We know that our hands touch many surfaces that can pick up viruses. And, if contaminated, our hands can transfer to the virus to our eyes, nose and mouth, which can make us sick. While heeding advice to avoid gripping stairwell railings is easy for most of us, applying the same precautions to how we interact with our phones and devices may feel a lot harder.
While it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, preliminary information suggests it may persist on surfaces for a few hours or even several days.
The Department of Health has recommended a few protective measures that may affect the way we work around shared and personal spaces at home, including:
- regularly cleaning shared high-touch surfaces, such as tables, kitchen benches and doorknobs, and
- cleaning and sanitising frequently used objects, such as mobiles, keys and wallets.
To help you keep your workstation and devices clean without damaging your electronics, we’ve put together some tips.
- regularly cleaning shared high-touch surfaces, such as tables, kitchen benches and doorknobs,
- cleaning and sanitising frequently used objects, such as mobiles, keys and wallets
- using a combination of cleaning and disinfecting to prevent the spread of germs and virus' like coronavirus
- use gloves
- avoid cross-infection
- if people are sick in your home, clean daily and make sure you are disinfecting all frequently used surfaces. Otherwise, give your home a good clean each week
- to clean, use a clean cloth, detergent, rinse the cloth before reusing and then allow the surface to dry
- to disinfect, use disinfectant wipes or spray and make sure you follow the instructions so that you’re maximising the effectiveness
- for electronic devices use a soft, slightly damp lint-free cloth (e.g. a lens cloth) to wipe your device clean or use disinfectant wipes, making sure that they have 70% isopropyl alcohol solution
Effective cleaning principles
Effective cleaning is important to minimise the number of germs that survive on surfaces and to reduce the risk of transmission. The Department of Health recommends both cleaning and disinfecting, even if no one in your home is sick.
The removal of germs, such as coronavirus requires thorough cleaning followed by disinfection. Cleaning removes contaminants, dust or debris from surfaces so that disinfectants can work.
Avoiding cross infection
What’s cross-infection? - Cross infection is the transfer of harmful microorganisms, usually bacteria and viruses. The spread of infections can occur between people, pieces of equipment, or within the body (Healthline)
To prevent cross-infection, you should:
- wipe in an 'S' shaped pattern to prevents re-contamination and ensure the surface area is well-covered
- clean the cleanest areas first, then finish in the dirtier areas
- separate cleaning equipment i.e. workstation and bathroom
This method helps prevent cross-infection because it decreases the risk of contaminating a clean room with germs from a dirty room. Also, you should wear either single-use or reusable gloves (such as washing-up gloves) when cleaning. If you’re using reusable gloves, wash them off using running water and detergent, and hang them outside to dry. And remember to always wash your hands after you have finished cleaning
Frequency of cleaning
Clean all frequently touched surfaces at least weekly. If anyone in the household is sick, cleaning should be done more often, at least daily. Surfaces should be visibly clean.
Cleaning tables, drawers and other frequently touched surfaces
For frequently touched surfaces (i.e. tables and drawers), the mechanical (rubbing) cleaning method, followed by rinsing and drying is the most useful method for removing germs. Detergents help to loosen the germs so that they can be rinsed away with clean water, making it harder for germs to survive or grow when it dries. Store-bought detergents, diluted bleach and products with an alcohol content above 70 per cent are effective detergent products.
The mechanical cleaning method involves:
- using a clean cloth (disposable or able to be laundered), detergent and water to wipe down the surface
- rinsing the surface with clean water and another clean cloth
- allowing the surface dry
Disinfecting tables, drawers, switches and other frequently touched surfaces
Disinfectants are usually only necessary if a surface has been contaminated with potentially infectious material. Typically, routine cleaning using the mechanical cleaning method should be enough to reduce germ numbers. However, if you do need to use a disinfectant, please ensure you do mechanical cleaning first as the disinfectant will not kill germs if the surface is dirty.
The quickest and easiest way to disinfect surfaces is to use disinfecting wipes (e.g. Clorox or Lysol) or a disinfectant spray (e.g. Purell, Clorox or Lysol). Other alternatives include isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.
To kill germs, check that your disinfectant:
- is left on the surface long enough to kill the germs (check the manufacturer's instructions)
- is used at the right concentration
- is applied to a clean, dry surface
- is effective against the particular germs you’re trying to kill - most disinfectants should have a label that lists the viruses they're effective against
Cleaning and disinfecting your electronic devices (phones, laptops, desktop computers, tablets, keyboards, mouse etc.)
Apple has published recommendations for cleaning your Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, display and peripheral devices. These devices are made with a variety of materials, and each material might have specific cleaning requirements. To see specific cleaning guidelines for each product and model, please visit Apple’s site.
For all products, Apple recommends using only a soft, slightly damp lint-free cloth (e.g. a lens cloth) to wipe your device clean. Recently Apple changed their previous advice to avoid disinfectants and now says that you can keep your iPhone clean with disinfectant wipes that contain 70% isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol. These can be found at Bunnings, Coles or Woolworths.
For all products, Apple also recommends that you:
- avoid abrasive cloths, towels, paper towels or similar items
- avoid excessive wiping, which might cause damage
- unplug all external power sources, devices and cables
- keep liquids away from the product, unless otherwise noted for specific products
- don’t get moisture into any openings
- don’t use aerosol sprays, bleaches or abrasives
- don’t spray cleaners directly onto them
Most phones can be disinfected using a disinfecting wipe or alcohol solution (at least 70%).
For laptops, avoid using a disinfecting wipe on the screen as some laptop screens are not made of glass. Instead, clean the display with 70% isopropyl alcohol solution and a soft towel. Make sure you wipe down the keyboard, the trackpad, the exterior, and where your wrists rest on the laptop.
The best way to clean desktop computers is with a disinfecting wipe or isopropyl alcohol solution and a soft towel. Again, avoid using disinfecting wipes on the monitor. Make sure you wipe down the mouse (top, sides, and bottom), the keys on your keyboard, the exterior of the keyboard, and any mousepad you might have.
This article provides a general overview and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your family doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding this medical condition.