Disinfecting surfaces and materials

Disinfecting surfaces and non-porous materials is extremely simple, as the leptospira bacterium is very sensitive to disinfectants, soaps and many other household chemicals even at low concentrations. Despite the bacteria being extremely dangerous during an infection, they are one of the easiest to control – at least within buildings.

Any non-porous surface that has dried for more than a minute or two will be safe, and will remain so even if it becomes wet again – the bacteria are instantly killed by drying.

Normal concentrations of detergent, disinfectant and soap can be used to clean surfaces; there is no need to use specialist chemicals or higher concentrations, no need to use hot water or to soak items for a long time. In laboratories, cleaing is a far more complex problem as we need to not only kill the bacteria but remove all traces of them – for infection control outside the lab we only care about killing them. We cannot promote any commercial brands of cleaning products, but any product with a proven antibacterial action (disinfectants, bleaches, alcohol-based solutions, etc.) will be effective against leptospires even if they are not mentioned on a label. Bacteria such as E. coli and MRSA are far more difficult to kill, so any product that can deal with them can also deal with leptospires.

Where cleaning chemicals are not available, some benefit has been found in the fact leptospires are very intolerant of acid – a solution of acetic acid (vinegar) or citric acid (lemon juice) will work as a disinfectant, for example to wash hands on a camping trip. Alcohol is also effective but requires a greater concentration.