Written by Grove Collaborative

COVID-19 cleaning: the germiest household items most people forget to clean.

Last Updated: September 24, 2020


The most overlooked things in your home you should be cleaning right now.

The COVID-19 pandemic has us all washing our hands and trying to not constantly touch our faces — check and check. And the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) advises that we regularly clean our “high-touch” surfaces like countertops, which you’ve probably got covered. But what about the overlooked germs you could be accidentally introducing into your home? We’ve put together a list of some of the high-touch household items and spots you might not have considered, plus cleaning tips for giving them a good scrub down with household cleaning products you probably already have on hand.


For the latest coronavirus news, updates, and recommendations, visit the CDC’s dedicated COVID-19 resource.

Personal electronics

You're probably cleaning: Your phone
You're probably forgetting: Your smartwatch

An FDA study revealed how many people bring their phones with them into both the bathroom and the kitchen, picking up and depositing germs and bacteria … that you then hold next to your nose and mouth. Think about how often your phone touches your face! Your smartwatch also goes everywhere with you: to the store, the gym, and the bathroom. You’re also not just glancing at the screen all day; you’re also touching it — almost as often as you’re still touching your face.

How to clean your cell phone

  1. Unplug your phone and switch it off.
  2. Gently wipe the exterior with a lint-free cloth that has barely been dampened with a disinfecting solution (or use a disinfecting wipe).
  3. Avoid scratching the surface or getting any moisture into your phone’s opening, like the charging port or headphone jack.

How to clean your smartwatch or wearable wrist device

  1. Apple says it’s okay to use a disinfectant on Apple devices: Choose a 70-percent isopropyl alcohol wipe to gently wipe the exterior surfaces, as long as they’re not fabric or leather and you keep moisture away from any openings.
  2. To clean the band, detach the watch first. Wipe the band surface with a cloth lightly dampened with fresh water. For leather bands, use as little water as possible. Martha Stewart suggests using a leather cleaner.
  3. Dry the band with a nonabrasive, lint-free cloth.

Pro tip

Different models or devices may require different cleaning methods, so be sure to check your manufacturer’s website. But for all phones and wearable devices, avoid using hand sanitizer, bleach, Lysol, or compressed air. Also, avoid paper towels or anything else that may be too abrasive and scratch the screen or protective coating.

Entryway items

You're probably cleaning: Doorknobs
You're probably forgetting: Keys

You’re likely already wiping down your door handles (antibacterial and disinfecting wipes do a great job), but what about the keys that go in and out of your purse or pocket, get handled by your not-always-clean hands, and are dropped onto tabletops? There are simple steps you can take to clean your items of grime before disinfecting them.

How to clean door handles and knobs

  1. Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting.
  2. If visibly dirty, door handles and knobs should be cleaned with a detergent/cleaning spray or soap and water.
  3. Disinfect with a disinfecting wipe or spray, 70% alcohol solution, or diluted bleach solution.
  4. Allow to air dry.

How to clean your keys

  1. If your keys include an electronic fob or a decorative keychain attached to your ring, remove them. You can clean your electronic fob with a disinfectant wipe.
  2. Drop metal keys in a bowl of soapy water and give ‘em a quick scrub with an old toothbrush.
  3. Rinse in clean water.
  4. To disinfect, use a disinfecting wipe or dunk them in a bowl with a diluted bleach and water solution. Rinse clean.
  5. Let them air dry.

Pro tip

Don’t forget to wash any decorative keychains! A plushie fob can be tossed in your washing machine in a mesh bag or pillow case, the same way you’d wash a stuffed animal. Plastic or novelty fobs probably shouldn’t see the heat of your dishwasher, but you can go the soap-and-water route, along with those keys.

Shopping necessities

You're probably cleaning: Shopping bags
You're probably forgetting: Credit cards

A food safety study found reusable shopping bags could be carriers for a wide range of bacteria and pathogens, but when's the last time you cleaned yours? Since COVID-19 can live on a number of surfaces for anywhere from hours to days, your bags may be offering germs a free ride into your home. And it’s not just your reusable bags that may be in need of a tune-up. You’re taking out your credit cards and touching the chip reader or swiping, even if cashiers aren’t handling them.

How to clean reusable shopping bags

  • Fabric reusable bags: Toss in your washing machine, launder with detergent in hot water (unless using cold wash), and run through the dryer.
  • Bags made with polypropylene (recycled plastic): Wash by hand in warm, soapy water, and line dry.

How to clean your credit (and other) cards

  1. Give them a quick rub down with a disinfecting wipe.
  2. Let them dry completely before returning them to your wallet.
  3. If the strips have some gunky build up, you can gently rub it away with a pencil eraser.

Pro tip

Don’t run your credit cards through a clothes washer. Though your credit cards may withstand the trip, the dryer can ruin the EMV chip or magnetic strip.

Home office must-haves

You're probably cleaning: Your computer keyboard
You're probably forgetting: Your glasses

You constantly touch your keyboard, spill food and drink on or near it, and maybe sneeze on it, too. An NHS study found that up to 96% of keyboards could be contaminated with bacteria. The good news: As of March 2020, Apple says it’s safe to use an isopropyl alcohol solution to wipe down MacBooks and other Apple devices.

Another oft touched and even more overlooked item? Your glasses. Studies have found that your hands can transfer oils, bacteria, and even microscopic bits of your lunch to the frames residing on your face — and no, you shouldn’t polish them with the hem of your shirt.

How to clean your keyboard

  1. Unplug and turn off your computer.
  2. Use isopropyl alcohol and a soft, dust-free microfiber cloth or a cotton swab to gently rub the key tops.
  3. Let air dry.
  4. Note: You can also use compressed air to chase away dust and crumbs.

Pro tip

If you use spray cleaner, spray it onto a cloth and apply that to the keys; do not spray directly onto the keyboard. Also, take care to not drip any liquid between the keys or inside the keyboard.

How to clean your eyeglasses

  1. Run your glasses under warm water.
  2. Place a small drop of gentle dishwashing detergent on the lens and rub to create a lather. Rinse with warm water.
  3. Dy with a clean, soft cotton cloth.

Pro tip

Rubbing alcohol (70-percent isopropyl alcohol) can be used to disinfect glasses. But check with your optometrist to make sure it won’t damage any special coating your lenses might have.

Bonus: Out and about

You're probably cleaning: Refrigerator handle
You're probably forgetting: Gas tank handle

Inside your home, your refrigerator handle can be a bacterial hotspot, just like any other doorknobs in your home. Regularly tackle the metal or plastic with a cleaning spray and cloth or antibacterial wipe.

While many of us are currently doing our best to stay home, situations may arise that require interacting with the outside world — like getting gas. Kimberly-Clark researchers looked at bacteria counts on high-touch areas (elevator buttons, ATMs) in major U.S. cities and found the worst offenders by far were gas pumps. As tempting as it may be right now to clean everything in your path, this is where you’re probably best off just practicing safe handling procedures.

How to avoid gas handle germs

  1. Use a disinfecting wipe or disposable paper between the keypad buttons and your fingertip to key in your info.
  2. Make sure your hand is protected with paper or a wipe from touching the gas tank handle.
  3. After you’re done, discard the paper.
  4. Use your credit card to pay? Remember to wipe it down, too!


Looking for more sustainable swaps and other eco-friendly switches you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to take on germs, shop Grove Collaborative's cleaning essentials for the cleaning tools to tackle the job.

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