Skip to content

Home hygiene and the fight against coronavirus


Authored by Peter ter Kulve & Dr Lisa Ackerley

We speak to Home Care President Peter ter Kulve and hygiene expert Dr Lisa Ackerley about a new home hygiene campaign, which is all about cleaning smarter.

Close up of a cleaning product being sprayed and wiped down on a kitchen surface

About the author

Peter ter Kulve & Dr Lisa Ackerley

Peter ter Kulve & Dr Lisa Ackerley

Home Care President at Unilever and Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner at International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Peter has been Unilever’s Home Care President and a member of the Unilever
Leadership Executive since May 2019. Dr Lisa Ackerley is a Chartered
Environmental Health Practitioner with over 30 years of experience in the home
and public hygiene arenas.

You’re working together on a campaign in the UK – what is its aim and where will people see it?

Lisa: Indeed we are. Our aim is to teach people how to use the principles of targeted hygiene to help protect themselves from coronavirus and break the chain of infection. As a chartered environmental health practitioner, I’ve been on a communications crusade with Unilever over the last month, speaking to journalists and being interviewed for TV programmes and radio shows to help amplify this message.

Peter: As soon as this crisis broke out, our carelines in the UK and worldwide received a high volume of queries from consumers asking what products to use to kill coronavirus and how to disinfect their home. It was clear at that point that we needed to step in and complement the advice of government and public health bodies.

We did this by partnering with Dr Lisa Ackerley who was able to provide the general public with practical cleaning information, regardless of the brand they use, to ensure people are cleaning their homes effectively and safely.

As well as the media outreach that Lisa has been doing, our Domestos team has also launched a new TV advert to increase awareness on the importance of targeted hygiene using bleach, any bleach. Starting off in the UK, the campaign is now running in other markets around the world.

Tell us about targeted home hygiene – what is it and why is it so important in the home?

Lisa: Targeted home hygiene is simple; it is about making sure that you take hygiene measures in the right way at the right time, for example, washing your hands when your return home and disinfecting the surfaces that you and your family most frequently touch.

Coronavirus will only enter your home if it is brought in, either via someone who is infected, is carrying the virus on them, comes in, or via a contaminated item. The virus can survive on some surfaces for up to several days, during which time it can easily be picked up and transported to other surfaces or other people. That is why it is so important to think about what those frequently touched areas are – for example, door handles and banisters. Deep cleaning doesn’t always mean getting a safer result – the key is cleaning smarter!

How do the recommendations in this campaign align with advice from public health bodies?

Lisa: All our messaging in this campaign aligns with the advice given by leading health organisations, such as the World Health Organization, for creating hospital-grade disinfectant. A solution of one-part bleach to nine-parts water is what we are recommending. Based on the different strengths of bleach on the market, this ratio will always make a potent enough solution.

Most people have bleach in their cupboard, but many think it should only be used for cleaning toilets. We wanted to ensure that the public knows how to use bleach on other surfaces too, and how to do that safely.

The campaign reinforces clear safety guidance about handling bleach. For instance, always keeping bleach out of the reach of children, never ingesting or inhaling bleach solutions, always wearing gloves, and never mixing bleach with anything other than cold water.

Peter: At a time of crisis, it is more important than ever that we equip the public with advice endorsed by public health bodies and experts. In fact, the latest Edelman Trust Barometer (2020) showed that 90% of consumers believe brands should ‘partner with government and relief agencies to address the crisis’. We have therefore made it our mission to use our scale to amplify the advice given by Public Health England and the World Health Organization.

Dr Lisa Ackerley’s advice on how to practice targeted hygiene at home

How long can the virus survive on different surfaces?

Coronavirus can last on surfaces for a few hours or a few days, depending on the type of surface. That’s why regular and targeted hygiene practices are so important.

What are the areas we should concentrate on cleaning the most?

You should think about the surfaces that are frequently touched on entry to the home by you or your family. These often include, but are not limited to:

  1. Front door handles
  2. Internal door handles
  3. Staircase banister
  4. Fridge handles
  5. Cupboard handles
  6. Counter tops
  7. Kettle handle
  8. Bathroom taps
  9. Kitchen taps
  10. Toilet flush handle or button

How often would you recommend cleaning? Is there a daily or weekly routine we should be adopting?

The frequency of disinfecting will depend on the numbers of people in your household. Targeted home hygiene should take place whenever someone in your household returns from outside. This starts with handwashing, but also includes anything that has been touched on the way to the wash basin. It is important to remember that coronavirus will only enter our homes if someone comes in who is infected or carrying it on them, or when a contaminated item is brought into the home.

If you are living in a shared household, where people are going out to work or the supermarket, then there is an increased risk of someone in your household carrying coronavirus, but with no symptoms. In those circumstances, targeted hygiene is even more important, and the frequency of disinfecting frequently touched surfaces needs to increase.

Why is bleach so good at killing germs and viruses?

Bleach is a powerful oxidising agent which destroys virus particles.

Is any bleach suitable? Are sprays and wipes as effective?

The recommended product for killing coronavirus is sodium hypochlorite bleach, which is a powerful disinfectant. This is commonly known as thick bleach, which people often use to clean their toilets, but it can also be diluted at home to clean your floors and frequently touched areas. Some brands also offer bleach disinfectant sprays. As with all cleaning products, always read the label to see what the products are designed to do, and to ensure they are used correctly and safely.

What is a diluted bleach solution and how can I make one safely at home?

Bleach needs to be diluted properly in order to be effective and safe to use as a cleaning solution.

  • Wearing household gloves, place a measuring jug in the sink and mix nine-parts cold water to one-part bleach – for example 450ml to 50ml (10 teaspoons)
  • Place the solution in a labelled container and, wearing household gloves, use a clean cloth to apply
  • Replace the solution daily

Are there any surfaces where bleach should not be used?

Bleach is not suitable for use on every surface. To be sure, you should always check the manufacturer’s label and never use bleach on surfaces other than those directed on the bottle.

Back to top