The new coronavirus lives for hours or days on surfaces, so it’s important to disinfect items you regularly use. Here’s how to properly sanitize cell phones, countertops, keyboards, and more.

By Nicole Harris
Updated March 13, 2020
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People usually ramp up their cleaning efforts during cold and flu season, which can stretch from October to May. But the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) has spurred extreme measures, and with good reason: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses the importance of disinfection to curb the transmission of the respiratory disease. 

The best way to prevent the coronavirus is washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, says Miryam Wahrman, Ph.D., biology professor and director of the microbiology research lab at William Paterson University and author of The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World. But your hand-washing efforts prove futile as soon as you touch your germ-ridden phone, keyboard, or doorknob—which introduces the bacteria right back onto your body.  

“Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials,” the CDC says. “Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.”

Read on to learn about five things you should disinfect regularly, with tips for proper sterilization. 

Your Cell Phone

Americans check their phones 96 times per day on average, according to November 2019 data from global tech care company Asurion. And since studies say that cell phones are even germier than toilet seats, that’s a lot of exposure to potentially disease-causing bacteria! 

Apple says consumers can use “a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes” on an iPhone’s exterior. You can also sterilize your phone with a microfiber cloth sprayed with an alcohol-based disinfectant solution, such as 70 percent isopropyl alcohol diluted with water in a one-to-one ratio. Never douse a phone in liquid or let cleaners seep into any opening. 

Credit: Grace Cary/Getty Images

High-Touch Objects

Since the coronavirus can potentially last for days on surfaces, you should regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, remote controls, light switches, and toilet handles. Not sure which products to use? Checkout the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of disinfectant products that have been proven effective against COVID-19. Many of these disinfectants need to sit on the surface for several minutes, which increases their effectiveness, before you wipe them away. Always read the instructions before use. 

Kitchen Counters

Kitchen counters tend to be a catch-all for purses, cell phones, and keys—but they’re also vital for food preparation and family gatherings. Disinfect with cleaners formulated for your countertop (some products may harm granite or marble, for example), and follow instructions on the packaging. It’s especially important to clean the countertops before preparing food or eating on them.

Keyboards

Whether you’re working in the office or telecommuting in light of coronavirus concerns, your keyboard is a hot spot for germs and bacteria. Here’s how to disinfect: After unplugging your keyboard, hold it upside down and shake it to remove loose debris. You can target any pesky spots on your keyboard with compressed air. Then, gently wipe the keys with a disinfectant wipe or a microfiber cloth sprayed with a cleaning solution.

Toys and Blankets

Little ones carry plenty of germs that cause colds, flus, and even the coronavirus. This is especially scary since coronavirus symptoms are usually mild in children—and some kids are completely asymptomatic. Toss blankets and stuffed animals in the washing machine (as long as the tags indicate it's OK), and disinfect other toys with cleaning sprays or wipes. Make sure the items dry completely before giving them back to children.

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