Do Viruses Spread at the Gas Pump?
Viruses can live up to 72 hours on gas pump handles, keypads and other high-touch surfaces in public spaces. Here are some precautions you can take.
Gas pump handles and keypads see a lot of hands every day, along with many other public surfaces like door handles, shopping carts, mailboxes, and hand dryers. While transmission of viruses is far less likely by contact with surfaces than direct contact with an infected person, some viruses can live on surfaces up to 48 hours, or even 72 hours on hard surfaces like metal and plastic. Consequently, it doesn’t hurt to be careful, especially if you or the people around you have particular health risk factors.
These are simple precautions to protect yourself and minimize spreading germs when you get gas.
What to do: Clean gas pump handles and keypads
Your first opportunity to decrease potential exposure is to clean the surfaces before you touch them. You could keep a package of antibacterial alcohol-based wipes in your vehicle and use one to clean up those spots that everyone touches, such as handles and keypads. This might not only help you, but also the next person to use the pump.
What to do: Wear gloves when pumping gas
Keeping disposable latex or nitrile gloves in your vehicle can be handy for many unexpected dirty jobs, including putting gas in your car. Gloves protect your hands from picking up germs you might transfer to your steering wheel, shifter, or anything you’ll be touching afterward. Just be sure to discard the gloves when you’re finished pumping.
What to do: Sanitize your hands after pumping gas
Scrubbing your hands with hand-sanitizer after gassing up is another way to reduce the spread of germs. While hand-washing is best, sanitizer can be a handy stopgap measure to employ right there in your vehicle, before putting your hands back on your steering wheel, shifter, or cell phone.
What to do: Wash your hands
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says regular hand-washing with soap and water is one of the most basic and best ways to prevent the spread of germs. Because it may be difficult to wash your hands immediately after pumping gas, the other protective measures mentioned above can be your first line of defense. However, washing your hands when you arrive at your destination, for a minimum of 20 seconds, is a great habit to get into.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "INFLUENZA (FLU) Cleaning to Prevent the Flu'
- The New England Journal of Medicine: "Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "When and How to Wash Your Hands"