Don’t forget to disinfect these germy areas during cold and flu season.

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated March 18, 2020
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Besides all of the usual telltale signs of cold and flu season—the hacking coughs and sniffly noses are everywhere—the novel coronavirus has made us even more cautious about getting sick. To keep you and your family healthy during this time, there are certain key areas in your home that it pays to disinfect. While this is important every cold and flu season, it's even more essential this year. The CDC has rolled out its own guidelines for how to clean to help prevent the spread of this specific virus, and we have highlighted just a few key places below.

It's also worth noting that not all disinfecting cleaners are capable of killing this specific virus, so you'll want to check the CDC's list of approved cleaning products, which are expected to be effective against COVID-19 based on data for harder to kill viruses. When cleaning, focus first on the items and spots you tend to touch most often (think cell phones, doorknobs, computer keyboards), so you can make even quick cleaning sessions as effective as possible.

Deep-Clean Your Germy Cell Phone

You touch your cell phone many times throughout the day—and you may even be holding it as you read this. So even if you're diligently washing your hands properly, if you aren't also disinfecting your phone, the second you check a text, you're spreading germs back onto your hands. Considering how often we reach for our phones, it’s no surprise that a 2012 study by the University of Arizona found that cell phones have more germs than toilet seats. Yuck!

To deep-clean your phone without risking water damage, follow our instructions from a pro. Keep your hands clean, wipe down the surface with an antibacterial microfiber cloth, and spray cleansers onto a cloth rather than directly onto the screen to prevent damage. Remove the case and wipe it with a clean cloth dipped in 70-percent isopropyl alcohol, then let dry.

Disinfect Your Keyboard

It’s full of nooks and crannies, and you likely click away at it for hours a day. Your computer keyboard is a germ collector, and all of those crevices make it difficult to keep clean. To clean it quickly, first put down the work for a minute and fully unplug it. Turn it upside down and use compressed air to remove any crumbs and dust. To disinfect, wipe the surface with a 70-percent isopropyl alcohol wipe, being careful that liquid doesn't drip down into the keyboard.

Don’t Forget Doorknobs and Light Switch Plates

You may think that getting sick from germy doorknobs is an old wives' tale, but according to Chuck Gerba, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, it’s very possible. Germs last longer on surfaces than you might think. To disinfect the doorknobs and light switch plates around your house (focus on high-traffic spots, like the bathroom door), cleanse them with a germ-destroying product, such as CDC-recommended Clorox Disinfecting Wipes ($6, target.com). When cleaning light switch plates, be careful that liquid doesn't drip into the outlet.

To make sure any cleaning product is as effective as possible, now's the time to read the fine print and check the manufacturer's directions. You may be surprised to learn how long you have to keep a product on a surface in order for it to really kill germs and bacteria.

Clean the Kitchen Counter (and Faucets)

You likely try to keep your kitchen counter clean year-round, but it becomes particularly important during cold and flu season. Since this is the spot where family gathers, the counter and faucet get touched often by germy hands. To keep this area bacteria-free, spritz porous stone (like granite), as well as faucets and handles, with a disinfecting spray, following the manufacturer's guidelines for contact time.

Disinfect Stuffed Animals and Blankets

If your little one has been sick, make sure their favorite furry companion isn’t holding onto their germs. Check the tag on stuffed animals to see if it can go in the washing machine, and if so, follow these washing instructions by using the hottest water setting possible, along with a laundry sanitizer, and then dry completely.

De-germ Your Desk

With more and more of us working from home during this time, it's important to clean our at-home work zones. No matter if that's a complete home office or your kitchen counter-turned-makeshift-cubicle, be sure to use a disinfecting spray or wipe on the surface and chair. Again, make note of the surfaces you touch often (drawer handles, file organizers, etc.) and disinfect those specific spots first.

Sanitize the Indispensable TV Remote

One thing's for certain: spending more time at home means more time on Netflix (and YouTube and HBO and Hulu). To de-germ your TV remote control, first remove the batteries. Then use a clean cloth dipped in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol to wipe down the remote and use a Q-Tip to carefully clean the buttons. Make sure the remote is completely dry before replacing the batteries and turning on your favorite feel-good movie or tv show.

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This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com