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Examples of high-touch surfaces to disinfect frequently. [Credit: Nancy R. Gough]

Disinfecting Tips and Tips for Shopping Safely during the COVID-19 Outbreak

Tips for keeping your family safe and home uninfected.

We have all heard to wash our hands more frequently and effectively, to not touch our faces, and to not shake hands, hug, or kiss to greet friends and family. What else can we do?

Here, I share the strategies I am taking to try and ensure that I can safely provide food for my elderly mother-in-law and my father. For disinfecting, I use disinfecting wipes or Lysol spray. CDC provides additional guidance. Your high-touch places may be different, but hopefully these tips help get you thinking. My children are adults, so there are no toys on this list. Parents with young children will definitely have additional high-touch places.

“High-Touch” Home Surfaces to Disinfect

  • Door handles for exterior doors, interior and exterior facing handles on the doors to the outside, including sliding glass doors and screen doors
  • Door handles for bathrooms (inside and out)
  • Light switches in shared rooms, especially the kitchen and bathrooms
  • Faucet handles in the kitchen and bathroom
  • Toilet flushing handle
  • Cell phone
  • Home phone handsets (I know many people don’t have these anymore, but we do.)
  • Chair backs where we eat (the part you use to pull the chair out)
  • Microwave handle and buttons
  • Refrigerator handle and water and ice dispensing buttons
  • Pantry door handle
  • Handles on frequently opened cupboards, like the cupboard with the cups and the one with the dishes
  • Shared computer keyboards and computer mice
  • TV remote
  • Banisters going up and down stairs

Car Surfaces to Disinfect

  • Door latch or handle (outside and inside car)
  • Steering wheel
  • Gear shifter
  • Window and lock buttons

More Frequent Washing (Especially if a Visitor Has Been in the House)

  • Hand towels in bathrooms (especially before and after a person that does not live in the house has been there)
  • Hand towels in kitchen (or switch to paper towels, especially before and after a person that does not live in the house has been there)
  • Placemats
  • Tablecloths
  • Throw covers or blankets (or don’t use them, wear a sweater or sweatshirt if cold)

I also wash my hands after putting dirty laundry into the washing machine.

Out in Public Behavior or at the Store Behavior

  • I have hand sanitizer in the car or in my bag or purse.
  • I use a large cart even for only a few items to help keep space between me and everyone else in the store.
  • I wipe down the cart handle if there is a disinfecting wipe available.
  • I keep the disinfecting wipe and use at the cash register or ATM machine to decontaminate the surface before AND after I use it.
  • I am very, very aware of NOT touching my face while in the store. If my hair gets into my face and tickles my nose, as it does often, I just live with the tickle or I rub my nose on my upper sleeve. I do not scratch my nose or wipe my hair out of my face with my hand.
  • I maintain space between other shoppers.
  • I try not to touch more items that I intend to place in my cart and purchase. This is easier right now because choices are limited. Many options are not available, because supplies are depleted at my local store. I am not shopping as much by price. I just get what I need without agonizing over different unit prices.
  • I pay at a self-pay register if the line is not long or that area is not crowded.
  • I pay at a cashier if the self-pay area is crowded. I wait to place my items on the belt until all of the items from the previous customer are cleared.
  • I do not talk. I open my mouth the least amount possible. I do not talk on my cell phone or even use my cell phone in the store.
  • I pay by credit card and use my knuckle, instead of my fingertip, to touch the screen or buttons.
  • I wipe my hands with hand sanitizer when I get into the car.

Models that incorporate the social distancing efforts and news from Kirkland, Washington, where the infection started, suggest that these efforts are working.

An extreme decontaminating process for handling groceries is presented by a physician (Jeffrey VanWingen) on YouTube. I have not resorted to such measures (yet). Right now, I just wash my hands and put out clean placemats after putting the groceries away.

More Information

Disinfecting your home if someone is sick. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (accessed 27 March 2020)

How to Prepare. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (accessed 27 March 2020)

COVID-19 resources. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. (accessed 27 March 2020)

R. Klemko, Where coronavirus outbreak started in Washington state, officials see hope as cases appear to be leveling off. MSN News (26 March 2020)

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Ph.D. scientist with a passion for scientific communication and > 20 years editorial experience

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