Even though we’re keeping calm and carrying on, we’re also carrying hand sanitizer.

By Maya Kachroo-Levine
Updated March 11, 2020
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Let’s not beat around the bush: Disinfectant has become an integral part of our travel lives as a result of coronavirus. While we’re keeping calm and carrying on amid the outbreak, we’re also carrying hand sanitizer — and plenty of it.

So, what can disinfecting your belongings really do as coronavirus continues to spread? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), viral infections such as Covid-19 are spread “via respiratory droplets” from person to person in close contact (which is defined as “within six feet”). However, beyond person-to-person spreading, is there concern about contracting the virus through infected surfaces or items? The CDC says that, as of now, “transmission of novel coronavirus to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented.”

While this is objectively promising, it doesn’t hurt to consistently sanitize high-traffic surfaces and your frequently used travel gear, which might come into contact with multiple transportation surfaces on the daily.

Of course, the key takeaway here is to be prepared and thorough without panicking. If you can take the extra time to sanitize your suitcase, backpack, or travel pillow to minimize the number of germs you bring home, it can’t hurt. For the ever-pragmatic traveler who wants to keep their travel gear as germ-free as possible, here are the products to have on hand.

For Apple Products

Home Depot

To buy: homedepot.com, $5

Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are a hot commodity these days, but they are still available for purchase. The reason so many consumers hesitate to take a disinfectant wipe to their screens is, of course, for fear of ruining their phones. However, according to Apple Support, you can use Clorox Disinfecting Wipes or any “70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe” on your iPhone surfaces. Wipe gently, and be careful to not pass over any openings with the wipe, in order to avoid introducing moisture into the iPhone. It’s also important that you avoid bleach, aerosols, or “submerg[ing] your iPhone in any cleaning agents.” This disinfecting technique can be used for most Apple products, including your laptop and tablet.

For Suitcases, Carry-ons, and Tote Bags

You’ll need to clean your travel bags, including suitcases, backpacks, and tote bags, with a gentle cloth and mild soap. There are a few different sanitizing routes to take here, depending on what type of material you’re cleaning. For a suitcase, Away recommends cleaning both the exterior shell and interior nylon. Cleaning the interior and exterior of the suitcase with a soft microfiber cloth and dish, hand, or multipurpose soap is ideal. However, for the interior, you’ll want to use a higher water-to-soap ratio on your cloth, so you don’t leave suds in your bag. For a travel backpack or tote bag, Dagne Dover also recommends a mild soap and soft cloth, but you have to be conscious of the material you’re working with. For a neoprene backpack or dopp kit, both of which have a more durable material, you could continue using a soft microfiber cloth, or opt for a more textured option, like Clorox Reusable Cloths. Sanitize with a multipurpose liquid soap (Dr. Bronner’s is particularly gentle, but still packs a punch) and cold water. And if you find your bag at all misshapen after cleaning, you can steam it.

Amazon

To buy: amazon.com, $7

Amazon

To buy: amazon.com, $12

Amazon

To buy: amazon.com, $8

Amazon

To buy: amazon.com, $11

For Clothes, Shoes, and Airplane Pillows

A remarkable amount of your travel gear is actually machine washable. And if you’re on a disinfecting kick, you can actually throw things like your favorite travel shoes or go-to travel pillow in the washing machine, if you have the right laundry accoutrements. Once you’ve brushed off the dirt and removed the insoles, Allbirds can be tossed directly in the washing machine on a delicate cycle with cold water. The insoles should be washed in a laundry bag (Allbirds recommends linen, though a mesh laundry bag is a readily available substitute).

For most travel pillows, like the Trtl Pillow, you can remove the foam insert and wash the exterior on a delicate cycle with cold water. To be safe, it doesn’t hurt to put the travel pillow exterior in a mesh laundry bag. While Trtl says some travel pillows can be dried on low, it may still be safest to air dry them.

Amazon

To buy: amazon.com, $12

Amazon

To buy: amazon.com, $8

For Water Bottles

Larq

To buy: livelarq.com, $95

An on-the-go water bottle is quite the germ carrier, even if you’re not sharing beverages with anyone. Rather than stopping to deep clean your water bottle every two hours, Larq is the bottle that constantly purifies and self cleans. Harnessing the power of UV-C light, Larq “eradicates up to 99.9999 percent of bacteria and 99.99 percent of viruses in Adventure Mode.” Larq actually did a study to find how long it would take this “smart” water bottle to kill E. coli germs; the bottle “killed 99.9775 percent of E. coli at one minute” and “99.9999 percent of E. coli at three minutes.”

For Face

Courtesy of Scough

To buy: scough.com, from $49

How about gear to keep yourself germ-free? You are, after all, your most important travel asset. Scough is essentially a scarf that helps protect you from inhaling unwanted bacteria. Meant to protect “against flu, allergens, and pollution,” Scough makes Shielding Bandanas and Filter Scarves perfect for travelers. The Scough scarves and bandanas use activated charcoal and “industrial-grade woven carbon filters” to reduce the number of “environmental toxins and germs” you breathe in.

For Hands

Amazon.com

To buy: amazon.com, $16

Whether you’re on the plane or taking a bus from the airport, the CDC recommends wearing gloves when disinfecting surfaces. As of now, the CDC says to disinfect “high-touch surfaces” in the house, especially if you have a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus at home. However, if you choose to observe this precaution when traveling, on high-touch surfaces like plane tray tables or armrests, you’ll still want to take the CDC’s advice and wear gloves while disinfecting.