When hygiene matters most

The novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, is spreading worldwide. The main human-to-human transmission pathway appears to be droplet infection. With simple hygiene measures, each individual can help to protect themselves and others from the life-threatening lung disease and stem its rapid spread. Our topic special is dedicated to the most effective methods of protection against infection.

When hygiene matters most
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Kärcher steam cleaners against the coronavirus

Kärcher arranged to have the effectiveness of its steam cleaners in fighting viruses tested in an independent laboratory. The result: if used properly, the machines remove up to 99.999% of enveloped viruses*, such as the coronavirus or influenza, and 99.99% of common household bacteria** from hard surfaces. As at the present time disinfectants are to be reserved primarily for outpatient and inpatient care, steam cleaners can make a valuable contribution to general hygiene – both in private households and in commercial and industrial use.


*Tests have shown that with spot cleaning of 30 secs at max. steam level and direct contact to the cleaning surface with the Kärcher steam cleaner 99.999% of enveloped viruses such as coronavirus or influenza (excluding the Hepatitis-B virus) can be removed on common smooth household hard surfaces (test-germ: Modified-Vaccinia-Ankara-Virus).

**When thoroughly cleaning with the Kärcher steam cleaner 99.99% of all common household bacteria will be killed on common smooth household hard surfaces, provided the cleaning speed of 30 cm/s at max. steam level and direct contact to the cleaning surface (test-germ: Enterococcus hirae). 99.999% with professional steam cleaners SG(V) according to EN 16615:2015-06, PVC floor, test germs: Enterococcus hirae ATCC 10541.


The laboratory test

Enveloped viruses such as the coronavirus can be neutralised with high temperatures. As viruses are not germs or living organisms, experts also talk about virus inactivation. In the laboratory a certified test virus (Modified-Vaccinia-Ankara-Virus), which is representative for enveloped viruses, was distributed on a hard surface. This area was then cleaned with the hand nozzle of a steam cleaner and the appropriate microfibre pad. It was demonstrated that a significant reduction of up to 99.999% of the viruses could be achieved at maximum steam pressure and with a cleaning duration of 30 seconds on one area.

Kärcher tested steam cleaners for domestic use as well as machines for professional use. Whether the steam is produced in a boiler or in a water heater, it doesn't affect the result in combating the virus; both technologies achieved a comparable result in the laboratory.  

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Trigger of infectious diseases

Infectious diseases can be caused by various pathogens, including viruses, bacteria or fungi.

Viruses such as the corona virus SARS-CoV-2 are not visible to the naked eye and are only about 20 to 300 nanometres in size. They invade animal, plant or human cells and use these living cells as so-called host cells. Even when exposed to air, they can sometimes survive for a very long time and remain contagious. However, a new host cell is necessary for long-term survival - if they do not find it, viruses die sooner or later.

Not all viruses cause disease. Our immune system often reacts quickly and fights off intruders immediately. Viruses begin to multiply in the body as soon as infection has occurred. Drugs are of limited help against viruses and antibiotics have been proven to be ineffective against viral diseases. There are antiviral drugs that only help against certain types of viruses. Since viruses (for example the influenza virus) can change, they are able to get past the body's own defences more easily. A person only becomes immune when his body has dealt with the pathogen. However, even after a disease has been overcome, immunity is not always guaranteed. Viruses do not have their own metabolism.

Compared to viruses, bacteria are many times larger. They are about 0.1 to 700 micrometers in size, single-celled organisms that are self-sufficient. They also have their own genetic material and metabolism. Bacteria are everywhere - in the air, in water, in food, etc. Similar to viruses, bacteria can survive for very long periods of time, often weeks, sometimes even months, in the environment or in the body itself. They are very adaptable and can multiply under various conditions. Only one percent of all bacteria cause disease in humans. Often bacteria are even important for health. For example, they live in the human intestine, on the skin or in the oral cavity. Those who want to eliminate bacteria can use high temperatures (for example in the form of water vapour when cleaning) or chemical substances such as alcohol, aldehydes or chlorine. In the human body, antibiotics are often used as part of a treatment. The bacteria are prevented from multiplying or even destroyed directly.

Fungi occur quite naturally on the human skin or in the body. There are only a few types of fungi that cause disease in humans, including skin fungi, yeasts or some moulds. These fungi feel good wherever it is damp: in bathrooms, niches, on damp walls or in flower pots. Foodstuffs such as bread, potatoes or flour can also be a breeding ground for fungi. Mushrooms can even be found in upholstered furniture and bed linen. The yeast fungus belongs to our natural skin flora. It lives in the skin scales and feeds on dead tissue particles. Fungi only penetrate the human body if the natural skin barrier is damaged or the immune system is weakened. Diseases caused by fungi are called mycoses. Mostly skin, nails or mucous membranes are affected. Only rarely are internal organs like the lungs affected by fungi. But if this happens, they can cause great damage.

Hand hygiene

How can you protect yourself and others from infection?

Since there is currently no vaccine against the coronavirus, it is very important to follow simple hygiene measures - both in private surroundings and in personal hygiene as well as in public spaces.

  • Go easy on the face with unwashed hands
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap regularly and use disinfectant from time to time when travelling
  • Wear mouth-nose protection if you are ill - make sure the mask is correctly fitted
  • Use disposable tissues and put them in a bin with a lid
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Observe coughing and sneezing etiquette: When coughing or sneezing, keep at least one meter distance from other people, sneeze/cough in the crook of your arm and turn away from other people
  • Stay at home if respiratory symptoms or flu-like signs of illness occur
  • It is imperative to ensure spatial separation if persons in the immediate vicinity are ill
  • Ventilate rooms regularly and use an air purifier
  • Use home office facilities and avoid business trips
  • Avoid contact, especially with older or chronically ill fellow human beings
  • It is best to keep a distance of 2 to 2.5 metres from other people, especially those who are ill
  • Forego handshakes and hugs
  • Observe coughing and sneezing etiquette: When coughing or sneezing, keep at least one meter distance from other people, sneeze/cough in the crook of your arm and turn away from other people
  • Regularly disinfect surfaces such as car steering wheel, door handles, mobile phones, etc.
  • Abstain from private holidays
  • Avoid using public transport if possible
  • Attend no major events
  • Do not go shopping at peak times, use pick-up and delivery services

Why hygiene measures are so important in times of Corona

In a clean, well-maintained environment that is cleaned regularly, the risk of transmission of pathogens is minimised considerably. Surfaces are no longer a breeding ground for germs, bacteria or viruses. Even in places that are difficult to access, the pathogens are eliminated more thoroughly.

Read on:

Cleaning measures for cleanliness and hygiene at home and in public places.