It is not necessary to use chlorinated water for handwashing during this COVID-19 outbreak as soap and water is highly effective in killing and removing SARS-CoV-2 from hands (see ‘Why does handwashing with soap work so well to prevent COVID-19?’). Using chlorinated water does kill viruses but may also cause skin or eye irritations so currently the WHO recommend using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser as both are gentler on skin. However, if the latter is not currently available or feasible, chlorinated water can be used as a temporary measure.

In some settings, such as those recently affected by Ebola outbreaks, there may be a precedent for handwashing with chlorine to combat the spread of disease. In these settings, it might be more acceptable to promote the use of chlorinated water at public handwashing facilities (but only if it proves challenging to promote handwashing with soap). Chlorinated water may also be considered in locations where soap supplies are limited. Chlorinated water should not be promoted as an option for handwashing at home. Chlorine can be a dangerous chemical and so it is important that it is stored and handled with care.  

If preparing chlorinated water for handwashing  then a 0.05% solution should be used. Follow the instructions from the CDC as shown below.  

Source: CDC

Summary of recommendations: 

  • Handwashing with chlorinated water (0.05%) is effective against SARS-CoV-2 but not necessary. 

  • Handwashing with soap or alcohol-based hand gel should be encouraged. 

Want to know more about COVID-19 and handwashing? 

Editor's note

Author: Sian White
Review: Katie Greenland, Ammar Fawzi
Last update: 11.08.2020

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