Written by Lauren Sieben for Realtor.com
As much as we all wish we could go back to a time when social distancing was a foreign concept and masks were just something you wore with a Halloween costume, it’s clear by now that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. At least, not anytime soon.
One consequence of the pandemic is that our collective concern over cleanliness remains at an all-time high.
A recent survey found that 47% of Americans are pining to upgrade their bathrooms during the pandemic, and 44% want to redesign the kitchen.
The study was conducted by the New York City–based Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, and according to Adrianne Russell, its showroom manager, the kitchen and bathroom are “two rooms where a lot can be done for hygiene.”
Fortunately, there are lots of simple swaps and upgrades that can make your home into a sanctuary and provide peace of mind.
Here are a few ideas on how to enhance your home and reduce the transfer of germs during the era of COVID-19.
1. Install touchless faucets
This isn’t just a feature for public bathrooms anymore. Installing a touchless faucet is a quick and easy project that you can take on in your own home.
“No handles or knobs means less surfaces touched and less of a chance of cross-contamination occurring after hand-washing or handling messy foods,” Russell says.
Touchless faucets aren’t just for the bathroom: You can install one in the kitchen—or even a utility sink.
2. Switch to automatic soap dispensers
After you've upgraded to a new contact-free faucet, why not take the cleanliness to the next level?
“Since the best way to fight germs is hand-washing, homeowners may also want to consider installing sensor-operated soap dispensers,” Russell says.
“Like touchless faucets, touchless dispensers also help eliminate most surface contact during the hand-washing process,” she says.
You can opt for a sleek, commercial-grade dispenser that requires some installation, or choose a battery-operated stand-alone model if you’re on a budget.
3. Upgrade to a bidet or touchless toilet
Worried about another toilet paper shortage? Install a bidet in your bathroom. No toilet paper, no problem!
“During the pandemic, toilets with integrated bidet functionality soared in popularity,” Russell says. “They are a hygienic alternative to toilet paper, using water-jet cleaning.”
You can purchase a stand-alone bidet or a bidet toilet-seat attachment that works with your current toilet. You can also purchase a smart toilet with or without a built-in bidet.
Many smart toilets come fully equipped with digital controls, touchless flushing, and Bluetooth connectivity, plus self-cleaning features to relieve you of your toilet-scrubbing duties.
“Some options may also include special cleaning solutions, hydrophobic or hydrophilic glazes, advanced flushing technology, and specially designed rims,” Russell says.
4. Use smart lighting for touchless illumination
Think of how often you touch the light switches around your house—then think of how many germs could be lurking there.
“One of the dirtiest surfaces in a home are light switches, with homeowners having to touch them multiple times a day, every day,” Russell says.
Switching to a smart lighting system can help reduce the transmission of germs. You control the lights from your phone, and with a smart system, you can control the lighting even when you’re away. This not only helps with home security, but also cuts down on your energy costs.
5. Eliminate contact with smart door locks
Just like light switches, door locks can be a breeding ground for germs as people go in and out of the house.
Digital keypad and smart door locks (e.g., the Google Nest Smart Lock with Nest Connect) can help reduce human surface contact, Russell says. Their features often include keyless options, voice activation, and biometric identifiers.
6. Take it outside year-round with space heaters
In some parts of the country, outdoor hangouts have traditionally been limited to the summer months. But keeping your activities outside doesn’t have to be out of reach, even on cooler days—and it can help minimize the risk of transmitting the virus. The solution? Pick up an outdoor patio heater, for as little as $100.
“Heaters are great if you want to have guests on your patio,” says Suzi Dailey, a Realtor® with One Luxe by Realty One Group International. “I think heater sales are going to go through the roof.”
7. Try a sanitizing closet on for size
These days, it’s not just the Roomba that’s helping us keep our homes clean. From hands-free trash cans to refrigerators with sensors for touchless opening, tech tools and gadgets are making it easier than ever to keep our homes clean.
One product that has exploded in popularity in recent months, according to John Romito, founder and licensed real estate agent at Heart & Home Real Estate, is sanitizing closets, which use ultraviolet light to sanitize garments.
“The technology has been very popular among retail clothing stores, to minimize the spread of pathogens after people try on or return apparel,” he says. “It’s now being purchased for home use.”
You can even recruit help from robots to turn your mudroom into a disinfection station where you and your guests can thoroughly sanitize each time you enter.