10 Ways You Can Cross-Contaminate Your Home Without Realizing It

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As much as we would like to get back to our lives before the coronavirus pandemic, we have to accept that things will not be the same, at least not for a while. Most of us are doing everything we can to protect ourselves against this dreadful virus. Things like washing our hands or maintaining social distancing have become some sort of automatic behavior, but we still do things that can put our health at risk. Like cross-contaminating our homes.

How? By making these 10 blunders and spreading germs in our living spaces without realizing it. Read on and find out what health experts advise us to stop doing to protect ourselves and stop cross-contamination inside our homes.

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You’re not disinfecting your cell phone when you get home

According to health experts, mobile phones can be coronavirus carriers, which makes them high-risk items. That’s because you take your phone with you wherever you go and put it on all sorts of potentially contaminated surfaces. If you’re not disinfecting it the minute you get home, chances are you’re cross-contaminating your space.

“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 stay on the safe side, Winner recommends sanitizing your cell phone right away, or, better yet, leaving it in your bag while you do your errands.


You’re bringing your mail inside the house

Coronavirus can live on paper or cardboard for only a few minutes but if you take your mail immediately after the mailman left it in your box, odds are you could be bringing the virus inside your home without even realizing it.

To make sure you cross-contaminate your space, Winner recommends not bringing any non-essential mail into your living space and leaving it somewhere else, like a garage, for a day or two. According to health experts,  you’ll never bring these 10 things in your home again, after the coronavirus pandemic is over.

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You’re opening packages in your living space

Opening a package the second you receive it is one of the best feelings in the world. But in these strange times of COVID-19, the excitement should be replaced by caution. That’s because opening a seemingly harmless package inside your living space could represent a serious health risk.

According to Winner, packages should be opened “away from the living area and tossed in the recycle bins”. More than that, the surfaces where the packages have been placed should be wiped and disinfected with soap or a disinfectant cleaner.


You’re touching your face without washing your hands first

If washing your hands is still not the first thing you do when you return home, it’s time you turn it into your number one priority. Water, soap and a hand sanitizer will stop you from cross-contaminating your home and exposing yourself and other household members to the virus. “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 pair of gloves outside and inside

Wearing latex gloves can be seen as an efficient preventive measure amid the coronavirus pandemic but their protection role becomes useless if you don’t throw them away when you get home. Just think about all the things you touch while running errands. “The longer you wear your gloves, the more unfamiliar objects and bacteria you’ll come into contact with,” says health coach and licensed medical acupuncturist Jamie Bacharach, Dipl. Ac.


You’re wearing shoes inside your home

Our shoes come into contact with numerous germs and viruses outside of the house, which we then carry back into our homes. Although there is no documented evidence that shoes can be sources of COVID-19 transmission, it’s better to spray the shoes with a disinfectant before bringing them inside. Better yet, leave the shoes at the door and replace them with some cozy slippers.

“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 the same clothes in public and inside your home

Same as shoes, the clothes you wear in public can harbor potentially dangerous viruses. “When you’re in the house and lay down on the couch, you have now cross-contaminated,” explains Mahoney. Although “clothing is usually more of a mesh than a hard surface, which could potentially aerate the environment more readily,” according to Dr. Kathleen Jordan, an infectious disease specialist and vice president at CommonSpirit Health, you’re never too extra when it comes to preventive measures against COVID-19.

In terms of clothes, it means you might need to do a little more laundry than usual, but most household detergents are enough to do the job. Speaking of going out in public, check out 7 Things You Shouldn’t Do in Public, According to Doctors.

cleaning surfaces
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You’re using the same cleaning cloth on every surface

Clothing rags are instrumental for cleaning, they’re easy to use and wash. “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.

The downside is that most people use the same cloth to clean almost every surface in the house. During a pandemic, this might not be the best approach to keeping bacteria and viruses at bay. Find out what other Health Risks You Need to Stop Taking Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic.


You’re using a mop bucket

Similar to cleaning rags, cleaning mop pads are used all around the house, which makes them the perfect instrument to spread germs and viruses all over. The rooms are full of germs anyway and by using a mildew-ridden mop and dingy water bucket, you’re only making cross-contamination a sure thing.

“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 be more efficient in preventing the massive spread of bacterial contamination, you should wash or replace your mop pad as often as possible. In addition, make sure it is fully dried before storing it in the laundry room.

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You’re using a non-HEPA vacuum

According to various studies, HEPA filters can successfully trap viruses lie coronavirus and even smaller nanoparticles than the coronavirus. This means that a vacuum cleaner equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air filter can prevent you from spreading contaminants around your house, compared to a regular vacuum that doesn’t provide an efficient barrier for all the particles.

“HEPA filters can capture dust, mold, bacteria, and spores that are in your home,” explains Parry, who adds that “this is essential in keeping dust from resettling and re-contaminating floors or furniture.”

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