11 Ways You're Spreading Germs All Over Your Home Without Realizing It

These everyday habits could be making your home a hotbed for bacteria and viruses.

With coronavirus still looming large around the globe, keeping a clean home has never been a bigger priority. While washing your hands and using disinfectant products to sanitize surfaces is a good place to start, even the most conscientious individuals are likely to still be accidentally cross-contaminating their home, putting themselves and their loved ones in harm's way.

In order to protect yourself, here's what experts want you to know about the ways you're spreading germs in your home without realizing it. And to make sure you're keeping your house virus-free, These Are the Household Cleaners That Destroy the Coronavirus.

You're not sanitizing your cell phone when you return home.

gloved hands cleaning phone

Your cell phone may feel like it's practically part of your body, but if you're bringing it into grocery stores or other crowded places with you and not sanitizing it upon returning home, odds are you're cross-contaminating your space.

So, how is this happening? "We touch the tuna can in the store, and then the phone, the door on the milk case, and then our phone," explains public health expert Carol Winner, MPH, MSE, founder of Give Space. "All it takes, potentially, is a touch of not just the phone, but pretty much any surface in the house where we have set the phone" to cross-contaminate a space. To play things safe, Winner recommends disinfecting your phone when you return home, or, better yet, leaving it in your car while you shop.

You're bringing in your mail immediately.

young black woman in glasses opening mail

Coronavirus can live on some surfaces for up to three days, meaning the mail you bring inside could be harboring pathogens without you even realizing it.

To avoid making this mistake, Winner suggests leaving any non-essential mail outside of the home (or in a garage or mudroom) for a few days before bringing them into your living space. If you want to avoid contaminating your home, Here's Exactly How Doctors Say to Sanitize Your Mail and Packages.

You're opening packages in your living space.

woman wearing mask opening package on couch inside home
Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

We know how exciting it is to open a package, but you could be putting your health at risk by doing so.

If you want to stay safe, Winner recommends opening packages "away from the living area and tossing them in the recycle bins," then wiping any surfaces they may have touched with either soap and water or a disinfectant cleaner. When possible, launder or wipe down the contents inside the package for an extra layer of protection.

You're touching your face before washing your hands.

Shot of a young woman blowing her nose with her boyfriend in the background

If you don't immediately wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when you return from running errands, your home could become cross-contaminated in no time.

"Think of the virus like glitter," says Winner. "You will get cross-contamination from walking into the house and touching kitchen countertops, or the TV remotes, and worse, your face."

You're wearing the same gloves at home as you wore outside.

Technique to take off disposable gloves. - Image

Gloves may keep coronavirus from getting on your skin, but they can also be a surprising source of cross-contamination in your home.

"The longer you wear your gloves, the more unfamiliar objects and bacteria you'll come into contact with," explains health coach and licensed medical acupuncturist Jamie Bacharach, Dipl. Ac. If you're wearing the same gloves you wore outside into your home, you're likely to get anything you touched while out onto your interior surfaces, too. And if you want to keep your home cleaner, make sure you know these 18 Things You Should Sanitize Every Day But Aren't.

You're wearing shoes inside your home.

woman changing from heels into sneakers inside her home
Shutterstock/Dragana Gordic

If you want to keep your feet warm at home, have a pair of slippers handy—but leave those shoes at the door.

"Tons of bacteria live on your shoes, and when you walk around your house with them on, you are essentially spreading that throughout your house," explains Kevin Mahoney, CEO of Aura Prep, a company specializing in industrial, commercial, and residential cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.

You're wearing clothes you've worn in public inside your home.

young asian woman texting on couch

Keeping yourself safe during the pandemic may mean doing a little more laundry than usual.

Since clothing can potentially harbor the virus, your outfit could be the culprit. "When you're in the house and lay down on the couch, you have now cross-contaminated," explains Mahoney. Want to limit your risk of contaminating your space? Start with these 7 Coronavirus Laundry Tips You Need to Start Following.

You're emptying your pocket or purse without cleaning its contents.

woman emptying wallet onto desk

Resting items from your pocket or purse on a surface in your home might be spreading the virus or other germs throughout your space.

"You may have put your hands in your pocket or the contents were already dirty to start off with; this can lead to cross-contamination in your household," explains Mahoney.

You're using the same cotton cleaning cloth on every surface.

hands in blue nitrile gloves cleaning surface

Those rags you're using to clean your house could actually be spreading bacteria and viruses.

"Microfiber tools are made to attract and capture up to 99 percent of dirt, bacteria, and other pathogens, while cotton fiber tools are made to attract 33 [percent]," explains cleaning expert Sean Parry, director of U.K.-based home cleaning company Neat Services. That means if you're using the latter, you're more likely to transfer bacteria or viruses from surface to surface, says Parry.

You're using a mop bucket.

close up photograph of a mop and bucket with shallow depth of field

That bucket of dingy mop water is just as bacteria-laden as it looks.

"Water buckets for rinsing mop heads hold dirty water, which can easily drip onto surfaces, get on the cleaner's hands or gloves, or directly transfer pathogens back to the mop head," says Parry. To limit cross-contamination, he recommends spraying cleaner directly onto your floor and regularly replacing or laundering your mop pad. And if you want to check one chore off your list, here's Why You Shouldn't Clean Your Air Conditioning Unit Amid Coronavirus.

You're using a non-HEPA vacuum.

young black man vacuuming carpet

All vacuums aren't created equal when it comes to keeping your space clean. While a regular vacuum can possibly spread contaminants around, "HEPA filters can capture dust, mold, bacteria, and spores that are in your home," explains Parry, who notes that "this is essential in keeping dust from resettling and re-contaminating floors or furniture."

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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