Items most likely to harbor COVID-19 germs need cleaned daily

Items most likely to harbor COVID-19 germs need cleaned daily

Where are germs lurking in your home and office? There are plenty of everyday items that need your attention to fend off illnesses including COVID-19.


COVID-19 has made a mess of lives everywhere, but you don’t have to let it rule your life. Following are 10 places the COVID-19 virus and germs in general might lurk.

Kitchen faucet

That metal aerator screen at the end of the faucet is a total germ magnet. Running water keeps the screen moist, an ideal condition for bacteria growth. Because tap water is far from sterile, if you accidentally touch the screen with dirty fingers or food, bacteria can grow on the faucet, said microbiologist Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., director of the Environment, Exposure Science and Risk Assessment Center at the University of Arizona.

Over time bacteria build up and form a wall of pathogens called biofilm that sticks to the screen. “Eventually, that biofilm may even be big enough to break off and get onto your food or dishes,” Reynolds said.

Keep it clean: Once a week, remove the screen and soak it in a diluted bleach solution — follow the directions on the label. Replace the screen and let the water run a few minutes before using.

Garbage disposals

Bacteria from last night’s dinner could end up on today’s food and utensils if you’re not careful (especially because that raw chicken can be loaded with harmful bacteria). In fact, estimates show there are often more than 500,000 bacteria in the kitchen sink — about 1,000 times more than the average toilet has, Reynolds said.

Although the metal part of the disposal produces ions that can help kill germs, they still love to grow on the crevices in and around the slimy rubber stopper. That means your disposal can become party central for bacteria, contaminating whatever touches it — dishes, utensils, even your hands.

Keep it clean: At least once a week, clean the disposal’s rubber stopper with a diluted bleach solution; soap and water aren’t enough.

Dish towels

You know a sponge can harbor nasty germs, but dish towels are just as gross. A study of hundreds of homes across the United States found that about 7% of kitchen towels were contaminated with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), the difficult-to-treat staph bacteria that can cause life-threatening skin infections. Dish towels also rated tops for dangerous strains ofE. coli and other bacteria. We often use towels to wipe up spills, Reynolds said, then reuse before washing them, which spreads germs.

Keep it clean: Stick to paper towels to clean countertops and save the dishrag to dry just-washed pots and plates. Change towels or launder at least twice a week in hot water and bleach.

Computer keyboards

In general, the bacteria that live on our skin, fingernails and hands are likely to transfer new bacteria over to the keyboard, one 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health said.

“Eating above computer keyboards is also one of the causes of bacterial contamination.”

Yep, your sad desk salad isn’t doing you any favors. Out of 25 keyboards sampled in the study, researchers found 96% of them were contaminated with bacteria.

Keep it clean: Simply wipe your keyboard down with a disinfectant wet wipe, the study authors suggest. Clean it regularly and do your best to get in between those keys. Washing your hands before getting to work can help too.

Cell phones

Drop your cell any place that’s convenient? Research has found they carry tons of sketchy bugs. In fact, a 2017 study published in the journal Germs looked at 27 mobile phones owned by teenagers and found “bacterial contamination” on all of them. Many electronic devices are sheathed in leather or vinyl cases, which provide plenty of creases and crevices for germs to hide.

Keep it clean: First, be conscious of where you rest personal items, like public restrooms. Then your best bet will be wiping it down with a microfiber cloth, although gently using disinfectant wipes also is safe.

Welcome mats

It serves to greet not only your guests, but also all the bugs on the bottoms of their shoes. In fact, one study published in the journal Anaerobe found of the 30 homes analyzed, a bacteria causing diarrhea, fever and stomach pain was found more commonly on the bottoms of shoes than toilet seats and other bathroom surfaces.

“The area near your front door is one of the dirtiest in the house,” Reynolds said.

Once bacteria plant their stakes in your mat, anytime you walk on it, you give them a free ride into your home.

Keep it clean: Spray the doormat once a week with a fabric-safe disinfectant such as disinfectant spray. Leave shoes at the door and avoid resting bags and groceries on the mat too.

Vacuum cleaners

It’s all in the bag — including spreadable germs. “Vacuums including the brushes and bags are like meals-on-wheels for bacteria,” said Charles Gerba, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and environmental science at the University of Arizona. “You suck in all this bacteria and food, creating an atmosphere for growth.”

And the dust they emit sends those particles back out into the air, particularly bacteria and mold, per a 2013 study in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Keep it clean: Change your vacuum bag frequently and do so outdoors to avoid the cloud of bacteria that filters into the air. Vacuum bags that feature antibacterial linings are best and are available for many major brands. Clean the cavity of a bagless vacuum with diluted bleach and let it air-dry.

Car dashboards

This is your vehicle’s second-most-common spot for bacteria and mold, Gerba’s research has found. When air — which carries mold spores and bacteria — gets sucked in through the vents, it’s often drawn to the dashboard, where it can deposit the spores and germs. Because the dashboard receives the most sun and tends to stay warm, it’s prime for growth. (The number-one germ zone? Food spills.)

Keep it clean: Regularly swipe the inside of your car with disinfecting wipes. Be more vigilant during allergy season. More than 25 million Americans are affected by asthma, which is caused in part by an allergic reaction to mold.

Soap dispensers

About 25% of public restroom dispensers are contaminated by fecal bacteria. Soap that harbors bacteria may sound ironic, but that’s exactly what research has found. “Most of these containers are never cleaned, so bacteria grow as the soap scum builds up,” Gerba said. “And the bottoms are touched by dirty hands, so there’s a continuous culture going on feeding millions of bacteria.”

Shopping carts

Think about it: Hundreds of people go from cart-to-cart every day while shopping with potentially unwashed hands. In fact, after sampling 85 different grocery store shopping carts, University of Arizona researchers found various cart surfaces harbored even more bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, than what is typically found in public restrooms.

Keep it clean: While most stores are cleaning their carts regularly now, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious. At the very least, wipe down the handle of your grocery cart before you start reaching for fresh produce, the study authors say. If you find your local store doesn’t offer disinfectant wipes, carry your own travel pack to keep on hand.

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