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Cleaning and Disinfection for COVID-19 in Public Settings

The primary mode of human-to-human transmission for COVID-19 is through direct contact with an infected person and their respiratory droplets, expelled during coughing, sneezing, speaking, or breathing. These droplets can be inhaled or become deposited on surfaces such as door handles, light switches, chairs, faucets, and other frequently touched surfaces.  Subsequently, contact with contaminated surfaces (fomites) followed by touching of the eyes, mouth, or nose is another important mode of COVID-19 transmission.


When cleaning public spaces, choose products that clean and disinfect all at once (e.g. premixed store-bought disinfectant cleaning solutions and/or wipes when available)




·       As debris such as dirt or organic materials may reduce the effectiveness of disinfectants, cleaners are used to pre-clean surfaces prior to sanitizers and disinfectants.

·       Cleaning products may kill or inactivate certain microorganisms but do not fully eliminate all of them from surfaces.

·       Ensure cleaning products are rinsed off thoroughly with potable water before applying sanitizers/disinfectants unless otherwise indicated. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.


·       To inactivate coronaviruses, including COVID-19, intermediate to intermediate-high level disinfectants are required.

·       The strength levels of some common disinfectants are dependent upon concentration and contact time.

·       The manufacturer’s instructions, including concentrations and contact time, must also be followed to ensure the product’s effectiveness.


Prioritize Frequently Touched Surfaces

In addition to routine cleaning, surfaces that have frequent contact with hands should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice per day and when visibly dirty/soiled.  Examples include doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, toilet handles, toilet seats, counters, hand rails, touch screen surfaces and keypads.

Examples of High Touch Surfaces Examples of Low Touch Surfaces
·       Door handles

·       Light switches

·       Faucets

·       Stair banisters

·       Toilet seats and flush levers

·       Mobile devices and electronics

·       Kitchen cabinet handles

·       Toys and play mats

·       Keypads

·       Steering wheels and gear shift levers

·       Walls

·       Floors

·       Windows

·       Windowsills

·       Thermostats

·       Blinds


Cleaning and Disinfection Products

The type of cleaner and disinfectant depends on the intent, frequency of contact, and type of surface on which they are being used.  Commonly used cleaners and disinfectants are effective against COVID-19.  These products can deactivate the virus by tearing apart its outer fatty layer.  Hydrogen peroxide, alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl alcohol), sodium hypochlorite (bleach), benzalkonium chloride (found in most Lysol products) and peroxyacetic acid (found in surface cleaners and sanitizers) among others have found to be effective against COVID-19.  Examples of more common agents effective against COVID-19 can be found in the table below.

5.25% Household Bleach
1:100 Chlorine to Water Solution=

10 ml bleach to 990 ml water

Used for disinfecting surfaces (e.g. hand railings, grab handles, doorknobs, cupboard handles). Make fresh daily and allow surface to air dry naturally.
5.25% Household Bleach
1:50 Chlorine to Water Solution=

20 ml bleach to 980 ml water

Used for disinfecting surfaces contaminated with bodily fluids and waste like vomit, diarrhea, mucus, or feces (after cleaning with soap and water first). Make fresh daily and allow surface to air dry naturally.
Hydrogen Peroxide 0.5%
Do not dilute your own.
Used for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces (e.g. counters, hand rails, door knobs).
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QUATs)-

noted as ‘alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium

chlorides’ on the product label

Do not dilute your own.
Used for disinfecting surfaces (e.g. floors, walls, furnishings).



  • Wear protective clothing as indicated on the product label. A disinfectant is only applied to objects; never on the human body.  Additionally, those cleaning should wear masks and eye protection where the virus can be aerosolized.  Gowns and gloves can add extra protection but gloves do not replace proper handwashing.
  • Use damp cleaning methods such as damp clean cloths, and/or a wet mop. Do not dust or sweep which can distribute virus droplets into the air. Do not use pressure washers that could also aerosolize the virus.
  • Products used for food contact surfaces must be approved for such use as products used on environmental surfaces (e.g. doorknobs) can potentially leave residues that can contaminate food.
  • Use only disinfectants that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN). A DIN is an 8-digit number given by Health Canada that confirms it is approved for use in Canada.
  • Check the expiry date of products you use and always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Whenever possible, use pre-mixed disinfecting cleaner products instead of mixing separate products, to avoid accidental exposure to harmful chemicals.
  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or acid products as toxic chlorine gas and other dangerous by-products can be formed.
  • Never use hot water as chlorine gas can be released when bleach is mixed with hot water.
  • Make sure the area is well ventilated.
  • Always add concentrated bleach to water; to avoid accidental exposure from splashes, never add water to concentrated chlorine.
  • Make sure the cleaner and disinfectant are compatible with the finish and material of the surface.
  • To prevent cross-contaminating cleaner areas with dirtier surfaces, always clean from low-touch to high-touch surfaces, cleaner area to dirtier area, and from top to bottom.
  • Consider using squirt bottles for the cleaner, sanitizer, or disinfectant; avoid double-dipping cloths into the solutions.
  • Contaminated disposable cleaning items (e.g. mop heads, cloths) should be placed in a lined garbage bin before disposing of them with regular waste.
  • Reusable cleaning items can be washed using regular laundry soap and hot water (60-90°C).
  • Do not refill cleaning and disinfectant solutions.
  • Consider using single-use cleaning products such as paper towels or wipes. Mops and cloths should be cleaned with laundry soap and hot water and disinfected with diluted bleach solution (1000 ppm) after use.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper storage.
    • Chlorine, which is found in household bleach, is relatively unstable so they gradually lose their effectiveness within 24 hours, even in covered containers. Therefore, fresh bleach solutions should be prepared daily. Leftover bleach solution can be disposed of in the toilet or down the drain with a large amount of water.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for safe disposal of all sanitizer and disinfectant products.