Pump handles and keypads can be contaminated, so take precautions to avoid exposure
Despite social distancing and shuttered venues—moves designed to staunch the spread of the novel coronavirus—some essential workers still need to commute in their cars, and many others need to drive to places for food, medicine, and other supplies and services.
For many, that means the occasional trip to the gas station is inevitable. Along with touching the pump handle and payment keypad. Pump handles and credit card keypads could have the virus present, which experts say can stay alive for hours or even days on hard surfaces.
Your best protection overall is to wash your hands properly on a regular basis and to refrain from touching your face with unwashed hands. But there are ways to stay safe when you have to pump gas.
CR’s auto experts suggest several ways to approach this task.
- Consider carrying some disposable nitrile or latex gloves in your car to use when gripping the pump handle. Short of that, you can try to use paper towels that are sometimes available at the pump or have some with you to cover your hands when you grip the handle.
- Do the same to isolate yourself from the keypad when entering payment information.
- Invert the gloves and throw them away, and also any paper towels you might have used. Use hand sanitizer to make sure your hands are clean after and before you get back into your car.
- Cleaning your hands after seems like the quickest, easiest precaution. Some might keep disinfectant wipes handy for wiping down the gas pump handle and the payment keypad before pumping.
Whichever method you prefer, our best advice is to prepare. Washing your hands properly with soap and water at a gas station is not always an easy or feasible option.
John Eichberger, executive director of the nonprofit Fuels Institute, says gas station owners and operators are doing what they can to combat the spread of COVID-19 by cleaning their facilities more often.
But that might not be enough assurance for some motorists.
Although it’s not clear how long the coronavirus lives on surfaces, they probably won’t last more than a few days. Bacteria and viruses exist everywhere in the natural environment, and that your best defense is frequent, vigorous hand-washing.
Coronaviruses are surrounded by a protective envelope that helps them attach to and infect other cells. The friction from scrubbing is enough to break down the virus’s coating, Thomas says. And as you would after any trip outside your home, remember to wash your hands before touching anything at home. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and failing that, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.