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Cleaning and Disinfecting the Workplace

Working Safely During Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Whether preparing to reopen after the lockdown, or managing ongoing operations, businesses will need to ensure their workers are protected against the COVID-19 virus. One of the control measures advised is the implementation of a cleaning and disinfecting regime to limit transmission by restricting the survival of the COVID-19 virus in environments.

This advice provides recommendations on the cleaning and disinfection of workplaces with environments which may have differing risks relating to the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. It is not meant for cleaning staff in healthcare facilities for whom specific guidelines exist.

Transmission Cleaning & Disinfecting Equipment


Based on current information about the COVID-19 virus and similar viruses, transmission happens most frequently among close contacts through the inhalation of respiratory droplets.2

These carry infectious pathogens and can transmit infection when they travel directly from the respiratory tract of an infectious individual to susceptible parts of a a recipient's face.

This can happen in the form of sneezing, coughing or speaking and over short distances of approximately two metres (six feet).3

The second route which is commonly implicated, (although at the time of writing is not documented) is contact with contaminated fomites due to presence of the virus on surfaces.2

A fomite is defined as an object that becomes contaminated with infected organisms and which transmits them to another person.3

Potential Fomites in the Workplace
  • Surfaces: worktops, counters
  • Electrical equipment: keyboards, touchpads, phones, printers
  • Hardware: door knobs, bars & handles, hand-rails, switches, buttons, sockets
  • Sanitary ware: sinks, taps, toilets
  • Furniture: chairs,desks, tables
  • Retail: self-checkouts, trolleys, coffee machines, staff handheld devices

Factors influencing the risk of infection2

To reduce the risk of infection through fomites, it is essential to establish correct procedures for the cleaning and disinfection of areas potentially contaminated with the COVID-19 virus.

The risk of infection can depend on many factors, including:

  • the type of surfaces contaminated
  • the amount of virus shed from the individual
  • the time the individual spent in the setting
  • the time since the individual was in the setting1

Current evidence suggests that the COVID-19 virus may remain for different amounts of time on surfaces made from a variety of materials.

The risk of COVID-19 infection following environmental contamination decreases over time. At the time of writing it is not clear at what point there is no risk. Studies of similar viruses suggest risk is likely to be reduced significantly after 72 hours.

Environmental Persistence of the COVID-19 Virus2
Copper Up to 4 hours
Cardboard Up to 24 hours
Plastic Up to 2 to 3 days*
Stainless Steel Up to 2 to 3 days

*with significantly decreased titres (concentrations). These findings resulted from experiments in a controlled environment and should be interpreted with caution in the real-life environment.

Cleaning & Disinfecting Work Surfaces

Before Reopening

For workplaces that have been closed for some weeks or months due to the lockdown, make sure that any site or location that has been closed or partially operated is clean and ready to restart before allowing employees to return to work.

  1. Conduct a risk assessment

    A risk assessment will be required for all sites or part of sites that have been closed.

    Download Risk Assessment
  2. Encourage ventilation

    Open windows and doors where possible. If necessary, check whether ventilation systems need to be checked or serviced and ensure that ventilation levels have not reduced whilst the area has been unoccupied.

  3. Carrying out cleaning procedures
  • Frequently touched surfaces and objects

    Clean using a neutral detergent for cleaning surfaces (not for premises where a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 has been).

  • Sanitary facilities

    Use equipment and recommended disinfectants.

  • Textiles

    Consider removing soft and porous, textile items to reduce frequent handling or contact and to reduce the challenges of cleaning them.

  • Waste Materials

    Waste material does not need to be separately bagged. Waste material can be disposed of in unsorted rubbish.

  • Equipment

    Equipment and cleaning materials should be properly cleaned and where necessary disinfected at the end of every session.

  • Cleaning Staff

    When cleaning uncontaminated areas:

    Any issued uniforms should be frequently washed in warm water.

    Wear disposable gloves, or gloves recommended in cleaning chemical safety data sheets (SDS).

    Hands should be washed with soap and water for 20 seconds after all PPE has been removed. If soap and water are not available use an appropriate sanitiser.

    Where using cleaning chemicals check SDS for recommendation of appropriate PPE to be worn.

Step 1

Clean your work areas and equipment

  • Frequency: Clean frequently, and between use.
  • Use: Your usual cleaning products

Sanitation facilities and toilets

  • Frequency: At least daily and, enhance cleaning for busy areas that are used frequently or by a large number of people.
  • Use: Use equipment described with recommended disinfectants.
  • Guidance: Introduce social distancing measures and set clear guidance for the cleaning of toilets to ensure that they are kept clean.
  • Portable toilets: Special care should be taken for cleaning.
  • Waste facilities and rubbish collection: There should be an increased provision of facilities such as litter bins, and waste should be removed frequently.
  • Hand drying: If possible, paper towels should be provided as an alternative to hand dryers.

Changing rooms and showers

  • Frequency: Regularly during the day and at the end of the day.
  • Use: Use equipment described with recommended disinfectants.
  • Guidance: Set clear use guidance for the use of facilities such as showers, lockers and changing rooms. Introduce social distancing protocols and issue instructions that they are to be cleared of personal items to enable effective cleaning.

Retail customer fitting rooms

  • Consider closing: Determine whether fitting rooms need to be open, assessing the challenges of operating them safely.
  • Frequency: Very frequently, between each use.
  • Procedures for clothes that have been tried on: Create procedures, consider delaying the return of the clothes to the shop floor.
  • Procedures for trying on clothes: Implement social distancing measures, limit contact between customers and colleagues, consider suspending any fitting services offered.

Step 2

Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects

  • Frequency: Clean as often as possible (at least daily).
  • Clean: Clean using a neutral detergent for cleaning surfaces.
  • Disinfect: Use equipment described with recommended disinfectants.

High Touch Items and Equipment

  • Consider limiting use of high touch items and equipment, for example in offices and call centres, this could include printers and whiteboards.

High Value Equipment and Machines

  • Determine cleaning process for equipment and machines that cannot be washed down. Where possible design protection such as wipeable covers or screens.

Textures & Soft Furnishings

  • Consider removing soft and porous, textile items to reduce frequent handling or contact and to reduce the challenges of cleaning them.
  • Launder: Do not shake dirty laundry to minimise the possibility of dispersing the virus into the air. All textiles should be washed following the manufacturer's instructions and using a water cycle that is as hot as possible. Using a regular laundry detergent. Dry items completely.
  • Steam clean: Where items such as upholstered furniture, mattresses etc cannot be laundered they should be steam cleaned.
  • Dispose of heavily contaminated items that cannot be cleaned by washing.

Step 3

Clear workplaces at the end of each day or shift, dispose of waste

  • Issue guidance: to ensure that all workspaces are cleared of work items and personal belongings to enable effective cleaning.
  • Clear litter and waste: ensure all litter and waste is removed from the work area, at least daily, and if necessary, more frequently.

Waste material

  • Bag waste material: separately in a plastic bag and tie.
  • Dispose of waste along with other in unsorted rubbish.
  • To dispose heavily contaminated waste following confirmed cases of COVID-19 please see advice published by Public Health England.2

If cleaning after a known or suspected case of COVID-19 refer to the guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings.2

Step 4

Cleaning materials, handling equipment and onsite vehicles

  • Goods entering the site: Implement cleaning procedures for material, merchandise and equipment that enters the site.
  • Equipment and tools: Implement cleaning procedures for any shared equipment such as tools, or vehicles such as forklift trucks and pallet trucks.
  • Vehicles that may be taken home: Ensure regular cleaning.
  • Handwashing Facilities: Encourage handwashing or sanitising, introduce more facilities / or provide hand sanitiser where this is not practical.

Cleaning Materials, Equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Recommended Disinfectants

Use either:

  • A combined detergent disinfectant solution at a dilution of 1,000 parts per million available chlorine.
  • A household detergent followed by disinfection (1000 ppm Follow manufacturer's instructions for dilution, application and contact times for all detergents and disinfectants.
  • If an alternative disinfectant is used within the organisation, this should be checked and ensure that it is effective against enveloped viruses.

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for use and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for recommendation of PPE to be worn by cleaners.

View All Disinfectants

Cleaning Equipment

  • Use dedicated equipment for areas: It is recommended that equipment is changed between areas where possible.
  • Use single use and disposable equipment such as disposable cloths, towels, paper roll, wipes and disposable mop heads.
  • Disinfect non-disposable equipment in a disinfectant solution.
  • Discard used equipment, where single use disposable equipment is not available and it is not possible to disinfect equipment, it should not be reused and should be discarded.
View All Cleaning Equipment

PPE for Cleaning Staff

  • PPE: When cleaning areas after a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 person has been present the minimum PPE to be worn is disposable gloves and an apron. Where a risk assessment suggests that a higher level of the virus may be present (for example hotel rooms or dormitory) or thereis visible contamination, additional PPE to protect the cleaner's eyes, mouth and nose may be necessary.1 For advice contact thelocal Public Health England (PHE) Health Protection Team (HPT).
    • Uniform: Where uniforms are issued these should be frequently washed in warm water.
    • Gloves: Appropriate gloves recommended by the SDS or disposable gloves. Single-use plastic apron.
    • Single use plastic apron
    • Medical face mask
    • Eye protection
  • Hand hygiene: Hands should be washed with soap and water for 20 seconds after all PPE has been removed. If soap and water are not available use an appropriate sanitiser.
View All Hand Hygiene Products
  • Training: Workers should be trained in the correct use of a medical mask.

Sources & Useful References


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