Spring Cleaning? Get the Fomites!

By Environmental Health


Fomites: Here, There, and Everywhere

Have you ever thought how germs spread around your home and within your community?

The answer is through fomites.

Fomites lurk among us as everyday objects. These non-living objects can harbor germs and serve in the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other disease-causing microbes to yourself, co-workers, friends, and your loved ones.

Some examples of fomites include:

  • Faucet handles
  • Remote control
  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches
  • Refrigerator
  • Microwave ovens
  • Telephone
  • Cell phones and other personal electronic devices
  • Writing tools, e.g. pens
  • Briefcases, satchels, purses, or wallets
  • Eye glasses
  • Watches and rings
  • Computer keyboards and mouse
  • Keys
  • ID cards and credit cards
  • Water fountains
  • Toothbrushes
  • Buttons found on ATMs, elevators, phones,  and drink vending machines
  • Shopping carts

The Center for Disease control states that 80% of infections are spread from our hands, either by shaking hands or by touching inanimate objects. Studies demonstrate that non-living objects can become contaminated with bacteria and viruses, and can persist for long periods of time. Studies have also demonstrated that textured surfaces can hold more germ loads that smooth surfaces, but will not transfer the germs as efficiently as hard, smooth, and curved surfaces.


Stop the Spread of Germs

Protect yourself:

Hand washing is the easiest way to reduce and prevent the spread of germs and viruses that make people sick.


Routinely Clean and Disinfect Surfaces:

Cleaning and disinfecting are not the same thing. Cleaning removes germs from surfaces, whereas disinfecting actually destroys them. Cleaning with soap and water to remove dirt and most of the germs is usually enough. But sometimes, you may want to disinfect for an extra level of protection.

  • While surfaces may look clean, many infectious germs may be lurking. In some instances, germs can live on surfaces for hours — and even days.
  • Disinfectants are specifically registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and contain ingredients that actually destroy bacteria and other germs. Check the product label to make sure it says “Disinfectant” and has an EPA registration numberDisinfect those areas where there can be large numbers of dangerous germs, and where there is a possibility that these germs could be spread to others.


In the Kitchen:

  • Clean and disinfect counters and other surfaces before, during, and after preparing food (especially meat and poultry).
  • Follow all directions on the product label, which usually specifies letting the disinfectant stand for a few minutes.
  • When cleaning surfaces, don’t let germs hang around on cleaning cloths or towels!



Paper towels that can be thrown away


Cloth towels that are later washed in hot water


Disposable sanitizing wipes that both clean and disinfect.


In the Bathroom:

• Routinely clean and disinfect all surfaces.

(This is especially important if someone in the house has a stomach illness, a cold, or the flu.)



Please visit the CDC website link below for more detailed information about hand washing:  http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/

Please visit the CDC website link below for more detailed information Seven Keys to a Safer Healthier Home:


For more information about the Healthy Homes & Environments through the Gallatin City County Health Department’s Environmental Health Program, go here.