Hand Washing Is Important, but These Are the Other 4 Things You Touch All Day That You Should Be Cleaning

Photo: Getty Images/Prakasit-Khuansuwan/EyeEm
Though the swift spread of COVID-19 has sent us into a global panic, it's weirdly comforting that the best plan of staying safe is, well, staying clean. On a base level, that means that you wield Purell like mace, and every time you go to the bathroom you have a fun new song to sing at the sink (although, hot take: "Raspberry Beret" is the best chorus to scrub to). If you're truly dedicated, you may even have tried to stop touching your face, strengthening your discipline, wearing jangly bracelets at all time, and making sure that you don't smear bacteria all over your face with your paws. But, uh, what about the everyday items you come into contact with daily?

Because while keeping your mitts clean is imperative, you also want to practice TLC with the things you touch on a daily basis. There's no point in re-germifying yourself after a long day of hand and face maintenance, you know? On the other hand, you can't live your entire life in a hazmat suit, there's got to be a hierarchy of what needs regular cleans. So we called upon the Germ Guy, Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and author of The Germ Files, to demystify what everyday items need to regularly de-contamination.

1. Cell phone and electronic devices

Mmmmm, it checks out. Fingers are grazing the screen during text messages, you're spitting into the receiver during calls, we are so absolutely intimate with our cell phones. While we're preoccupied with our hands, we don't even think about what's in our hands...namely, an $800 rectangle that's dirtier than a toilet seat on a good day. Tetro suggests that you might want to start with any of your everyday iDevices.

"Especially if you are sharing them," says Tetro. "They are havens for microbes and also can be excellent reservoirs for those infectious droplets."

2. Keyboards and mice

Related: Keep your keyboards clean. While phones and tablets have a slick screen of bacteria, keyboards offer little nooks and crannies for all sorts of things to fall into. Crumbs, dirt, dust—even mouse droppings, according to this one legitimately horrifying study by the Royal Society of Chemistry—and of course things that make us really, really ill. "They can also be a great place for germs to reside, especially if you are sharing the computer with others," says Tetro.

3. Electronic controllers

Apply the concept with crevices to any sort of electronic controller. Maybe you've retired cable and that didn't even dawn on you, but even I have a Roku remote that I keep close by whenever I need a soothing four-to-six-hour Gilmore Girls binge. "The remote control is something that we tend to touch regularly, and keep close to us even when we’re sick," Tetro says.

So if you're living on the couch during a recovery (or as a lifestyle choice, we don't judge) make sure to check up on your controller's cleanliness from time to time. And if you're going traveling—you brave, brave, soul—make sure to to give the remote control in your hotel room a quick burst of Lysol. One study from the American Society for Microbiology showed that hotel television remotes are among the most contaminated objects out there, and may even contain "some" traces of fecal matter. Swell!

4. Earphones/earbuds

"These tend to be ignored, even though they have the potential to carry quite a bit of microbes from the skin and the hands," says Tetro.

Not to mention you get a sexy amount of earwax and gunk build-up in certain pairs. Regardless of what you're handling, the sanitization of your products is as easy as washing your hands. Tetro says that a good disinfectant wipe will do the trick for all of them. Whether you want to sing an absolute Prince jam while you're doing it, well, that's totally up to you.

Stay smart out there: this is why you should be wary of "natural" products claiming to cure COVID-2019. And here's how fitness studios are bracing themselves during a time when you might not want to hop on the treadmill.

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