Hepatitis C: An In-Depth Guide


Is bleach effective at inactivating hepatitis C?

Bleach is effective at inactivating hepatitis C on a surface but has limited effectiveness inactivating hepatitis C in a syringe.

Cleaning surfaces with bleach

When cleaning up blood spills, the following steps will prevent the spread of blood-borne infections like hepatitis C:

  1. Wear gloves—torn gloves will not protect the hands from coming into contact with the blood.
  2. Carefully collect any sharp objects, such as broken glass, and put them in a sturdy plastic container such as one used for detergents.
  3. Wipe up the blood using paper towel or disposable rags and cloths.
  4. Disinfect the area with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts waters.
  5. Let sit for 10 minutes (at least).
  6. Wipe up the bleach solution using paper towel, disposable rags or cloths.
  7. Place the gloves, paper towel, rags and cloths into a durable bag and seal it.
  8. Wash hands thoroughly.

Cleaning used needles with bleach

Bleach has limited effectiveness in reducing the transmission of hepatitis C when used to clean needles before sharing. While, there is some evidence that bleach can inactivate (or kill) hepatitis C in syringes in laboratory settings, in real life settings it has not been shown to prevent the transmission of hepatitis C.

Factors that may contribute to the ineffectiveness of bleach in real life compared to laboratory experiments include: cleaning, which is multistep and time consuming, may not always been done properly for a variety of reasons; and other drug use equipment can and may be a route of transmission even when syringe cleaning is done properly.

The use of bleach to clean needles and syringes as a HIV or hepatitis C prevention strategy is not recognized by the World Health Organization, the Public Health Agency of Canada or Canada’s Best Practice Recommendations for Canadian Harm Reduction Programs (Part 2, released in 2015). 

People are encouraged to use new equipment every time they inject. If they don’t have access to new drug use equipment, they may want to try some other harm reduction strategies, including using a different route to take in the drug, reusing their own equipment, stocking up with they can get access to needle and syringe programs and buying new needles and syringes.

Revised 2017.