Choose the right sofa, countertop, and toilet for a germ-free home.
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Design Choices that Make Your Home Easier to Sanitize, kitchen with touchless faucet and appliances
Credit: Illustration by Kailey Whitman

The Covid-19 pandemic left us all scrambling to protect our families from the virus. Many of us quickly changed our habits and became more conscious of sanitizing or disinfecting areas of our homes that might harbor harmful bacteria and viruses. With so many different types of surface materials surrounding us, figuring out how to properly disinfect them (without damaging them) was a challenge. Is there an easier way to have a sanitary home?

According to Michael G. Schmidt, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina and chair of the American Society of Microbiology's Council on Microbial Sciences, hard, nonporous surfaces cleaned frequently and touchless technology can help prevent the spread of microbes. "After washing your hands, the best way to prevent the spread of infectious disease at home is to clean your house," says Schmidt. "The simple act of using a microfiber cloth dipped in a solution of an all-purpose cleaner and hot water to wipe down common use hard surfaces will lift and dilute any microbes that have settled on the surfaces."

Every design decision we make-yes, even the type of paint we brush on the walls-can make it easier or harder to remove or kill microbes on surfaces. While we can hope that we never face another pandemic, these are design choices that make sanitizing a home easier when seasonal influenza or other illnesses appear.

In the Kitchen

  • Choose touchless faucets and soap dispensers: The kitchen sink is one of the most germ-laden surfaces in a home, but frequent cleaning and touchless fixtures like the Delta Leland VoiceIQ Faucet, which works by voice activation, and the Moen M-Power Chrome Soap and Lotion Dispenser will help prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses from hands. For a quick fix, consider simplehuman's touchless countertop soap dispensers.
  • Select nonporous countertops: While butcher block countertops add warmth to a kitchen, they require more effort to maintain and sanitize than nonporous choices like quartz or laminate. Quartz countertops, like those from Cambria, are a type of engineered stone that's generally less porous than natural stone. Natural stone counters that are properly sealed will also be easier to clean than butcher block ones.
  • Add voice-controlled appliances: Voice-controlled appliances like Whirlpool's Electric Range or their Smart Over-the-Range Microwave reduce the amount of contact with surfaces to help prevent the transmission of bacteria (plus, there will be less fingerprints and smudges to clean).
  • Eliminate hardware on cabinet doors and drawers: Knobs and handles are germ magnets and more difficult to clean than a smooth surface. Opt for touch-latch hardware and self-closing drawers on kitchen cabinetry.
Toothbrush Sanitizer
Credit: Getty Images/

In the Bathroom

  • Store and clean toothbrushes properly: Toothbrushes harbor lots of bacteria; but using a UV sanitizer like the one from Sarmocare (pictured above) cleans and offers covered, separated storage in a simple wall unit.
  • Choose a self-closing, touchless flush toilet: Closing a toilet lid before flushing helps prevent the micro-spray of germs into the air. Replace standard toilets with a model like the OVE Decors Toilet with Bidet that offers touchless flushing, a self-closing lid, and a host of other comforts.
  • Add touchless faucets and soap dispensers: Just as in the kitchen, adding touchless faucets like American Standard's touchless bathroom faucet and touchless soap dispensers are essential in reducing the spread of bacteria and viruses.

In Living Spaces

  • Select hard surface floors and washable rugs: Wall-to-wall carpet is nearly impossible to sanitize. Choose a hard surface floor like luxury vinyl tile, polished concrete, stone, or ceramic tile that can be cleaned frequently. If you prefer hardwood floors, add a finish that can withstand frequent damp mopping. Look for rugs that can be tossed in the washing machine, like those from Ruggable.
  • Opt for easy-to-clean upholstery or washable slipcovers: Leather furniture can be disinfected more easily than fabric upholstery. Or opt for a slipcover that can be removed and machine-washed regularly. Choose throw pillows that can be cleaned at home.
  • Add voice control systems: Touchless control of lighting, sound, HVAC, and window treatments are excellent ways to reduce the spread of germs.

In the Bedroom

  • Choose only washable bed coverings: Make cleaning easier by selecting bed linens that can be washed frequently using hot water.
  • Decorate with machine-washable textiles: Shop for rugs, curtains, and throw blankets that can withstand machine-washing in hot water.

In the Entryway/Mudroom

  • Include a sanitation station: Designate one entry for everyone to use and install a sink and supplies for easy handwashing. If a sink isn't possible, leave out hand sanitizer in a touchless dispenser.
  • Create a shoe drop: Removing shoes prevents outside grime from entering a home. To make shoe removal easier, provide a spot to sit down and storage for shoes to keep things neat.
  • Establish a mask storage and cleaning station: Convenience is often the key to changing behavior. Make mask use easier by providing access to fresh masks and creating a system for disposing of single-use masks and a hamper for fabric masks that need to be washed.