Agriculture and University Extension


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Cleaning and Disinfecting

The first step to prevent coronavirus spread is to frequently clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.


Disenfecting a tractorOn farms, high-touch surfaces include: 

In and on vehicles and tractors 

  • Door handles (inside and out) 
  • Steering wheels 
  • Keys 
  • Gear controls 
  • Center consoles 
  • Radio knobs 
  • Other control panel buttons 
  • Glove boxes 
  • Seatbelts 
  • Other surfaces in shared equipment 

Tractor Cab Cleaning poster (PDF)
tractor cab cleaning poster thumbnail

Video: Tractor Biosecurity – Cab Interior

Around shops and other farm buildings

  • Door handles and control buttons 
  • Light switches 
  • Bathroom surfaces 
  • Shared tools 
  • Common meeting areas for employees (table and chairs) 
  • Bathrooms 
  • Kitchenettes (refrigerator door handles, cupboard handles, coffee pot, etc.) 

To clean these surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends starting with warm water and soap to remove the physical dust, dirt and grime particles. Use a microfiber cloth in the warm, soapy water to first clean tractor and vehicle interiors. A microfiber cloth will help collect dirt and dust, and prevent the particles from scratching interior surfaces. Rinse with clean water after washing to remove soap residue, which could become an attractant for dust. 

Be careful when using soap and water near electrical equipment, such as touchscreen monitors. Electrical equipment is sensitive to moisture, especially along monitor edges. Alcohol wipes are be a better option for most screens. Refer to your tractor or vehicle owners manual for proper cleaning procedures of electrical units and touchscreen monitors. 

Once the physical dirt, dust and grime is removed, use a household disinfectant to kill bacteria and viruses on the surfaces. Do not use bleach or hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectants in your tractor and vehicle interiors, as they can damage upholstery. Touchscreen monitors should not be disinfected with ammonia-based disinfectants, as ammonia can damage the anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings. See a list of EPA-registered household disinfectants and more guidance on the CDC website. Follow product label instructions for application, and wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when applying the product.

After you have cleaned and disinfected high-touch surface areas, wash your hands. Also, get into the habit of washing your hands before you enter and after you exit your tractor and vehicle.  

Encourage everyone on your farm to wash their hands and use hand sanitizers frequently. Stock your shop’s wash station with soap and disposable towels, and provide hand sanitizer for employees to carry. Clean workspaces often, and supply a garbage bag to throw away contaminated materials, such as gloves or wipes, that can easily be removed at the end of each shift or task. 

Communicating Cleaning and Disinfecting Procedures

Develop cleaning and sanitation procedures to clearly communicate with employees. A great time to do this is before spring fieldwork.

Ideas to consider

  • Create a cleaning and sanitizing record sheet. You and your employees can record the date, time, equipment or tools and how you cleaned or sanitized them. Keep this paper record in a binder in a high-traffic area in the shop. Disinfect the pen often or carry your own writing tool when making entries. See the AgSafe sanitation checklist.
  • Assign tractors, tools, trucks, etc. to individual employees on your operation to use throughout the season. If you have enough equipment and employees on your operation, dedicate each piece of equipment to an employee. By not sharing equipment among employees, you reduce the risk of spreading germs. Have a cleaning protocol and log sheet with any equipment used by more than one employee. 
  • Create a list of tasks that each employee has and cross-train employees in case the employee becomes sick. With this list, you are better prepared to keep those operations going when your employee is ill or recovering. 
  • Place stickers inside equipment to remind operators to wipe the steering wheel, key/ignition switch, gear shift, door handles, radio and climate control knobs, etc. before exiting the equipment. 
  • Develop a “start clean, end clean” policy for each shift on your farm. Designate who will wipe down and sanitize high-touch surfaces at the beginning of the workday, and have the employee clean surfaces at the end of their time in the equipment. 

Make sure all parties involved in your operation are aware of your policies so that you can all work as a team. As the farm owner, communicating a plan to your family and employees, whether they are full-time employees or occasional help, is the first step in worker safety.

As the farm manager, take time to become familiar with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and North Dakota Department of Health COVID-19 websites. 

Disinfectant vs. Sanitizer

Disinfecting means killing or removing all the contaminants, and sanitizing means reducing the number of contaminants. Non-porous materials can be cleaned and disinfected since the contaminants are only on the surface (metal, for example). Disinfecting non-porous materials typically requires a certain concentration of disinfectant applied in adequate quantity for a specified time.

However, porous materials typically are sanitized because some contaminants are within the material (such as a leather-like seat). Alcohol gels are hand sanitizers because skin is porous.


Filed under: covid19
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