3 Safe Keychain Touch Tool Alternatives to Using Gloves in Public

Doctors don't recommend everyday people wear gloves to protect themselves from COVID-19, but these touch tools can help.

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There's always a chance of spreading (or catching) viruses or germs when you're home or out and about, even if you're only touching doorknobs or opening doors. However, to prevent yourself from touching a potentially contaminated surface, wearing gloves should not be your first course of action for day-to-day protection. As of February 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorses glove use primarily for cleaning, disinfecting, and caring for those who have been infected with COVID-19.

brass-touch-tool-keychain

"Gloves are a physical barrier between your hands and the shopping cart or the card machine at the register, but they themselves harbor germs," Niket Sonpal, MD, a New York-based Internist and Gastroenterologist and Adjunct Professor at Touro College, told Health. "Because of these issues, gloves are no more protective than our tried-and-true strategies of social distancing, washing your hands, and not touching your face," added Dr. Sonpal.

One solution is touch tools. These are small, often-hooked pieces of metal, plastic, or wood that you can attach to a set of keys or a belt loop for hands-free door opening or button tapping. Sometimes referred to as "cootie keys" or "hygiene hooks," these touch tools can be effective in helping to prevent the spread of germs and even COVID-19, but only if used correctly.

Copper or brass would be your best bet for investing in a hands-free touch tool. "Copper and brass have been known to have antimicrobial (including antiviral) properties for a long time," Glenn Randall, MD, a professor of microbiology at the University of Chicago told Health. Additionally, a May 2021 study in RCS Advances noted that copper has been considered "an esteemed antimicrobial agent."

Despite the antimicrobial properties of these metals, it's really easy to contaminate other items you're carrying—like your keys or phone—given the pocket and purse-friendly nature of these tools. However, researchers from a December 2021 study published in Biometals mentioned that SARS-CoV-2 cannot survive on copper surfaces past four hours, compared to its survival rate on other surfaces like plastic or stainless steel for over three days. Thus, if you use a copper device, make sure not to touch the device to anything else and then carefully store it in a plastic bag for four hours, said Dr. Randall.

While touch tools are a great addition in keeping a degree of separation between you and potential germs when touching frequently used buttons or handles, they're no substitute for frequent hand washing or sanitizing, said Dr. Randall. The CDC also indicates wearing masks as another way to protect yourself from spreading or contracting COVID-19, so you'll have to be aware of how you transition from using your touch tool to putting on or removing your mask. Finally, COVID-19 vaccinations have been made available on a large scale as of March 2022, so getting vaccinated can be another layer of infection prevention.

Along with keeping your hands clean and other protective measures, be sure to disinfect your touch tool as soon as possible after using it for the most effective, germ-free use. Ahead are a few of our favorite copper and brass touch tools to take you through the pandemic and beyond.

Copper Touch-Free Tool

Brass touch tool from Etsy

This stylish touch-free hook is made of antimicrobial copper and works well for opening doors. Attach it to your keychain, or backpack, or wear it as a pendant on a necklace.

To buy: Copper Touch-Free Tool, $15; etsy.com

No-Touch Copper Multi-Tool Keychain

No-Touch Copper Multi-Tool

This copper tool functions as an opener for doors, bottles, and boxes as well as a stylus and a pry tool. Add it to your keys for a convenient way to use ATMs, touchscreens, and elevator buttons.

To buy: No-Touch Copper Multi-Tool Keychain, $12; etsy.com

Antimicrobial Copper Door Opener

Copper no touch hook from Etsy

This handmade copper touch tool helps to put some distance between you and door handles. It conveniently fits in your pocket or purse and looks just as good on a chain necklace.

To buy: Antimicrobial Copper Door Opener, $8; etsy.com

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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