Research shows that viruses can live on some of these surfaces for hours or even days.

By Jillian Kramer
Updated April 21, 2020
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Credit: Martine Doucet / Getty Images

Regularly disinfecting your home's highest-traffic areas can wipe away many microbial risks, from bacteria to fungi to viruses and even teeny, tiny worms. But with research showing the virus that causes COVID-19 can live on surfaces for hours—and as long as days on stainless steel—it's more important than ever to clean these areas regularly, and correctly. Here are the five areas to which you should pay special attention over the coming weeks and beyond.

Kitchen appliances, utensils, and surfaces.

Your kitchen appliances, utensils, and surfaces—including cutting boards, coffee makers, stove tops, refrigerators, countertops, and sink—come in regular contact with uncooked and unwashed food, so they're inhabited by bacteria, says Rodney E. Rohde, Ph.D., program chair for the Clinical Laboratory Science program at Texas State University. In fact, research from the National Sanitation Foundation has found that areas where food is stored or prepared—e.g., the kitchen— have more bacteria and fecal matter than any other place in the home, including the bathroom.

(And bringing food from grocery stores into your kitchen is just one way you can potentially introduce SARSCoV2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, to this high-traffic area.)

Knobs, handles, switches, and remotes.

If you can grab it, you can put bacteria, viruses, fungi, and SARSCoV2 on it. And items such as knobs, handles, switches—including lights, and those on appliances—and remotes are "high-touch" surfaces that often contain more bacteria than other areas of our homes, Rohde explains.

The bathroom.

It's obvious, but the bathroom is definitely one high-traffic area you should disinfect regularly. While it's one area of your home you likely clean more routinely—which helps to minimize microbial growth—it shouldn't be overlooked, Rohde says, or microbes like E. Coli can grow.

Makeup brushes and contact lens' cases.

Anything that comes in contact with your face—and especially your eyes—should be regularly disinfected. "Make up applicators and contact lens' storage can be reservoirs for microbes that cause skin and eye infections," says Rohde. (And, of course, SARSCoV2 in our eyes or mouth can lead to contracting COVID-19.) In addition to regularly disinfecting these items, you can store them in clean, dry places, at room temperature to limit bacterial growth, Rohde says.

Your cell phone and other high-use personal items.

Your cell phone—as well as your tablet, hairbrush, earbuds, and more—are things you may use every day, and often before you've washed your hands. "All types of microbes have been found on these devices [and items]," Rohde says, including bacteria and viruses such as SARSCoV2.

But it's not just about how often you disinfect these areas; how you do it matters, too. Rodhe says you must first clean surfaces before disinfecting them, removing any soil or debris. That kind of uncleanliness "can interfere with the effectiveness of any disinfectant," he explains. One they're clean, then you can disinfect with your disinfectant of choice, like all-purpose cleaner or wipes.

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