Here's What Experts Say You Can Stop Disinfecting

Remember the early days of the pandemic when disinfectant wipes disappeared from store shelves? And, when they reappeared in small numbers weeks later, they were accompanied by polite signage requesting that customers stop hoarding and purchase only one, please?

That was when things were new, scary, and unknown, and we were all advised to disinfect not only our hands and doorknobs, but our clothes, Amazon packages, groceries, take-out food containers, and even our shoes. Now, in hindsight, experts admit that some of those measures were overkill.

When data came out indicating that the SARS-Cov-2 virus may be able to survive on surfaces for long periods of time, it was easy to conclude that if you touched an infected surface and then proceeded to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you could easily become infected. Fast forward a year, and scientists now understand that, while surface infection can occur, it's not a major way that the virus spreads, and the risk of surface infection is actually quite low (via National Public Radio).

The virus is much more likely to spread through person-to-person contact, when the virus is inhaled via infected, airborne droplets.

Washing your hands is still important

David Dowdy, an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, explains, "Relative to other things that one might want to do, such as wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance from other people, the importance of disinfecting surfaces after being outside is not the highest of priorities." And he also emphasizes that it's impossible. "I'm not going to say there is zero risk ― we know that this virus can be transmitted from surface to surface. But if you think through the amount of virus that's likely to be on many of these surfaces relative to the amount of virus that is in one cough or sneeze, the surface is relatively small compared to the size of the cloud of particles that someone can generate with one cough or one sneeze" (via HuffPost).

That's not to say that we should all just stop cleaning. To minimize the risk of surface transmission of SARS-Cov-2, (or the flu, or any other viral or bacterial illness) regularly washing hands remains very important. Also, disinfecting high-touch surfaces, like phones, toilet handles, faucets, and light switches is still an excellent idea.

But we can ease up on the groceries, the takeout, and definitely on the shoes.