5 Things You Might be Forgetting to Disinfect, According to an Epidemiologist

published May 11, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

When you go out for essential errands, you take hygiene precautions like wearing a mask and thoroughly washing your hands afterward. You might even know it’s a good idea to set your bags of groceries on the floor instead of the counter to avoid cross-contamination, and that you should remove your potentially germ-ridden shoes when you enter your home.

But how often do you think about disinfecting all the other items you touched when you were out and about? We asked Melissa Hawkins, an epidemiologist at American University, about which surfaces might be flying under the radar as germ-carrying fomites.

If you find relief in spraying and wiping down every possible surface right now, don’t forget to focus on disinfecting these five things. But Hawkins emphasizes that it’s important for people to sanitize to their comfort level without feeding anxiety.

“There’s a level of vigilance people should take with disinfecting commonly neglected items, but only if it will make them more comfortable,” Hawkins says. “If constantly sanitizing everything will breed anxiety, then just focus on the things that will bring you the most comfort.”

Your glasses or sunglasses 

Since the novel coronavirus can enter through the eyes, you have an edge on germs if you wear glasses. But since your glasses (or sunglasses) serve as a barrier to viruses or bacteria that could make you sick, Hawkins recommends disinfecting them after you go out—especially since they’ll stay on your face after the fact. 

To disinfect any pair of glasses, run them under warm water, then use a drop or two of dish soap on your fingers to clean the lenses and the glasses’ surface. Rinse them clean, and wipe dry with a lens cloth. Never use a shirt, dish towel, or paper towel, since they could scratch the lenses.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Your keys

Your key fob and actual keys could be carrying germs, too, so make sure to de-germ them before tossing them back in your purse or hanging them on their hook. You can use a disinfecting wipe or spray on the actual keys, but use more care on the fob if there’s a battery component. You can use a dab of rubbing alcohol on a rag to wipe the fob down, then allow it to air dry. And while you’re trying to reduce your risk of catching germs, it’s not a bad idea to simplify your key chain to only the essentials, and keep your extra keys and decorative keychains in the drawer for a little while.

Read more: How to Clean and Disinfect Your House Keys

Your credit card or debit card 

If you slide your debit or credit card through a machine, Hawkins says it’s unlikely the card will carry and transmit germs. But if you handed your card to someone else, even if that person was wearing gloves, always disinfect it with a Lysol or Clorox wipe or disinfectant spray.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Your wallet or purse

Did you pull your wallet out at the store or set it on the register area to pull out your debit card, ID, or coupons? Was your purse hanging out in the cart? Those will need a good disinfecting, too. To de-germ a leather wallet (or bag, for that matter), mix up a solution of hot water and dish soap, dip a microfiber cloth in it, wipe down the leather, and dry with a clean towel. You can throw cloth in the laundry on the express cycle, then air dry.

Your steering wheel 

When Hawkins goes out, she carries disinfecting wipes in her bag and wipes down her steering wheel after arriving home. Even if you sanitize your hands in the car, there’s a chance you’re spreading germs, which can survive up to 72 hours, to the steering wheel too. If you want to take her practice a step further, you can also use a Lysol or Clorox wipe on the car door handle, both inside and outside.