Coronavirus: information and updates

Hand washing and cleaning during coronavirus

Coronavirus is caused by a virus, not bacteria. It spreads between people in tiny droplets when someone with the virus talks, sneezes or coughs. It can stay in the air and on surfaces for a short time.

Coronavirus health guidelines and risk

To protect yourself from coronavirus and help prevent it from spreading:

  • wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • avoid touching your face
  • follow social distancing guidelines
  • avoid crowded spaces

In some places it’s now compulsory to wear face coverings in shops, on public transport, and where social distancing is not possible.

Face mask rules in England and Wales

Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Bin the tissue or wash your hands immediately.

Check if you have coronavirus symptoms (NHS)

How long to self-isolate (NHS)

Call 111 if you’re worried about symptoms or other health conditions that may put you at a higher risk.

Hand washing and coronavirus

Keeping your hands clean at home and in public is important to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Sometimes health professionals call this 'hand hygiene'. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that washing your hands regularly offers more protection than wearing rubber gloves.

How to wash your hands

Rub your hands together with a bar of soap or liquid soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds or the time it takes to sing 'Happy Birthday' twice. Remember to wash the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and your thumbs and wrists.

How to wash your hands (NHS)

Use hand sanitiser or gel that contains at least 60% alcohol when you're out and do not have access to a sink.

Hand hygiene, soap and sanitiser during coronavirus (Which?)

Try to wash your hands regularly throughout the day, especially:

  • after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
  • before cooking and after eating
  • after using the toilet
  • after opening mail or packages
  • after handling and storing groceries
  • before and after going outside
  • after touching pets
  • before and after treating a cut or wound

Washing your hands often can cause your skin to become dry and cracked. Dry your hands well after washing and use moisturiser once a day to prevent this.

Difficulty washing your hands

Some people find washing their hands difficult. If it's not easy for you to wash your hands regularly, try:

  • using a soap dispenser instead of a bar of soap
  • placing a chair or stool next to the sink so you can sit
  • keeping a bottle of hand sanitiser or gel with you
  • searching for handwashing videos on YouTube from people with similar conditions or impairments
  • asking someone to help if you live with others
  • speaking with your healthcare team for advice
  • contacting an organisation or charity related to your condition or impairment for support

Keeping equipment clean

Coronavirus can live on surfaces for a short period of time. How long depends on the surface, temperature and if cleaning products are used.

The amount of infectious virus on a surface reduces significantly after 24 hours and even more after 48 hours.

Myths about coronavirus (WHO)

As well as washing your hands often, you may want to clean any equipment you use regularly or take outside, such as:

  • mobility aids like crutches, walkers and wheelchairs
  • rails, lifts or portable ramps
  • key safes

It's sensible to take some precautions, but think about your energy levels too. Only do what you can manage.

When surfaces are dirty, use a fabric cloth and hot soapy water to wipe down:

  • seats and armrests
  • handles
  • wheel rims
  • controls and breaks
  • foot rests

You can then wash the cloth in the washing machine.

You can use stronger products to disinfect these surfaces. Check the safety labels on products like disinfectant and bleach to see what materials you can use them on. Spray or pour products onto a cloth instead of directly onto your equipment. Use gloves to protect your skin. Wear old clothing or an apron as stronger products can stain. Allow surfaces to dry fully before touching or sitting on them.

Check the safety labels on stronger products like disinfectant and bleach to see what materials you can use them on. Spray or pour products onto a cloth instead of directly onto your equipment.

If you're not sure if you can use a cleaning product on your equipment, check with the manufacturer first. Try searching on their website for cleaning instructions, or contact them by email or phone.

Cleaning your home

You may be worried about keeping your home clean, especially if you live with other people. To ease your worry, clean the things you regularly use or touch, for example:

  • handles and knobs
  • light switches
  • toilet flush
  • remote controls
  • banisters and handrails
  • kitchen worktops and surfaces
  • kitchen appliances like your kettle, hob, oven and microwave

If you have a personal assistant (PA) or carer who comes into your home, speak with them if you have any concerns about coronavirus. You should also:

  • check they have the right personal protective equipment (PPE) make sure they wash their hands before coming into your home limit the places they go in your home
  • clean any surfaces they have touched after they leave

How to clean your home effectively during coronavirus (Which?)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 24/07/2020

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