Disinfection is one of the best ways to fight the novel coronavirus in your daily life. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using 70 percent alcohol solutions, EPA-registered household disinfectant spray or homemade diluted household bleach solutions to clean and disinfect so-called “high-touch surfaces” daily in household common areas. These “high-touch surfaces” include tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets and sinks, among other things.
Though the CDC’s list is a great start, there are a number of high-touch surfaces that may have slipped your mind. In fact, some of the dirtiest spots in your house are hiding in the most unlikely places. Here are spots you should start disinfecting now if you haven’t been already.
Think of your smartphone as the third hand you never wash. According to a survey by Deloitte, Americans check their phones about 47 times per day, giving germs plenty of opportunities to move from your fingers to your phone, even if you are washing your hands as much as the CDC recommends right now. In fact, scientists at the University of Arizona have found that cell phones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats.
To clean your phone, spray a non abrasive or alcohol-based disinfectant directly on a soft lint-free cloth and wipe down the device — front, sides and back — while it is powered down and unplugged. Do not use bleach. Wipe down your device and let it dry before turning it back on.
Cleaning your keyboard is perhaps more relevant now than ever now that many of us are working from home — same goes for a mouse, if you use one. A 2016 study from IT training company CBT Nuggets found that computer or laptop keyboards can be 20,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat.
Take disinfectant wipe or a soft, linen-free cloth dipped in isopropyl alcohol and wipe on the top and sides of each key. Then clean the surface and bottom of the keyboard thoroughly. Use a new disinfectant wipe or cloth to clean the mouse.
You’re not supposed to be touching your face, but odds are, you’re still touching your glasses. The grime from your fingers, face and exposure to the outside world can build up on the frames and lenses — plus, it’s a good idea to keep your vision clear, anyway.
Regularly wipe the frames with a disinfecting wipe or a cloth dampened with disinfecting fluid. You can use a drop of dishwashing liquid and a clean, lint-free towel to clean the lenses if you don’t have lens cleaner and a microfiber cloth, too.
If you didn’t know it before, you know it now: sponges are filthy. A 2017 study found that sponges are the dirtiest place in your house — even dirtier than the toilet bowl — with an average of over 54 billion bacterial cells.
To sanitize, rinse the sponge in one part bleach to nine parts water, or microwave the sponge in a bowl covered with water on high for about thirty seconds. Even if you sanitize your sponge after every use, researchers say you should swap sponges every week in order to keep your eating surfaces clean and sanitary.
Refrigerator door handles
A 2011 study conducted by the sanitation standards organization NSF International found refrigerator door handles to be among the dirtiest places in the kitchen, despite the fact that they don’t come into any direct contact with food. This is probably one of the most oft-forgotten “door” handles in the cleaning process, but don’t skip it when you are cleaning the other high-touch surfaces in your kitchen, like the tables and countertops.
That same 2011 study by NSF International also ranked microwave touchpads among the covertly filthy surfaces in your kitchen. Think about how many people touch that surface to reheat food every day during the quarantine.
Give that touchpad — and the microwave door handle, while you’re at it — a quick wipedown with a disinfectant spray when you are doing your daily kitchen cleaning. This also goes for any other touchpad surfaces around the house you may have neglected.
NSF International also found that toothbrush holders are the third-most germy household items, behind dish sponges and kitchen sinks. In fact, bacteria from the toilet can flick up onto your toothbrush holder with every flush, depending on where it is in your bathroom.
Make sure you thoroughly disinfect it when you are cleaning your bathroom. You should also replace toothbrushes and electric toothbrush heads regularly as well.
A 2011 study from Queen Mary University of London found that a car steering wheel has up to nine times the amount of germs as the seat of a public toilet. If you are driving around gathering essential materials to stockpile, your hands are transferring germs from outside surfaces onto your steering wheel. You may have even touched a gas pump — one of the most dirty communal services (by the way, give those a quick wipe down before you use them, if you have one on hand) — before putting your hands back on the wheel.
Use a microfiber cloth and disinfecting spray to wipe all the way around your steering wheel every time you get in and out of the car.
Research published in 2018 by the American Society for Microbiology links the bacteria commonly found on shower heads to an increased risk of respiratory illnesses.
Disinfect your showerhead regularly by filling a plastic shopping bag with a bleach solution, tying it around your showerhead and leaving overnight. Rinse away any leftover solution before using it to rinse off for yourself.
Bacteria from both your body and the world around you will hitch a ride on your clothes and end up in your laundry basket. Especially if you are cleaning linens and towels from someone who is sick (which the CDC also recommends that you do regularly), you should give your laundry basket a thorough wipe down with a disinfectant wipe or spray.
A 2013 study from Initial Washroom Hygiene, a hygiene and washroom services company in the United Kingdom, found that women’s purses contain more bacteria than the average toilet seat. If you are worried about damaging your handbag, here are some tips for disinfecting your purse without ruining it.
To clean a leather or even “pleather” bag, use a pea-sized amount of hand sanitizing gel applied to the surface of the purse with a tissue or a rag. To clean a fabric bag, dampen a microfiber towel with isopropyl alcohol and blot the bottom of the purse and the handles with the alcohol. Let the bag dry overnight in a cool place before carrying it again.
A 2011 study from Kimberly-Clark Professional showed that 68 percent of mailbox handles are germy enough to spread disease.
Make sure you disinfect your mailbox handle every time you go outside to pick up that day’s mail. Your mailman — who can’t work from home — will probably thank you, too.