You’re likely seeing a lot of hand-washing advice out there in response to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s being drilled into our heads that the most important thing we can do to help stop the spread of germs is wash our hands regularly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s best to lather them with soap, scrub for at least 20 seconds, rinse, and dry. Hand sanitizer is a good back-up plan, but it’s actually not as effective as hand washing and doesn’t get rid of as many germs.
So we know good hand washing is essential when it comes to staying healthy and protecting against germs and sickness, but what else can we do? We spoke to a few experts to get their tips for other sanitary habits you can do on a regular basis. Take a look.
Get a New Toothbrush
According to Dr. Valerie Sauda, a nurse, chief administrator, and assistant professor at Husson University’s School of Nursing, oral care and teeth brushing is often an overlooked part of staying healthy. “The mouth can be a source for germs to get in the body and wreak havoc,” she says. “Also, get a new toothbrush if you haven’t changed yours in a while and try to separate family toothbrushes, especially if someone is sick.”
The hands get most of the attention when it comes to staying clean and healthy, but other parts of your skin are important, too. “Keep your skin moisturized with a simple lotion,” advises Sauda. “The skin is one of your first lines of defense in protecting your body — take care of it.” She also says it’s important to keep lips clean and moisturized for good health.
Wipe Down Your Phone
Think about how germy places you set your phone down in public in a single day — a counter, a table, a park bench — it’s probably more than you realize. “Cleaning your phone should be done more often than you think, but especially before and after traveling,” says Jennie Varney, a brand manager for Molly Maid. “Locate a microfiber cloth and slightly dampen with clean water. This alone can remove up to 99 percent of bacteria without any type of solution at all.” You should also clean the other things you come into regular contact with, especially if in public, like the book or planner you always bring to the coffee shop with you.
Clean All Electronics
“Clean keyboards with canned air and disinfect between keys with a cotton swab dipped in cleaning solution or rubbing alcohol,” says Varney. “Use a microfiber cloth with plain water or a small amount of cleaning solution and wipe the computer mouse, phone, tablets and remote controls.” Varney says this is a great seasonal habit to do four times a year, but maybe even more these days.
Don’t Forget Your Earbuds
You might think headphones are mostly in and out of your ears, but they come in contact with airborne pathogens — especially while traveling. To give earbuds or headphones a good cleaning, Varney says to dampen a gentle cloth with warm water, and then dip it in a little dish soap. “It’s important to be careful about how much of each you use,” she says. “Too much soap can leave a slimy residue, and too much water can damage the technology. Q-tips are great for finishing touches!”
You can’t get away from germs, so it doesn’t make sense to overly worry or avoid places. Instead, try to be more aware. “You can be proactive against germs just by being aware that they’re everywhere — doorknobs, faucets, phones, counters, money, elevator buttons,” says Barbara Ficarra, a registered nurse from New Jersey. “Don’t touch a surface and then touch your face.” When she’s working in the hospital, she uses a pencil to push the elevator button. When grocery shopping, she uses disinfectant wipes (they are often available at the front) to wipe down the shopping cart. After going to the bathroom in a public space, she uses a paper towel to open the door.
Ficarra says if washing your sheets and towels (even kitchen towels) often isn’t a part of your regular routine, it definitely should be. Often times, we’re not washing them as much as we think. But to keep germs at bay, be sure to keep them in your laundry rotation.
Ficarra says there’s a lot of talk around washing hands after going to the bathroom, but there’s less emphasis when it comes to food. Whether you’re grocery shopping, preparing food, or sitting down for a meal, it’s essential to have your hands and space clean. So apply those hand-washing and sanitizing habits to those times when food is involved, too.