Fortunately, COVID-19 and other coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, which means they are destroyed by most of the common agents used for sanitation in the animal shelter or veterinary clinic environment. This means that if you have a good cleaning and disinfection protocol already in effect at your animal shelter facility, there is no need to change your protocol in order to be effective against coronaviruses.
But what happens when the sanitation solutions you use become unavailable? And what about hand sanitizer—what options are available while drug store shelves are empty? Even better, are there solutions that are tough enough for kennel disinfection, kind enough for hand sanitation, and still available to buy? Yes, there are!
Common Sanitation Alternatives for Animal Shelters
Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP; marketed as Rescue or Accel)
AHP is already the darling of animal shelter sanitation, but did you know it can also be used as a hand sanitizer? While there have been some shortages and backorders, at the moment of this writing, Rescue is available on allocation (limited number can be purchased) from several national distributors.
Calcium Hypochlorite (HTH or high test hypochlorite)
The commercial form of calcium hypochlorite for kennel disinfection is Wysiwash, marketed in capsule form for use with a hose-end sprayer. But this chemical is also available in granular form as a swimming pool shock.
HTH pool shock generally contains between 65% and 78% HTH (the 78% is “turbo” shock); either concentration is suitable. For general sanitation, HTH can be mixed to provide 100 ppm chlorine (the concentration that the Wysiwash system delivers). Higher concentrations can be used for disinfection: Doctors Without Borders suggests 500 ppm chlorine to disinfect hands and 5000 ppm to disinfect nonliving things (contaminated surfaces and dead bodies). More info here.
Like other chlorine sanitation products, HTH does not have any detergent properties, so surfaces or hands need to be clean before use.
How to mix calcium hypochlorite:
- Use a plastic measuring spoon—metal spoons in contact with chlorine will corrode.
- To make a general sanitation solution, use 1/8 teaspoon of HTH pool shock per gallon of water. This will provide 160-195 ppm chlorine (depending on the concentration of pool shock you have).
- To make a hand disinfection solution, use ½ teaspoon HTH pool shock per gallon of water, or 1/8 teaspoon per quart or liter. This will provide 650-780 ppm chlorine (depending on the concentration of pool shock you have).
- 4 teaspoons per gallon will make a 5000 ppm chlorine solution; This solution would be more concentrated than necessary for all but the most contaminated surfaces and situations (think, bodies of people who died of ebola).
How long does HTH last?
In its powdered form, HTH should be stored in a dry place that is below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. In this form it will last for years. Be aware, however, that the fumes from HTH may penetrate the container in which it is stored and will corrode any metal they come into contact with, including not only metal measuring spoons but also metal pipes and fixtures.
Once mixed, HTH retains its chlorine concentration for longer than many other chlorine solutions: it has been shown to retain potency for a week or more.
For hand sanitation, isn’t HTH hard on your skin?
No. In a study of people sanitizing their hands with 500 ppm HTH solution 10 times a day for 4 weeks had less skin irritation than people using bar soap. Because of the neutral pH (compared with bleach’s alkaline pH), HTH does not feel slippery or irritating on the skin, and the chlorine scent is noticeable but not overwhelming.
Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate (NaDCC), sold as BruClean
Another solution that can be used as kennel disinfectant or hand sanitizer is NaDCC. This product is similar to HTH but comes in tablet form. When mixed 1 tablet per gallon according to instructions, the resulting solution contains 1000 ppm chlorine and is neutral pH and non-irritating to skin, even with repeated use (10 times a day for 28 days). More info here.
The shelf life of the tablet form is several years, but once mixed the shelf life is about 1 day.
Like other chlorine sanitation products, NaDCC does not have any detergent properties, so surfaces or hands need to be clean before use.
Surgical Hand Hygiene
Learn more with our guide to surgical hand hygiene alternatives for animal shelters.