. And of course, there are devices such as phones and iPads – but these may not be shared or touched by others frequently.

What do I do if someone in my home is sick?

It may be wise to think about which room in your home could be used to care for a sick member of your family. If possible, the ideal room is one that that is separate from other parts of your home and has a separate bathroom.

Cleaning this room when someone is sick also requires some thought. Further advice on caring for someone with coronavirus at home is available from the Department of Health.The Conversation

Brett Mitchell, Professor of Nursing, University of Newcastle

What should I use to clean and how?

The coronavirus is a delicate structure and it is vulnerable in the environment. Both heat and detergents, including soap, can stop it functioning.

Contaminated surfaces

If a surface becomes contaminated or you think it could be, cleaning it with a common household disinfectant will kill the virus. Remember to wash your hands after cleaning (or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser) and avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose.

There are many options for what to use to clean, including paper towels, cloths or disposable wipes.

The S-shaped pattern for cleaning a surface without re-contaminating parts of it.
Brett Mitchell, Author provided

How you clean is important. You don’t want to “recontaminate” surfaces while cleaning. Working from one side of a surface to the other helps with this, using an “S” shape to clean.

If you are reusing a cloth, remember to wash it afterwards and let it dry. Laundering cloths in the washing machine with normal washing liquid is also likely to kill the virus, particularly on a hot wash.

Dishes and cutlery

Washing with hot water and detergent is fine for dishes and cutlery. A dishwasher is even better, because it can use hotter water than your hands will tolerate.

Clothing and linen

Use the warmest setting possible to wash contaminated laundry and make sure you allow it to dry completely. You may not want to ruin clothing or other materials, so always look at the manufacturer’s instructions.

Laundry from someone who is sick can be washed with other people’s items. If you are handling contaminated items such as towel or sheets, avoid shaking them before washing, to reduce the risk of contaminating other surfaces.

And remember to wash your hands immediately after touching any contaminated laundry.

Prevention is best

Remember that surfaces play a role in transmitting pathogens, so preventing them from becoming contaminated in the first place is as important as cleaning. There are some things you can do to reduce the amount of contamination of surfaces in your house:

– cover your cough and sneezes, ideally with a tissue but otherwise into your elbow, and wash your hands immediately

– wash your hands often, especially after going to the bathroom and before eating.

Read more:
What is a virus? How do they spread? How do they make us sick?

Seasonal Influenza

What is Influenza?

Influenza, usually called the flu, is caused by a virus and spreads from person to person through the air by coughing, sneezing or talking, and by touching a person’s hands, a surface or object.

How does it infect?

The flu virus infects your breathing through the nose, throat and sometimes your lungs. It differs from a cold as the symptoms such as fever, sore throat and muscle aches develop quickly and last about a week. You can have a very mild to a severe flu, and at times you can develop complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis which require a hospital visit. Sometimes these complications can lead to death.

If you have other medical conditions such as diabetes etc, it can make them worse. There is a need to get vaccinated every year because the viruses circulating in the community are always changing and immunity from the vaccine does not last a long time. It is especially important that people at risk get a flu shot each year.


4 Things You Might Not Know About Getting The Flu Shot

  1. There is no live virus in the flu shot.
  2. What’s in the vaccine changes every year.
  3. The flu shot is safe for pregnant women at all stages of their pregnancy.
  4. CSL Fluvax is not recommended for children under 5 years of age.

Who should get vaccinated? The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone from 6 months of age who wants to be protected against the flu. Free flu vaccine is available for the following people:

  • Anyone aged 65 years and over
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 15 years of age
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone over 6 months of age with one or more of the following medical conditions:
    • heart disease
    • severe asthma
    • chronic lung condition
    • chronic illness requiring medical follow-up or hospitalisation in the past year
    • diseases of the nervous system
    • impaired immunity
    • diabetes
  • Children aged 6 months to 10 years who are on long-term aspirin therapy 


Useful links: 
TGA Vaccines Overview - what is a vaccine
When to get the flu vaccine
Anatomy of the flu - 3 types of flu virus
Immunise Australia


The runny nose, headache, sore throat or “stuffy” feeling you get during a common cold is caused by one of many viruses – often a rhinovirus – and they can infect your nose, throat, sinuses and airways. The symptoms are usually a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and a cough. You might also have a fever, mild aching muscles and general tiredness. These symptoms usually last for less than a week.

Steps to prevent the spread?

There are steps you can take when you have a cold or flu, to help prevent spreading illness:

  • Try to stay away from other people to prevent the virus from spreading
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and wash your hands
  • Throw away tissues as soon as you have used them and wash your hands
  • Stay home from work to prevent spreading it to others and keep children home from school

For more information visit Health Insite

Staying Healthy at Home

Anyone can prevent getting an infection and different seasons bring different risks of infection.

Download the Fact Sheet

 Spring and Summer Healthy

These are the seasons where we get out of the house and head to the parks,

beaches and pools to enjoy family time in the open. The smell of barbeques is in the air. And we see shared picnics on the sandy beaches and grassy parks. It also the time of gastroenteritis (norovirus, rotavirus, etc), food poisoning (salmonella, etc), and mosquito borne diseases (Ross River virus, dengue fever, etc).

Food Safety

Food poisoning can be very serious for anyone, preparing food safely is key to avoiding infection.

  • Prepare food safely

    Wash your hands before cooking, clean the food preparation area, use clean and separate utensils and cutting boards for uncooked meat, chicken or fish and other foods. Do not handle food if you yourself are ill.

  • Cook foods thoroughly

    Thaw frozen food in the fridge. Meat and chicken is adequately cooked if the juices from the centre are clear and the meat is no longer pink.

  • Transport food in insulated containers if the trip takes longer than ½ an hour.
  • Store food safely

    If food is kept for later, ensure it is placed into the fridge. Foods that require freezing should be frozen and not placed into the fridge for storage.

  • Store foods at safe temperatures

    Perishable food needs to be refrigerated or kept hot.

    Total time at room temperature (5°C – 60°C)

    The total time includes all the time the food has been at room temperature, for example during delivery, preparing and storage.

    Food can be cooled rapidly by:

    • Placing food in the refrigerator as soon as it stops steaming.
    • Dividing food into smaller sizes and placing in shallow containers before cooling.

World Health Organization video on prevention of food-borne diseases: 

For more information visit Food Safety Information Council

Mosquito borne Diseases

In summer being outside places us at risk of bites from mosquito’s that may carry different infections such as Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus infection, Malaria and Japanese encephalitis.

Things that may help to protect you:

  • Use personal ‘tropical strength’ insect repellents containing ‘DEET’ or ‘picaridin’ (always read the label and follow manufacturers guidelines, particularly for infants)
  • Use a plug-in zapper (indoors)
  • Use mosquito coils (indoors and outdoors)
  • When looking at somewhere to stay, choose screened or air-conditioned rooms/houses
  • In the home, close screen doors and windows and get rid of any containers that can hold water, where dengue mosquitoes like to breed
  • Empty paddling pools at the end of the day
  • Keep swimming pools chlorinated
  • Put a screen over inlets to rain water tanks (no more than 1mm diameter holes in the screen).
  • Wear long, loose clothing outdoors whenever mosquitoes are around
  • If camping, sleep under a mosquito net and zip up tents if possible
For further information go to Parenting and Child Health  Queensland Health Child and Youth Health 

Autumn and Winter Healthy

These are the seasons where we get back into the house and turn up the heat using our air-conditioners, gas heaters or log fires. It’s also the time when we get close and confined and love to share. It’s the time of colds and flu’s, as well as pneumonias.

Most cases of influenza occur within a six to eight-week period during winter and early spring. Each year, there are over 80,000 GP visits due to flu in Australia.

For more information go to Health Insite

Infection Prevention & Healthcare Facilities

Several kinds of germs (usually bacteria, and occasionally viruses or fungi) are responsible for causing infections associated with health care, either in hospital or in other health care settings. These are known as healthcare associated infections.

When you go to hospital, healthcare workers may need to use a variety of medical equipment, for example drips and urine drain tubes, to help save your life or improve your health. Regrettably, these same things can also become contaminated with germs and may become the source of an infection, especially if your immune system is poor. Although every effort is made to maintain a germ-free environment when using these items, infections do still sometimes occur.

Why are infections transmitted in healthcare facilities?

  1. Hospitals are full of sick people who bring with them a variety of infections.
  2. Hospital patients do not always have strong immune systems. Their bodies are hard at work trying to recover from an illness, injury, or surgery. And when the immune system is not in top condition, your body’s defenses are down and it’s easy for a new bug to invade.
  3. Although hospital staff are aware of the need to wash or disinfect their hands before and after caring for patients, this sometimes gets forgotten in a busy ward environment.

You can take many steps to steer clear of infections. Being aware of your rights as a patient/consumer and following a few practical tips will go a long way toward ensuring you don’t leave a healthcare facility sicker than when you arrived.

1.    Wash Up

Do your duty by washing your hands or at least using a hand alcohol gel that doesn't require water every time you use the bathroom. Don't handle anything that might be a germ carrier such as used tissues or cloth hankies.

Read more at Hand Hygiene Australia

2.    Ask Away

Don't be afraid to ask your healthcare worker e.g. nurse or doctor if they have washed their hands.

Read more at Patient Opinion

3.       Watch that wound

Be sure to keep the dressing around a wound dry and clean. Let a nurse know immediately if it gets wet or begins to fall off.

4.       Care for that catheter

Treat your catheter site as a wound dressing and keep it clean and dry. If the dressing comes loose or if the drainage tube becomes dislodged, tell your nurse.

5.       Be part of the team

Be sure everyone involved in your care knows of any potential medical conditions, such as diabetes, that may affect your healing.

6.       Know and follow the rules

Follow what your doctor, nurse or infection control practitioner has told you and ask questions if you are unsure about anything he or she has told you to do or not do.

7.       Be sure well-wishers are well

Tell family or friends who are sick to send you a get-well card instead of dropping by for a visit.

8.       Food Safety

Make sure that if anyone brings cooked food into hospital for you it comes in sealed containers that have been carried in an esky/cold bag and placed straight into the fridge. This could prevent you from getting food poisoning.

Read more at the Food Safety Information Council

9.       Cough etiquette

Remember to cover a cough with your arm, not your hands, and put used tissues straight into the bin. Remember to wash your hands straight after.

Read more at Cough and Respiratory Etiquette

10.   Immunisations

This is one of the most important things you can do to prevent spreading infections such as seasonal influenza. Remember flu can kill!

Read more at the Australian Government Department of Health- Immunise Australia Program

Read more at the Immunise Australia Program
Download the Fact Sheet

Clean Your Home to Prevent Spreading Infections

Download the Fact Sheet

Keeping your house clean and reducing the dust and dirt reduces the risk of your loved ones getting sick in the home.

General cleaning:

  • Focus on the most used areas of your home such as the family room, lounge room, kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Use a bleach solution to clean bathroom floors, countertops, toilets, sinks, and other surfaces. Chlorine bleach is effective in killing stomach viruses such as norovirus.
  • Go with gravity: Clean from top to bottom. Vacuum drapes and window treatments. Clean window sills and window wells. Then vacuum around the edges including the corners.
  • Don’t forget to clean high touch areas such as remote controls, light switches, computers including keyboards, etc. Germs can live on surfaces carrying them to the next user.
  • Vacuum upholstered furniture, or have professionally cleaned if needed. Move furniture and vacuum beneath and behind it. Remember the lamps, fan blades, and light fittings that can collect dust.
  • Wash interior windows.
  • Deep clean carpeting and hardwood floors or schedule professional carpet cleaning.


  • Turn mattresses front-to-back and end-to-end to equalize wear. Remember to vacuum the mattress and the base (if you have one).
  • Wash or dry clean the bedding: mattress protectors, pillows, quilts, blankets, comforters.


  • Clean and organize your kitchen cabinets, paying particular attention to pantry supplies, pans, and equipment.
  • Pull the refrigerator away from the wall, and vacuum the condenser coils. For bottom-mounted coils, use a long, narrow brush to clean coils of dust and debris.
  • Empty the water container and wipe over with a bleach based solution.


  • Check dryer exhaust tube and vent for built-up lint, debris or birds’ nests!
  • Remember to release the hot water pressure valves to as per the manufactures instructions

More information..

Lifestyle – Home cleaning
Organised Home
Speed Cleaning your Home


Visiting a Hospital or Care Facility

How can you protect people you are visiting in a hospital,
residential aged care facility or rehabilitation hospital?

Download the Fact Sheet

All visitors to healthcare facilities are required to adhere to directions and advice of the facility and treating Health Care Workers.

Protect your loved ones and the health care workers within these facilities. Only visit when you are well. Stay home and do not visit if you are sick or have had any symptoms within the last three days that could include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea/loose bowels, fever (or feeling feverish), an uncontrolled cough or tickle in the throat, or a rash.

These are the things you should be aware of if visiting someone when you are well:

  • Wash your hands and often – before and after visiting. Make sure everyone that visits washes their hands. Clean your hands after touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, after using the restroom, and before and after eating or drinking.
  • Remember to get your yearly flu shot.The flu (or influenza) can cause severe illness and sometimes death in long-term care residents.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve, and do not sit on the resident’s bed or handle the equipment.
  • Human Metapneumovirus and Adenovirus can cause symptoms that look like a cold symptoms but it can also turn into pneumonia. It spreads when someone coughs or sneezes and then touches someone with their contaminated hands.
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) causes severe flu-like symptoms. It also spreads when someone coughs or sneezes and then touches someone with their contaminated hands.
  • Wear surgical masks if requested by staff. Remove the masks when leaving patient/resident care areas, and if you touch the mask, replace it.
  • Recognize when you think you are getting sick. Staying away is the best thing you can do as you are most infectious during the first 24-48 hours of getting a cold or flu.
  • Gastroenteritis or stomach “bugs” are caused by viruses that can spread like wildfire amongst residents in long-term care communities. Norovirus, the most common cause of gastro, causes severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
  • Dirty laundry may be the responsibility of family or friends. It is important that you wash your hands as soon as you have touched the laundry items. Ensure when taking laundry home, that it is in a sealed plastic bag that can be thrown out in the normal household rubbish bin once empty. Remember to use a warm wash cycle but if cold wash is all you have then make sure the washing is placed outside on the line to dry in the sun (the sun kills the bugs) or use the hot cycle of your clothes drier.