Our immune systems are usually extremely effective at warding off all types of illnesses. While harmful, even viruses such as those that cause colds and flu, are normally taken care of by our immune systems without us noticing.
Of course, this means we’re playing an unnecessarily risky game of chance each time we knowingly (or unknowingly) touch an unsanitized surface. Sure, you’re probably going to be fine, but why take the risk?
There is also the possibility that you might spread a deadly illness that could endanger others without you displaying any symptoms or discomfort. This arguably makes sanitizing as social an activity as it is a personal one.
Of course, using gloves while outside is an excellent option for reducing your risk of infection from contaminated objects and surfaces. However, while gloves may be useful for use in public spaces, you may not want to keep them on at home or at your workplace.
In these cases, it’s important to be mindful of which objects you should sanitize frequently. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to sanitize surfaces in your home at least once a week—and daily for those at your place of work. You may want to increase the frequency depending on how many people you live with or have to interact with at work. Here are some everyday objects you should pay special attention to.
1. Doorknobs and Door Handles
Unless you are extremely lucky and have touch-free motion-activated doors throughout your home and workplace, doorknobs are one of the most likely places where you can get other people’s germs.
Frequently sanitizing doorknobs, particularly on the doors people use the most, is a great way to prevent the spread of touch-borne illnesses.
2. Door Buzzers
You probably have your own key and won’t need to use your door buzzer very often. However, it can still be a potential fomite for diseases because multiple people may be using the buzzer, especially at work.
3. Keyboards and Mice
Shared keyboards and mice, such as those you might find at many workstations, should be sanitized daily, preferably at the beginning of each shift.
Keyboards and mice that aren’t shared, however, can go longer between cleanings provided that the person using them consistently practices proper hand hygiene.
Your phone is probably dirtier than most toilet seats. You’re likely to hold it up against your face as well, which makes it a particularly serious fomite for illnesses.
Given that we use them extremely frequently, phones should be sanitized daily, especially if you lay them on potentially contaminated surfaces such as work desks or restaurant tables.
5. Employee Biometrics Devices
Many workplaces have fingerprint scanners that track employees and allow access to different facilities. If left unsanitized, these fingerprint scanners can easily become contaminated.
Fortunately, most of these can be wiped down and cleaned up multiple times a day without damage. Users of these biometrics scanners should also take care to immediately wash their hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after having their fingers scanned.
6. ATM and Microwave Keypads
Any publicly accessible keypads, such as those on an ATM or a shared office microwave can be another overlooked fomite for touch-transmitted diseases. Be sure to wear gloves or to thoroughly sanitize any shared keypads before use.
7. Toilet Flush Handles
Because they’re often so infrequently cleaned, toilet flush handles are likely to host more germs than toilet seats. Be sure to prioritize disinfecting the handle over the seat the next time you use a public toilet.
Our faces are extremely vulnerable to microbes, including coronaviruses. If you wear eyeglasses or sunglasses frequently, you may have to often readjust these with potentially contaminated hands.
You can normally hand wash eyewear in a sink with some liquid dishwashing detergent to remove microbes, as well as oils and dried sweat that could provide them with a food source. Be sure to pat your eyewear dry with a clean absorbent cloth to avoid scratching them.
9. Refrigerator Door Handles
Few things at home are as frequently touched as refrigerator handles. E. coli, Salmonella, and other contaminants can be frequently found on refrigerator handles. As such, be sure to sanitize fridge handles frequently, especially when handling raw meat or unwashed vegetables.
10. Steering Wheels, Shifters, and Dashboards
Frequently-touched surfaces in our car can also potentially harbor deadly touch-transmitted bacteria and viruses.
If you share your car with other people that aren’t close family members or housemates, be sure to sanitize the steering wheel, shifter, entertainment console, touch screens, and dashboard before use. If you’re the only one that uses your car, weekly or even monthly sanitation as part of maintenance should be sufficient.
11. Toothbrush Holders
Toothbrush holders and caddies can easily spread illnesses within a household. Be sure to sanitize them weekly—about as often as you should clean a bathroom.
12. Laundry Baskets
Dirty clothes can host contaminants that can spread to your laundry baskets, and potentially, throughout your household as well. Be sure to clean them during your weekly bathroom scrub-downs as well.
13. Mailbox Handles
Your friendly neighborhood mailman is a hero in more ways than you can imagine. They may have to handle hundreds of parcels and mailboxes every day.
Who knows that other people do before they touch their mailbox? Always be sure to regularly sanitize your mailbox handles.
14. Everyday bags and purses
We all have our favorite everyday bags, but we have to remember that they can collect an incredible amount of filth. Whenever you lay them on the floor, on a public bathroom counter, or use them in public transport, they can accumulate all kinds of nasty contaminants that you don’t want to be near you.
Wash your bags and switch them out now and then to reduce your risk of catching a touch-transmitted illness.
15. Kitchen Sponges
Kitchen sponges should be cleaned after every use. If food particles get left in them, these can host all kinds of nasty bacteria that could come in contact with your plates and utensils.
You can saturate them with water and microwave them for a minute or two to thoroughly disinfect even the hard to reach bits.
16. Light and Appliance Switches
Light and appliance switches at your workplaces should be sanitized daily or even more frequently if more than just a couple of people use them.
Light switches in your home may get away with less frequent sanitizing but you still have to pay extra attention to switches and appliances you have in your bathroom due to potential gut bacteria contamination. Consider sanitizing these switches more often.
17. Faucet Handles
These are perhaps the trickiest objects on this list. While handwashing is a recommended step to prevent infection from different diseases, the very handles we use to open and close our taps are probably teeming with fecal bacteria and other nasty microbes as well. This makes sense because you need to touch the faucet handles to turn the water on after you do your business.
This can be mitigated by observing proper handwashing technique and switching to lever-type faucets that could be activated with your wrist or elbows.
While you have control over what you could or couldn’t clean in your home or workplace, the same isn’t always true for public spaces such as supermarkets and public transit. In these situations, you should have a bottle of sanitizer or a pair of gloves ready, just in case you need to come in direct contact with something you probably should be wary of.