At this point in the coronavirus pandemic, you’re likely more than a little familiar with the proper protocol and daily habits—washing your hands, wearing a mask, social distancing, etc.—that protect you and others from being infected with COVID-19. But with reopening underway all across the country, now’s probably a good time for a little refresher—because there’s a good chance you may be making one huge mistake every time you leave your home: not washing your hands first.
Every time you head back inside your home, you’re exposing yourself to another danger: your doorknob. But it’s not just the knob on the front door you need to worry about—your bathroom, kitchen, and even bedroom doorknobs can be rife with germs if you have not disinfected them recently.
One 2014 study presented at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) found that bacteria on a single doorknob could spread germs throughout an office building or hospital within hours. And though viruses behave differently than bacteria and offices and hospitals are far more highly trafficked than your house, you should still be proceeding with caution—and gloves. And for fast-acting disinfectants for doorknobs and more, check out 5 Disinfectants That Kill Coronavirus in 30 Seconds or Less.
The critical importance of frequent hand washing as a method of curbing the spread of coronavirus is a message from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that you’ve heard time and time again during the pandemic. And while you may be diligently doing your part by washing your hands every time you return from the outside world, touch your mail, or handle any item with even the tiniest potential of being contaminated, are you giving them a good scrubbing before you leave the house? If not, you need to start now.
In the guidelines for staying safe when traveling by any means of transportation—public or private—the CDC advises: “Before you leave, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.” The same should be done as soon as you arrive at your intended destination.
Why before, you ask?
Just because you are coming from home doesn’t mean your hands can’t be exposed to the virus, which could be living on any number of surfaces or items you are in close contact with. By not washing your hands before you leave the house, you risk the chance of bringing the virus with you. If that happens, you have the potential to contaminate any spaces, objects, or people you come in contact with—possibly setting off a chain reaction allowing the virus to spread.
The general takeaway? Before you run out the door, take a second to ask yourself, “Did I wash my hands?”