The Most Infectious Items
As the pandemic rages on, it’s important to restrict not only whom but what you allow into your home. Although the CDC maintains that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spread mainly by person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets, it can dwell on a number of objects for varying periods of time. Should you tempt fate by bringing those objects home without taking precautions, there’s always a possibility of transmission.
Dealing in dollars and coins on the daily is a risky business during the pandemic. The virus can live on copper coins for up to four hours, according to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, and while some experts believe bills are less likely to harbor it because they are porous, a study in The Lancet found that it can survive on banknotes for up to four days. The safest payment methods, according to the World Health Organization, are contactless forms of payment, such as online or Apple Pay transactions.
The glass and aluminum in a cellphone make it yet another hotbed for viral particles, according to Business Insider. While it would be impractical to ditch your phone completely during social distancing, avoid passing your phone around to housemates to share photos or other media; instead, digitally transfer anything you'd like to share. Likewise, disinfect your phone with a dampened microfiber cloth after retrieving it from a bathroom or any surface in a public place.
While now is the time to be neighborly, it’s unwise to lend your spare house key to your neighbors so they can check your mail or keep an eye on your property, nor should you accept someone else’s keys. As it does on other metals, the virus can survive on house keys for up to three days, according to GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, so keep your keys to yourself, and wash them off periodically.
Rented Gym Equipment
With gyms around the country closed, some are offering equipment rentals to help exercise enthusiasts get their fitness fix. But you might get more than an adrenaline rush if you jump on the offer. According to GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, chances are high that someone coughed or sneezed and then touched the weights and other metal equipment at the gym before you brought them home. To stay safe, sanitize any rental equipment before you pump iron.
Online shopping has really exploded in recent months, but the cardboard boxes that get dropped off on your porch may pack unwanted surprises. The virus that causes COVID-19 can last on cardboard for up to 24 hours, so if you want to be vigilant, set up a spot in your home that’s just for these deliveries, or unpack and dispose of the boxes outside rather than bringing them indoors.
According to the CDC, it’s risky to touch keypad-like devices if they're not sanitized beforehand, so keep your hands clear of the signature device that your mail carrier brings when delivering important packages. The United States Postal Service is rolling out a modified procedure for packages that require a signature on delivery. Under the new procedure, if signature is required, you can instead verify your identity by providing your name—from a safe distance, of course.
Grocery Store Flyers
No matter how deep the discounts are at your local supermarket, refrain from reaching for the weekly flyer or bringing it home. Chances are that many hands have touched these handbills before you, and the virus can last on printing paper for up to three hours. If you’re curious about what’s on sale, eye the latest deals online or through a mobile app, if your market offers one.
The communal to-go silverware bin at your favorite take-out spot may also be serving up unwanted microbes to go. As well, if any of the restaurant staff have the virus, it could be passed to the silverware pack that they toss into your pickup order, and the virus could remain on the plastic for up to seven days. In lieu of dining with disposable plastic forks, knives, and spoons, get your grub on with your own clean cutlery.
The long survival time of the virus on plastic also means that ketchup, mustard, and mayo can make for a killer burger if you get them in packets from a restaurant. Remember, you're not the only person copping some condiments. Other patrons may touch several packets as they grab a few on their way out of the pickup zone of a restaurant. Instead of drawing from a communal container, grab a few bottles of your favorite condiments on your next trip to the grocery store to keep your food flavorful without risking your health.
Reusable Grocery Bags
While plastic grocery bags come with perils of their own during the pandemic, they’re unlikely to live in your home long if you empty and immediately discard them in the bin with gloved hands. In contrast, reusable bags permanently reside in your home, and studies have found that half of them are filled with menacing microbes like E. coli. While single-use plastic bags are making a comeback during the pandemic as a result of these fears, eco-friendly shoppers can choose to regularly clean their bags with disinfecting wipes, or, when in doubt, pop them in the washing machine.
Sympathy cards are reportedly selling out amidst the pandemic, but the three-hour life of the coronavirus on paper means that the thoughtful gesture could spread more than cheer. Instead of conveying your good wishes or condolences via paper greeting cards, opt for e-cards, text messages, or good old-fashioned phone calls, and handle any cards you receive with caution.
Tissues at the Doctor’s Office
If you get the OK from your doctor to come in for an office visit, you may be tempted to grab a tissue in the waiting room to protect you from having to touch the door handle on your way out. But given that a number of sick patients could have potentially touched that tissue box before you, and that paper products are capable of hosting the virus for up to three hours, you’re better off bringing a pair of gloves from home to make a safe exit.
While a do-it-yourself furniture project is a great way to overcome quarantine-induced cabin fever, think twice before you source recycled pallets or other wooden planks from a local venue. Lumber mill workers, fellow wood seekers, and others may have handled them before you tossed them into the bed of your truck, and with the virus capable of living on wood for up to two days, bringing them home may increase the risk of transmission to someone in your household.
Your “Outside” Clothes
After heading out for a grocery store run or caring for a sick family member, take care where you toss your clothes. There’s a slim chance they may have caught the respiratory droplets of people who have the virus. The virus can live on fabric for up to two days, so high-risk individuals may want to confine those "outside" clothes to a certain area of the home, or even wash them immediately if they have been near people with symptoms of the virus.
Want a cleaner, tidier, more organized home? Sign up for the Clean Sweep newsletter to receive weekly tips, tools, and bright ideas that will help you maximize your next cleaning session.