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Maintaining several small hygiene habits can provide big protections from the novel coronavirus as you begin interacting with others in public places again. Getty Images
  • Despite states reopening, COVID-19 is still in circulation.
  • Disinfecting cell phones and other surfaces can help keep you safe.
  • Using disinfectants listed by the EPA is the best way to ensure safe cleaning.

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date.

With states loosening up physical distancing guidelines and more and more places and services opening their doors, you might be embracing this new phase.

However, COVID-19 is still in circulation.

“At the moment, the virus continues to spread unnoticed and this presents a significant problem as we are still unsure of the health consequences that can arise as a result of infection. Until we are at a point that we know how every case happened and can track every case’s movements, it will be up to you to stay protected,” Jason Tetro, microbiologist and host of “Super Awesome Science Show,” told Healthline.

While you head back out into the world, consider these tips to help guard yourself from infection.

A study by Deloitte found that the average American checks their phone 52 times a day.

“According to a study by the University of Arizona, cell phones carry 10 times more bacteria than toilet seats… So we’re constantly spreading germs and bacteria from our phone to our hands/face and vice versa,” Dr. Julie Jackson, board-certified dermatologist at Puracy, told Healthline.

Because phones have become an extension of ourselves, Tetro says they should be treated in the same way we treat our hands.

“When you get in from outside, use a disinfectant wipe to keep it clean, after you wash your hands,” he said.

When it comes to computer devices and similar equipment, Tetro says if they are at home all the time or they are dedicated to you, there’s less of a risk.

“You probably can get away with disinfecting them less regularly. I would suggest once a day for regular items like tablets and once a week for keyboards and mice,” he said.

While wearing glasses, you’re likely to touch them and your face often.

While more research is needed to know if COVID-19 can cause infection through ocular entry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with unwashed hands.

“Viral particles can cause infection when coming in contact with mucosal surfaces, such as the mouth and nose, and recent research suggests that even the eyes may be an entry point of infection,” Jackson said.

She adds that cleaning glasses and sunglasses removes excess dirt, oil, and bacteria that may build up on the surface, and contribute to acne through occlusive contact with the skin.

“In order to maintain the SPF of sunglasses, it is important to use an appropriate cleanser that will not degrade the protective film on the glasses,” said Jackson.

Tetro says eyeglass cleaners have a surfactant in them, which can disrupt the virus making it no longer a threat.

“Make sure to give them a cleaning if you have spent any time around other people while wearing them,” he said.

From inside your home, to your car and everywhere you visit outside your house, there’s no doubt you’re touching handles.

“If you are unsure of the level of contamination of a surface, it’s always best to use a hand sanitizer after touching it. As for handles, unless you are the owner of the handles, it may not be best for you to clean them. Stick to [cleaning] your hands instead,” said Tetro.

The CDC recommends the following when it comes to washing hands:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

Your purse and wallet probably travel with you wherever you go. Along the journey, they might get placed down on multiple surfaces. However, Tetro says the exterior of purses and wallets may not be the most germ-infested.

“I’ve done some work to look at the extent of contamination of purses, and the reality is that there is usually more concern with the inside than the outside. While purses can act as a vehicle when they are put down, the surface that is infected usually is not touched frequently,” he said.

Cleaning inside the purse might be the best form of protection.

“For those who want to be confident, a disinfectant wipe will be helpful,” said Tetro.

The CDC recommends washing face masks after every use in the laundry or by soaking them in the following bleach solution for 5 minutes (as long as the bleach you are using is intended for disinfection):

  • 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) household bleach per gallon of room temperature water or
  • 4 teaspoons household bleach per quart of room temperature water

After soaking, rinse the mask thoroughly with cool or room temperature water.

Tetro says you can also soak masks in hot water with soap or detergent for about 10 minutes.

“That will help to kill the virus and also remove any dirt/grime/oil from the fabric. Depending on the nature of the fabric, you may also be able to use a dryer,” said Tetro.

While Jackson knows wearing a mask is an important public health infection control measure, she says dermatologists have noted an increase in acne with regular mask use, called “maskne.”

“There are several factors potentially contributing to acne formation from mask use. Acne mechanica is a type of acne caused by chronic rubbing/friction of clothing on the skin, and is commonly associated with helmet/hat use. Long-term use of face masks could potentially cause this type of acne from rubbing,” she said.

Another factor might be occlusive in nature.

“If a face mask is reused without being laundered, oil and bacteria may build up. The occlusion by the mask along with increased oil, bacteria, and the humid environment inside the face mask may contribute to clogging pores leading to acne,” said Jackson.

If you have to use public transportation to get to work or elsewhere, the CDC suggests practicing good hand hygiene, engaging in social distancing, and wearing a mask.

“We’ve known for decades that barrier protection helps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The same is true with the coronavirus. By having it with you at all times, you can be sure that the risk to you will be lessened,” said Tetro.

He suggests always having your barrier protection on the ready.

“You don’t have to have it over your face at all times, but if you happen to see someone shedding and can’t move away from the affected area, you can put it over your nose and mouth to lower the risk for infection,” Tetro said.

And always have hand sanitizer at the ready.

“Keep it at 62 to 70 percent alcohol, and make sure to keep your hands wet with it for 15 seconds, and you’ll be good to go,” said Tetro.

Bob Reynolds, senior director of technical services at Zep, a distributor of cleaning solutions based in Atlanta, Georgia, says people often make mistakes when it comes to purchasing and using disinfectants.

“Unknowingly, consumers are inclined to grab the product, start spraying the surface and wipe before familiarizing themselves with the product and product label,” Reynolds told Healthline.

He says overlooking the amount of time the product should be left on the surface as directed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is another mistake.

“This is an important factor as the product must stay on the surface for a certain duration, as backed by data, in order to properly disinfect the surface,” said Reynolds.

To determine if a disinfectant product is EPA-registered, search on the EPA’s list, which includes products that meet the EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19.

“When searching on the EPA list, you need to reference the EPA registration number for the product [because] the company’s brand name and product name may not be listed,” said Reynolds.