UNLESS YOU’VE DISINFECTED THESE ITEMS VERY RECENTLY, YOU SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE HANLDING THEM.
One of the few places that has offered us refuge from the seemingly ubiquitous threat of the coronavirus is our own homes. But while your house is certainly safer than a packed restaurant or a crammed elevator, it’s hardly free of dangers. There are a number of things in most homes that we should all be approaching with caution—and disinfectant. Unless you’ve sanitized these items recently, you shouldn’t be touching them without gloves, according to doctors.
1 Your shoes
You’re probably very careful about washing your hands before and after you go outside. And you likely avoid touching elevator buttons or door handles without some kind of glove or disinfectant wipe. But how often are you thinking about what your shoes are bringing into your house? Probably not enough.
“When studied, the footwear of healthcare workers shows that [germs] can accumulate on the soles of shoes,” says Nishant Rao, ND, the chief medical officer for telehealth company DocTalkGo. “While this is not a significant source of viral transmission, it’s often overlooked.” Rao suggests that shoes be left outside the home before you even enter the house. To be extra safe, you should put on your shoes with gloves and disinfect your hands before and after handling them.
2 Your doorknobs
Every time you head back inside your home, you’re exposing yourself to another danger: your doorknob. But it’s not just the knob on the front door you need to worry about—your bathroom, kitchen, and even bedroom doorknobs can be rife with germs if you have not disinfected them recently.
One 2014 study presented at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) found that bacteria on a single doorknob could spread germs throughout an office building or hospital within hours. And though viruses behave differently than bacteria and offices and hospitals are far more highly trafficked than your house, you should still be proceeding with caution—and gloves. And for fast-acting disinfectants for doorknobs and more, check out 5 Disinfectants That Kill Coronavirus in 30 Seconds or Less.
3 Your light switches
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) names light switches among the items that should be cleaned and disinfected in your home daily. But we’re betting it’s been a few weeks, if not years, since you wiped your light switches down with a disinfectant. Considering you’re touching these every day, sometimes as you just come in and have yet to wash your hands, they can accumulate some serious germs. So, be sure you’re disinfecting your switches while wearing gloves and washing your hands before and after. And for more cleaning tips to keep your home safe, This Deep Cleaning Checklist Will Leave Your Home Gleaming.
4 Your toilet handle
You probably wipe down your sink and maybe even remember to clean your toilet every few weeks, but there’s a good chance even when you’re scrubbing the bowl that you overlook the handle. This metal surface can be extremely susceptible to germs, considering that you usually press the handle before you’ve had a chance to wash your hands.
“Toilets are basically a petri dish,” says Abe Malkin, MD, MBA, founder and medical director of Concierge MD LA. If you don’t have gloves handy, “before you flush, either take a moment to visit the sink or grab an additional piece of tissue to flush the handle and lower the lids,” Malkin says.
5 Your trashcan
Your trash can is full of sullied Lysol wipes and items you’ve brought in from the outside. But how often do you actually clean the can itself? Probably not very. Add to that the fact that the surface itself may be more susceptible to retaining germs—a recent New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) study found that the coronavirus can remain on plastic and metal for up to three days.
“Most trash cans have a hard surface, so viruses live longer on them than soft ones,” says Malkin. He suggests you handle these with gloves and disinfect them frequently as well.
6 Your sponges
“Sponges that people keep in their kitchens or around sinks are typically the dirtiest object you can find in your house,” says Roberto Contreras II, MD, CLCP, regional medical director of Borrego Health.
This was true before COVID-19 hit, with people often letting their sponges collect germs for weeks without replacing them, imagining that simply by putting some more dish soap on them, the germs will be killed.
Now with coronavirus concerns, it’s even more important to be sure that your sponge is disinfected consistently—and replaced often. “Regular sponge replacement is important, but to be safe, you should always think of your sponge as the dirtiest item in your house, so be cautious and use gloves whenever you handle sponges,” says Contreras.
7 Your mail and packages
Anything that comes inside your house from outside could have passed through several, or even dozens, of hands before it got to you—especially your mail and packages. Even if your mail carrier or delivery person wears gloves, you don’t know who else could have handled these items previously.
Taylor Graber, MD, owner of ASAP IVs, previously told Best Life that you should open packages and other mail in an area of your home that can be easily wiped down with a disinfectant. Designate half of the surface for “dirty” items and half for “clean” ones. Place a newly received package on the “dirty” side and open it wearing gloves. Remove the contents and any exterior packaging, such as plastic wrap, and place the item on the “clean” side, immediately disposing of all packaging materials. Then, you can dispose of your gloves.