Ringworm is not a life-threatening condition, for humans or animals, but it can be a source of considerable stress and anxiety for both pet owners and veterinary team members! It’s easily spread and challenging to eliminate, so most of us will go to great lengths to avoid it.
One of the most important facets of dealing with ringworm is environmental decontamination. Whether you’re cleaning an exam room after a patient with suspected ringworm or talking to a client about ringworm treatment, decontamination plays a crucial role.
Basics of Ringworm Decontamination
Ringworm can be spread not only through direct contact with an infected animal, but also through fomites. Microsporum canis, in particular, can persist in the environment for years!(1) Bedding, toys, and grooming implements can all carry ringworm spores, as well as human hands and clothing..Therefore, preventing the spread of ringworm requires effective environmental decontamination.
The following disinfectants are fungicidal and effective against ringworm spores:
- Bleach (diluted 1:10, or 1:32 with a 10-minute contact time)
- Peroxide-based cleaners, such as Accel/Rescue® (accelerated hydrogen peroxide) and Accel® TB (hydrogen peroxide 0.5%)
- Formula 409® (quaternary ammonium 0.3%)
- Clorox Clean-Up® (sodium hypochlorite 1.84%)(1)
Heat (above 110°F) is also effective at killing ringworm spores. This means that clothing does not necessarily need to be washed with bleach, as long as it can be dried on high heat.
Exam Room Decontamination
When cleaning an exam room after a ringworm patient, there are two basic steps: mechanical cleaning and disinfection.
Mechanical cleaning minimizes the number of ringworm spores present within the room. A Swiffer® or other electrostatic cloth is idea for use in wiping down countertops, exam tables, and other surfaces in the room. A Swiffer® duster is also ideal for cleaning the floors, although a vacuum can be used if necessary. (If you use a vacuum, you should clean out the canister after use.). The goal of mechanical cleaning is to decrease the amount of contaminated pet hair present in the room.
Next, the exam room should be disinfected. Use soap and water or an all-purpose cleaner to wipe the exam table, benches, countertops, cabinet fronts, computer keyboards, etc., and mop the floor. This step removes organic debris, which can prevent the disinfectant from working. Finally, apply a fungicidal disinfectant to all surfaces to kill remaining ringworm spores.
Environmental control is far more challenging in a home than in a practice setting. Pets often have access to large areas of the home, increasing the area that must be disinfected when the pet is diagnosed. Items that may be heavily contaminated and cannot be effectively cleaned (for example, scratching posts, collars, etc.) should be discarded.
Owners should consider confining the pet to a single easily-cleaned room during treatment. If they do so, they can perform a single thorough cleaning of the remainder of their home, limiting their ongoing daily disinfection to the region of the home to which the pet is confined.
On a daily basis, owners should disinfect the pet’s area as follows:
- Clean non-porous surfaces (floors, baseboards, countertops, etc.) with a vacuum or Swiffer®, then disinfect with bleach or another fungicidal disinfectant
- Vacuum rugs, then change vacuum bag or empty/disinfect canister
- Wash bedding and cloth toys in the washing machine and dry in the dryer on high heat
- Clean food/water bowls with disinfectant or in the dishwasher(1,2)
Clients should wear gloves when cleaning potentially-contaminated areas, so that they are not exposed to ringworm through handling contaminated materials.
Until the infection is cleared, owners should perform a deep cleaning of potentially-contaminated areas every 4-6 weeks. Deep cleaning should include the following steps:
- Have carpets professionally steam-cleaned (at-home steam cleaners may not reach high enough temperatures)
- Dry-clean curtains and other fabrics that cannot be placed in the dryer
- Change air-conditioning/furnace filter(1,3)
Also, remind clients that they will need to thoroughly disinfect their pet carrier, as well as the car that was used to transport the pet to the vet clinic!
Effective home decontamination not only decreases the risk to humans and other pets in the home, it also decreases the chance of recurrent infection in the patient receiving treatment.
- University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine. Ringworm. Retrieved from https://www.uwsheltermedicine.com/library/guidebooks/ringworm
- VIN Dermatology Consultants. 2015. Ringworm Environmental Decontamination in Homes of Dogs and Cats. Veterinary Partner. Retrieved from https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&catId=102903&id=7058488
- Anderson, M. 2015. Ringworm Part 2: Cleaning Up. Worms and Germs Blog. Retrieved from https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/2008/10/articles/animals/cats/ringworm-part-2-cleaning-up/