With lockdown orders and recommendations still in effect across the country, in an effort to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, many people spend more time at home than they ever have before. However, having only a single misstep as you reenter your house after a ride outside may be undoing such preventative measures, contaminating interior surfaces with coronavirus.
Where could the coronavirus be lurking, then? With the help of top experts, we've rounded up the areas in your home where you're most likely to catch coronavirus.
1. Your Front Doorknob - Before you even set foot inside your front door, you may come into contact with the coronavirus. According to Enchanta Jenkins, MD, MHA, FACOG, doorknobs are one of the most commonly polluted surfaces in the household, since they're more likely to be touched by your own unwashed hands and the hands of others — from delivery workers to mail carriers. So, exactly how germ-laden is the normal doorknob?
In a 2016 study conducted at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, researchers found 1,323 bacterial colonies, as well as mold and fungus, on a sample of just 27 door handles. Unfortunately, according to a 2020 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on non-copper metal surfaces (including doorknobs), coronavirus can survive for up to three days, meaning that even if nobody has come in or out of your home for some time, you could still be at risk.
2. Your Desk and Keyboard - If you don't wash your hands before you sit down in front of your computer, you might want to start. Jenkins notes that among the things most likely to be infected in your house are electronic keyboards and writing surfaces.
In reality, in a 2018 report published in the International Journal of Environmental Science and Public Health, 96 percent of the keyboards swabbed tested positive for microbes including staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria responsible for staph infections; streptococcus, which may cause strep infections; and both yeast and mold. You may not be keen on your gadgets using harsh cleaners, which is understandable. Fortunately, there are other options. Jenkins says that without damaging it, you can use a UV light wand or other type of UV disinfecting device to tackle your keyboard.
3. Your Entryway Table - If you put your wallet, purse, or keys in a shopping cart, on the floor of a public space, or even on your car seat with groceries that you haven't disinfected yet, you're potentially opening the way for illness to enter your home. 138 out of 145 bags tested positive for bacterial contamination in a 2015 study published in Advanced Biomedical Research. Inside the house, bags or purses or keys that have come into the home from outside trips can cross-contaminate items, such as tables, "Jenkins explains." So before plopping your bag down on the kitchen table, think twice.
4. Your Kitchen Sink - Before washing your hands, it can seem counterintuitive to clean your sink, but your sink may become a coronavirus transmission hotspot without daily sanitizing. 45 percent of kitchen sinks tested positive for coliform bacteria, which may indicate fecal contamination, according to a 2011 report from the public health and safety organization NSF. Fortunately, it is easy to protect yourself: periodically clean your sink and wash your hands before and after cooking to remain healthy, Jenkins advises.
5. Your Kitchen Countertops - Kitchen counters are among the most commonly polluted objects in your house, says Jenkins, because of all the stuff you bring down on them, including letters, keys, and grocery bags. Coronavirus may live on paper for up to three hours, according to a 2012 study published in The Lancet, while the aforementioned New England Journal of Medicine study showed that on plastic objects, such as plastic grocery bags and water bottles, coronavirus may live for up to three days.
That means you could contaminate your counters unintentionally just by resting these things on them day after day. Luckily, there's an easy fix. "This can be avoided by putting items in a specific place, such as the door in a garage or just inside the door in a designated area, and by washing hands frequently when entering the home for the first time," Jenkins says.
6. Your Kid's Toyboxes - If you want to keep your home free of coronavirus, you'd be wise to start giving your kids' toys a thorough cleaning. As reported by the CDC, a small study of pediatric coronavirus cases showed that 68 percent included no cough , fever, or shortness of breath, suggesting it could be more likely for children to transmit coronavirus without their parents recognizing they have it. And considering that small kids are likely to be putting toys in their mouth — or at the very least, holding them with unwashed hands — toy boxes are a veritable petri dish.
Remember that the virus can survive on plastic for up to three days. A 2005 report published in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that on cotton, which is bad news for plush toys, a coronavirus similar to the one causing COVID-19 could survive for up to 24 hours. And that's not all. Plastic toys from private homes and daycare centers were swabbed in a 2019 report published in the International Journal of Environmental Science and Public Health, and each one tested positive for coliform bacteria. So, how should you mitigate the risk for your family? Jenkins says that "frequent hand washing[by] individuals using these items and frequently disinfecting these items" can prevent transmission at home. And if you are eager to keep your whole family healthy, this is the one thing you shouldn't let your children do in the midst of coronavirus.
7. Your Refrigerator Handles - One of the best ways to shield yourself against coronavirus infection against a possible source? Wipe the refrigerator's handle off before you open it, as Jenkins suggests. In a 2012 report from Kimberly-Clark 's Safe Workplace Initiative, 26 percent of refrigerator door handles examined in an office environment had elevated levels of bacterial infection. And if you put away your grocery without washing your hands first after possible exposure, you might contaminate your home with coronavirus in the same way.