Many of us have become obsessed with the world of microorganisms during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are leery of door handles and elevator buttons in public spaces. Scientists have found that many potentially infectious bacteria, viruses, yeasts and molds can survive on surfaces for considerable amounts of time.
Germs often spread by direct contact with other people. For a pathogen (disease-causing microorganism), finding a way out of an infected person is easy enough via coughing and sneezing. To make you ill, a pathogen needs to find its way into you in sufficient numbers to survive the initial assault of your immune system, and then multiply.
Surfaces add a new level of difficulty. A pathogen must land on a surface and be able to survive on it until you touch it. Subsequently, it still has to make it from the touch point to whatever area of the body the pathogen targets before it can thrive.
There are some pathogens that are better suited for surface transmission. For example, fungus that causes athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) survives on warm, moist surfaces ( like a shower). In the right conditions, some microorganisms can form hard to remove biofilms.
Other pathogens are not as suited to this pathway. Since they are dependent on a host, virus survival on surfaces is limited. On their own, virus numbers can’t increase on a surface, only decline.
For human coronaviruses, the link between surfaces and infection has a variety of studies that are being performed to see how long the virus stays alive on a variety of surfaces. It is still unclear if this increases the chance of transmission. From what we know so far transmission from surfaces is much lower risk than person to person.
Below are some of the most germ covered surfaces people touch everyday:
Top 4 Places in the Home for Germ Covered Surfaces
The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) found that areas where food is stored or prepared had more bacteria and fecal contamination than other places in the home.
More than 75 percent of dish sponges and rags had Salmonella, E. coli, and fecal matter compared to 9 percent on bathroom faucet handles.
Other kitchen items that need frequent cleaning include:
Here are some tips for keeping these spots clean:
2. Knobs, Handles, and Switches
Countertops, handles, and light switches are a few less-than-obvious places for germs.
While many people assume that the bathroom doorknob would be the dirtiest, the NSF found other spots that ranked higher with bacteria, including:
You can clean these spots a few times a week with disinfecting wipes. Make sure to use a new wipe for every spot instead of reusing the same one.
It is no surprise that the place you scrub dirt and grime off of your body holds bacteria.
Due to the moisture from a hot shower, the bathroom is also a perfect place for germ growth. Spots you should pay special attention to include:
You can wipe surfaces and handles down with disinfectant on a daily basis and do a thorough cleaning once a week. A small brush like a toothbrush may come in handy for cleaning small spaces like around drains and faucets. You should also replace bathroom towels regularly and toothbrushes every 3 months.
4. Personal items
You can bring in bacteria and viruses from the outside to your house each day through your shoes, gym bag, and even headphones. Fecal contamination, yeast, and mold have been found present on items such as:
Most disinfecting wipes are effective against bacteria and viruses.
Top 4 Household Items Covered in Germs
1. Remote Control
Everyone touches it, period. When it isn’t in your germy hands, it is either on the floor or stuck between the sofa cushions (a cozy, dark home for mold and bacteria). Give it a going-over with antibacterial wipes often.
2. Computer Keyboard
You eat lunch over it at work. The kids login at home and wipe their runny noses while they play their favorite game. The cat hops up for a nap after they leave the litter box. To clean things up: Shut down your computer. Give your keyboard a few good shakes to get rid of loose crumbs or a keyboard air cleaner. Use rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or pad to clean around each key.
3. Dish Sponge
It is wet, absorbent, and you rub food and dirt with it all the time. Sponges are hard to keep clean, try as you might. Your best bet? Replace it when it starts to smell, better yet if possible replace biweekly.
4. Toothbrush Holder
How can this be? Your toothpaste kills germs, does it not? Yes, but a lot of them stick to the bristles and drip onto the holder. This spot has one of the highest bacteria readings of anything you touch. Clean it often. One easy way: Remove the gunk, then stick it in the dishwasher.
Keep up with good hygiene habits and always protect yourself and others around you with proper Medical PPE. Below are a few extra tips you can use daily to help keep germs under control in your home.