Wash your hands and surfaces

COVID-19 can survive on some surfaces for a few hours and on others for several days. With good personal and household hygiene, the virus can be killed.

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Personal hygiene

These simple steps can help you to protect yourself and the community. 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or clean and sanitise them with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing, or use your elbow, not your hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms, and stay home if you have symptoms.
  • Avoid touching your face and don't shake hands with others.
  • Try to maintain a distance of 1.5m from others at all times.
  • Avoid public places if they look over-crowded, including the beach and the park.

Hand washing

The key to hand washing is to wash often and wash well, for at least 20 seconds.

Wash your hands with water and any ordinary soap, body wash or shampoo – you don't need to buy expensive or ‘antibacterial’ brands.



Wash your hands regularly

Hand sanitiser safety

Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is a safe and effective option. When you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Follow the instructions on the bottle – the amount you use and how long you spend applying it affects how well it works. It’s important to remember that if hand sanitiser is left in the heat the alcohol in it will evaporate and it won’t work effectively, so don’t leave it in the car in hot weather.

Hand sanitiser can be dangerous if it is swallowed, and in some cases can be poisonous, especially for children. Imported hand sanitisers often won’t be clearly labelled and may contain methanol and other stronger alcohol products that are even more toxic.

Always watch young children as they apply hand sanitiser and then put the bottle in a safe place so they can’t use it without your supervision.

If you think your child has swallowed hand sanitiser, even just a small amount, call the 24-hour Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for first aid and monitoring advice. Have the bottle of hand sanitiser with you when you call.

Household hygiene

As well as regular handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in your home and car can help stop the spread of COVID-19.

High touch surfaces

Regularly clean the surfaces of these high-touch household fittings and pieces of furniture with detergent, followed by disinfectant:

  • doorknobs
  • handles
  • light switches
  • tables
  • hard-backed chairs
  • desks
  • toilets
  • sinks and basins.

You can use detergent then disinfectant wipes, as long as you scrub the surface hard.

High touch items

Regularly clean these shared items with detergent, followed by disinfectant (or detergent, followed by disinfectant wipes):

  • phones
  • tablets
  • touch screens
  • remote controls
  • keyboards
  • car steering wheel
  • car seats.

Other surfaces

Clean less frequently touched surfaces – floors, walls, blinds and curtains – using a household detergent or spot-clean with detergent wipes as needed.

Floors are the highest priority. Clean hard floors with household detergent and a damp mop.

Detergent and disinfectant

Using a detergent, then a disinfectant helps lower the risk of spreading infection. The detergent cleans the surface, making way for the disinfectant to kill the virus.

  • Detergents help remove germs, dirt and impurities (such as fungus) from surfaces but they do not kill germs.
  • Disinfectants kill viruses and bacteria but don’t remove them from a surface.

Using a detergent, then a disinfectant helps lower the risk of spreading infection.

Using bleach as disinfectant

For hard, non-porous surfaces, a diluted household bleach solution can be used in a ratio of four teaspoons of bleach, per one litre of water.

Be careful when handling bleach and always follow the safety directions on the label.

Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner. You need to check the product is not past its expiration date, which makes it ineffective. Make sure the area is well ventilated during and after cleaning.

People living in flats, apartments and units

If you live in an apartment, there are steps you can take to minimise your exposure to COVID-19 if there is community transmission.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser after touching surfaces in common areas, like door handles, keypads and elevator buttons, or using communal washing machines and dryers.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing or use your elbow.
  • Avoid close contact with people who have cold or flu-like symptoms.
  • Avoid touching your face and avoid shaking hands with others.
  • Try to maintain a distance of 1.5m from others as much as possible in the stairwells or hallways. Don’t get in the elevator with people from another apartment if you can avoid it.
  • Do not visit your neighbours or gather in groups in common areas such as rooftops or courtyards.

Strata managers and body corporates

  • Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces in common areas with a detergent followed by disinfectant, or use detergent and disinfectant wipes.
  • Consider providing adequate alcohol-based hand sanitiser for residents to use when they enter and in communal areas such as the laundry.


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