Use smart home products and tools to touch fewer things around the house.

Chris Monroe/CNET

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The coronavirus has shifted how we live, teaching us social distancing and fervent hand-washing. So the cleaner you can keep your home, and the fewer objects people touch inside it, the better. That sounds like a tall order, but with the right tools it’s easier than you think. Here’s how to tap the power of technology to do your dirty work, and help you keep your hands to yourself.

On my list are intelligent light bulbs and light switches that operate themselves. You’ll also find robotic vacuums and mops that sweep and wipe floors all on their own. And instead of constantly scrubbing down countertops and tables by hand, save a little elbow grease — blast them daily with a UV disinfecting wand instead.

First, sanitize your home

Cleaning your home is an important way to minimize the threat from germs and microbes. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you regularly clean all frequently touched household surfaces. That includes desks, doorknobs, handles, light switches and counters. These objects and areas tend to be pawed over a lot, and by multiple individuals. 

Dirty floors clogged with grime, dust and organic debris (such as food, hair and dead skin cells) are also a big no-no. They can harbor bacteria, viruses and mold. At best, all that gunk is an irritant. Worst-case scenario, it’ll trigger allergies or even make you sick. 

Equip your home with smart lighting to touch light switches less.

Josh Miller/CNET

Smart lighting

Light switches are one of the dirtiest surfaces in your home. It’s not uncommon for switches in popular rooms to come into contact with fingertips multiple times a day. Cut down that activity by reducing the need to touch them. Swap out those basic mechanical switches for smart ones.

Smart light switches, like these from Belkin, can be setup to operate automatically, or be activated with a voice assistant.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Smart light switches typically connect to your home Wi-Fi network and allow you to control them via a mobile app. Additionally, you can configure them to automatically turn on (and off) on a schedule. That could either be based on a set time, or sunrise and sunset.

Many smart light bulbs provide the same features, with the added benefit of not requiring you to do any electrical work. Brands such as Philips Hue and Lifx are good examples. Just screw these bulbs into the compatible socket (lamp or fixture) of your choice, then set them up via their associated software applications.

Read more: Best smart light bulbs for 2020

iRobot’s Roomba i9 Plus is designed to clean edges and corners well. It also can empty its own dustbin. 


Robot vacuums and mops

Keeping your floors, carpets and rugs spick-and-span is a challenge. Experts recommend that you vacuum your carpets and wood flooring regularly. And only wet-mopping of hardwood floors will remove sticky grease and grime.

Instead of doing all that work yourself, let robots take care of it. Besides never complaining, robot vacuums and mops can tackle your floors relentlessly. You’ll barely have to lift a finger either. Set them to automatically attack dirt multiple times a week, a day or whenever your heart desires.

iRobot’s latest model, the Roomba S9 Plus, is particularly compelling. It does an excellent job of ridding bare floors and carpeting of both solid debris and pet hair. Better still, if you buy it with its CleanBase accessory, the robot empties its tray by itself, the contents of which end up in a handy pouch that can hold 30 bins full of dirt.  

Once the Roomba is done vacuuming, the Braava Jet M6 mop will tackle the floor next.


The Roomba S9 Plus can operate in concert with the iRobot Braava Jet M6. This robotic mop wipes down floors when the vacuum has finished. Its large reservoir holds enough liquid to polish multiple rooms in one session. You can also equip the Braava’s tank with a special solution to give the robot’s microfiber scrubber a little extra cleaning power. Here are the best robot vacuums you can buy right now.

The Tool Klean UVC Light Stik sanitizes surfaces with ultraviolet light. 

Tool Klean

Consider a germ zapper

Nothing can substitute a good scrubbing with disinfectant soap and water. That said, why not give your hands a break once in a while? The Tool Klean Anti-Microbial UVC Light Stik is a wand that pumps out ultraviolet light designed to destroy germs. Specifically, the light the Stik emits is UV-C shortwave ultraviolet. This effectively kills microbes (bacteria, fungus, viruses) by disrupting their DNA at the molecular level.

To operate the Light Stik, slowly wave it across the hard surface you’d like to disinfect for about 90 seconds. No scrubbing or touching needed. Just be sure to wear the included eye and hand protection. UV light is just as dangerous to human cells as it is to nasty microscopic bugs.

Also be advised that Tool Klean lists the Light Stik as currently sold out. It does expect units to be in stock on by April 5th, and is taking preorders on a first come first serve basis. 

Use smart speakers and displays

To further cut down the number of times you touch objects at home, including your phone, use a smart speaker. That could be a Google Home device, Amazon Echo speaker, or Apple HomePod with Siri on board. Regardless of which path you choose, these products let you do lots of useful things through verbal commands. That includes look up information, play music and radio stations, plus control compatible hardware like smart lights and shades.


Smart speakers from Google, Apple and Amazon let you do lots of tasks without touching your phone, remote or laptop.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Automatic towel and soap dispensers

Touching things in the middle of the hand-washing process could well defeat the purpose. Eliminate the need to do that by installing an automatic soap dispenser. There are plenty of options to choose from, including the 8-ounce Touch-Free Sensor Liquid Soap Pump Dispenser from Simplehuman. And to dry your hands touch-free, consider the Innovia Automatic Smart Dispenser. It accepts standard kitchen-sized paper towel rolls. You can also mount it under cabinets to save counter space.  

August smart looks connect to an app for phone control, but also work with physical keys.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Get a smart lock

Some smart locks, like those from August, have their main, motorized section on the inside of your home. That means you can still use a physical key if you’d like. Other models such as the Nest x Yale Lock take the completely keyless route. Regardless, any true smart lock (linked to a mobile app), lets you open and close it from your phone. Given that your phone is clean — or should be if you clean it — you can come and go without manipulating the physical lock mechanism.

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