7 Home Surfaces Most Likely to Be Contaminated with Coronavirus
Experts reveal the most potentially dangerous surfaces in your house.
With lockdown orders and recommendations still in effect across the country, many people are spending more time at home than they ever have before in an effort to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. However, making just a single misstep when you reenter your house after a trip outside could be undoing those preventative efforts, contaminating interior surfaces with coronavirus.
So, where might coronavirus be lurking? With the help of top experts, we've rounded up the areas in your home where you're most likely to catch coronavirus. And if you want more tips for protecting yourself, check out these 18 Things You Should Sanitize Every Day But Aren't.
Your front doorknob
You may be coming into contact with coronavirus before you even set foot inside your front door. According to Enchanta Jenkins, MD, MHA, FACOG, doorknobs are one of the most frequently contaminated surfaces in the home, as they're more likely to be touched by your own unwashed hands and the hands of others—from delivery people to mail carriers.
So, just how germ-laden is the average doorknob? In a 2016 study conducted at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, researchers found 1,323 bacterial colonies, as well as mold and fungus, on a sample of just 27 door handles. Unfortunately, according to a 2020 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, coronavirus can survive for up to three days on non-copper metal surfaces (including doorknobs), meaning that even if nobody's come in or out of your home for some time, you could still be at risk. Looking for easy ways to stay safe? Check out these 15 Ways to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus at Home.
Your desk and keyboard
If you're not already washing your hands before sitting down at your computer, you might want to start.
Jenkins says that computer keyboards and writing surfaces are among the items most likely to be contaminated in your home. In fact, in a 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 96 percent of the keyboards swabbed tested positive for organisms including staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria responsible for staph infections; streptococcus, which can cause strep infections; and both yeast and mold.
You may not be keen on using harsh cleaners on your electronics, which is understandable. Fortunately, there are other solutions. Jenkins says that you can use a UV light wand or other type of UV disinfecting device to tackle your keyboard without damaging it.
Your entryway table
If you've put your wallet, purse, or keys into a shopping cart, on the floor of a public place, or even on the seat of your car with groceries you haven't yet disinfected, you're potentially opening a pathway for disease to enter your home. In a 2015 study published in Advanced Biomedical Research, 138 out of 145 purses tested positive for bacterial contamination.
"Bags or purses or keys that have come into the home from outside trips may cross-contaminate items inside the house, like tables," explains Jenkins. So think twice before plopping your bag down on the kitchen table.
Your kitchen sink
It may feel counterintuitive to clean your sink before washing your hands, but without regular sanitizing, your sink could become a hotspot for coronavirus transmission. According to a 2011 report from public health and safety organization NSF, 45 percent of kitchen sinks tested positive for coliform bacteria, which may indicate fecal contamination.
Fortunately, protecting yourself is simple: Disinfect your sink regularly and wash your hands before and after cooking to stay safe, recommends Jenkins.
Your kitchen countertops
Kitchen counters are among the most frequently contaminated items in your home, says Jenkins, because of all the things you put down on them, including mail, keys, and grocery bags. According to a 2012 study published in The Lancet, coronavirus can survive on paper for up to three hours, while the aforementioned New England Journal of Medicine study found that coronavirus can survive for up to three days on plastic surfaces, like plastic shopping bags and water bottles. That means that you could be inadvertently contaminating your counters just by resting these items on them day after day.
Luckily, there's an easy fix.
"This can be avoided by putting items in one particular place, like by the door in a garage or just inside the door in a designated area, and frequently washing hands when first entering the home," says Jenkins.
Your kids' toy boxes
If you want to keep your home free of coronavirus, you'd be wise to start giving your kids' toys a thorough cleaning.
As reported by the CDC, a small study of pediatric coronavirus cases found that 68 percent included no cough, fever, or shortness of breath, meaning it may be more likely for children to spread coronavirus without their parents realizing they have it. And considering that small kids are likely to be putting toys in their mouth—or at the very least, holding them with unwashed hands—toy boxes are a veritable petri dish. Remember that the virus can survive on plastic for up to three days. A 2005 report published in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that a coronavirus similar to the one that causes COVID-19 could survive for up to 24 hours on cotton, which is bad news for plush toys.
And that's not all. A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health swabbed plastic toys from private homes and daycare centers, and every single one tested positive for coliform bacteria.
So, how should you mitigate your family's risk? Jenkins says that you can prevent transmission at home with "frequent hand washing [by] people using these items and disinfecting these items frequently." And if you're eager to keep your whole family healthy, This Is the One Thing You Shouldn't Let Your Kids Do Amid Coronavirus.
Your refrigerator handles
One of the easiest ways to protect yourself from a potential source of coronavirus transmission? Wipe down the handle of your fridge before you open it, as Jenkins advises.
In a 2012 study from Kimberly-Clark's Healthy Workplace Project, 26 percent of refrigerator door handles tested in an office setting had high levels of bacterial contamination. And if you're putting away your groceries without first washing your hands following potential exposure, you could be similarly contaminating your home with coronavirus. If you want to decontaminate your whole space, discover these 10 Disinfectants That Kill Coronavirus Faster Than Lysol Wipes.