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In my office place, the elevator can only be called and/or operated by buttons that are touch sensitive. Pressing them with gloves or my jacket won't work. With current affairs going on, even though I thoroughly wash my hands, I really don't like to press these buttons with my skin.

My current workaround is taking the stairs (not always practical) or waiting for someone that needs to get to the same floor, with which I have some moral issues.

Is there any practical way to operate these touch sensitive buttons without actually touching them with my skin?

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    Just press the button. Humanity didn't become the dominant species on the planet by avoiding germs. Although, continuing to use the stairs is a good healthy option, too. – Aaron F Feb 27 at 19:31
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    I must be old. I spent WAY too much time trying to picture an elevator button that ISN'T touch sensitive (haven't they always been touch sensitive?). Didn't figure it out until I read the answers below. – James Feb 27 at 20:30
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    @AaronF I agree. Normally germs/viruses wouldn't be a concern to me, but since we have the COVID-19 outbreak in my country, I'd like to prevent further spreading. I am not afraid for myself or my family, but containing the outbreak will significantly reduce risk for the elder, sick and the immunorepressed. The origin of this question was the annoyance that I couldn't touch the buttons with anything else than my skin. – AutomatedChaos Feb 28 at 7:07
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    @AutomatedChaos if it’s got to the point that you’re concerned about touching surfaces in your office, don’t go to the office. – Tim Feb 28 at 7:46
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    @nexus_2006: I can't tell if you understood my comment, but I meant that mechanical buttons ARE "touch sensitive". – James Feb 28 at 22:34

13 Answers 13

51

Your biggest problem is not the touch sensitive button, but your (justified) fear of contracting germs.

My quick-hack for all kinds of surfaces that must be touched but aren't clean is to use the back of my hand or my finger. You can push mechanical and touch operated buttons by curling in your finger and pressing the back of a finger joint or knuckle to the button.

You might still catch some harmful germs this way, but they stay on the back of your hand until you wash them away. People usually use their fingertips whenever they touch their face (scratch an itch or rub your eyes). As long as you remember not to rub your eyes with the backside of your finger or hand, the risk of contracting harmful germs is reduced compared to pushing the button with your fingertip.

Of course, this does not eliminate the need to wash your hands. It just reduces the risk of accidently bringing harmful germs in contact with your face before you wash your hands.

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  • Agreed. If you really have to touch your face or food in public it’s best to properly wash your hands before and don’t touch anything (e.g. door handles, water faucet) afterwards. In public, don’t rub your eyes, don’t use a tissue, don’t scratch your nose or rub your nose with the back of your hand. – Michael Feb 28 at 17:19
  • Very bad idea because you encourage using the inside of your fingers to touch your face. You are going to use the inside of your fingers if you want to get anything done, so you don't touch them to your face (eyes, mouth), period. If you really need to touch your face, use the back of your hand which you automatically don't use to touch contaminated surfaces (knuckles work well for rubbing eyes, but of course you should avoid this too). – Nobody Feb 28 at 19:01
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    @Nobody I agree with you in theory, but in praxis people touch their face unconsciously more often than not. There are some hairs blown in your face, some tiny object got caught in your eye or lashes or your nose just tickles. Your fingers are in your face quicker than you can think "oh I just touched that button, better use ny knuckle insead". That's why I propose using your knuckles in situations where you consciously touch an object and leave your palms and fingertips as clean as possible for those unconscious touches to your face. – Elmy Feb 28 at 19:15
  • @Michael do you have a citation for "don't use a tissue"? – stannius Feb 29 at 0:00
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    @Stannius Speaking specifically about sneezes, Mythbusters showed that sneezing into a tissue or hankerchief only captures part of the contamination, and plenty is still left on your hands (3:31 to 3:45 on the video talks about that). I couldn't find a trustworthy reference regarding just rubbing your nose with a tissue, so I'm not sure if that's much of a problem in public. – Davy M Feb 29 at 6:23
27

You can buy some

  • gloves intended for mobile phone use

such as these. They have strands of metal woven into them. Mobile phone screens used to be touch sensitive, but now the electronics do not detect pressure, but the presense of a finger at the surface or nearby (or other detectable object, such as a stylus).

  • tap by hovering a finger close to its surface

but you might still accidentally touch the button.


So my hack solution is to

  • wrap a small piece of kitchen (aluminium) foil around one finger tip

and touch the button with that. Then drop the foil into a bag or bin so you don't have to touch the other side of it. I have tested this on my mobile phone. The first time it did not immediately work: I had to hold my wrapped finger against the screen, but on subsequent attempts I could tap the screen successfully. Using a piece of paper did not work.

A simpler version would be to

  • hold a strip of aluminium foil against the button with one hand, press with a finger of the other hand
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  • 5
    Mobile phone touch screens are not "heat sensitive". They're capacitive. Obviously we can't know for sure about these particular elevator buttons but it is highly unlikely that they're "heat sensitive". – Alex M Feb 27 at 17:31
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    @WeatherVane yes, it matters because heat has nothing to do with it, your phone doesn't detect the heat, It detects changes in electrical field. Your solution works, but because your explanation is incorrect, people that try to apply it may have inconsistent results if adjusting to what materials they have available to them. – Mr.Mindor Feb 27 at 18:05
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    No, I explicitly wrote:"Your solution works" I am saying your claim that it works because of heat is wrong. Because you repeatedly mad that claim, the answer risked misleading someone who does not have foil handy, but has some other heat conductive material into some frustrating actions. – Mr.Mindor Feb 27 at 18:18
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    I see you've removed the references to heat, I'll clean up my comments shortly. – Mr.Mindor Feb 27 at 18:19
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    WeatherVane: Cool, I think this is a substantial improvement for the reasons laid out by @Mr.Mindor. Thanks for being receptive to feedback – Alex M Feb 27 at 18:19
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An easier solution might be to just bring alcohol wipes in your pocket and wipe the button first. (the small kind that would be used before blood work or a injection).

May as well wipe them all and help everyone out.

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    This would also remove the oily residue left by the French fry suggested by another poster. – Stephie Feb 28 at 16:34
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Assuming the buttons use a body capacitance detector (as is the case with touch controlled lamp dimmers, wall switches, and smart phone screens), you can use a stylus intended for a cell phone or tablet and get the same effect -- and the business end of the stylus need never touch your skin.

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  • I have a pen with a touch-screen stylus on the tip opposite the side that writes, in my shirt pocket right now. This is the first thing I thought of. Then I thought "I better have anti-microbial wipes to wipe the pen after I use it to touch that button." – Monty Harder Feb 27 at 19:25
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    Still, any germs on the stylus tip aren't attacking your immune system during the interim between touching the button and cleaning the stylus. A little bottle of hand sanitizer will work great for cleaning the stylus. – Zeiss Ikon Feb 27 at 19:32
  • anti-microbial products generally attack bacteria, not viruses. – Hobbes Feb 27 at 21:02
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    @Hobbes livescience.com/5822-fighting-flu-hand-sanitizers-work.html says alcohol-based sanitizers do well against viruses. – Monty Harder Feb 27 at 21:17
  • There even exist mini styli that can be put on a keychain (Search keychain phone stylus) which might work great for this purpose, you could clip it to your belt or something and use it exclusively for that purpose so that it doesn't come into contact with anything else until you get the chance to clean it. – Davy M Feb 28 at 18:49
16

The simplest and least wasteful method: use your hands to operate the buttons, wash your hands afterwards.

Any other methods will just move the (potential) contamination around, so you'd have to use disposable or washable items.

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    Carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser with you. Press the button, then dab a little sanitiser on your fingers and rub. – CJ Dennis Feb 27 at 22:53
  • Hand sanitizer is not a bulletproof answer for every disease thus transmitted, we had a stomach bacterial? Virus? tear through here and they said "don't even bother with the sanitizer". – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 28 at 1:05
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica ...and then you start reading on wikipedia about Prion diseases. – Stian Yttervik Feb 28 at 13:38
9

Use your elbow, just make sure not to lick it later.

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4

Use a touch screen pen which can be used on mobiles - example is https://www.amazon.ca/LifeFan-Stylus-Precise-Double-Replacement/dp/B07FJXMMRP

Notice the wired gauze portion on the back. That works on touch screens.

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4

Do everyone a favour - bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer, and use it on the button before (or perhaps while) you press it. Clean button! Then possibly clean your hands again afterwards.

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    There are spray bottles which could suit this situation. – Criggie Feb 28 at 22:18
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Wrap your finger in cling wrap. Discard after use.

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1

Use a pomme frite.

I have only tried with hot or luke warm pommes frites but see no reason why it should not work with a cold.

You can make them at home or buy them at a shop; then keep them in a small box in a pocket. Make sure the box is tight and does not leak oil though, as pommes frites are quite oily.

You can reuse the pomme frite several times (there is no need to estimate how many times you go up and down in the elevator every day and cook before hand) so unless you plan on travelling vertically for many many times one pomme frite a day should work. If you should happen to wear out your pomme frite there is often a shop nearby (ysc may vary)* to purchase a new.

Depending on your respect for germs you might not want to eat it afterwards; but the taste should be about the same.

Finally, if you are sensitive about your health. The best thing you can do is probably taking the stairs anyway.

*)Your Size of Community

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    Great. Now we have oily food residue on the buttons, which provides a breeding ground for additional bacteria, viruses and fungi. At least this emphasizes the usefulness of hand washing suggested in another answer. – Stephie Feb 28 at 16:32
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    Your entire post is in English except "pomme frite". In English that would be "chip" - UK or "French fry" - US – Glen Yates Feb 28 at 19:19
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    And one more thing... If the French call French Fries pomme frite, what do they call fried apples? – Glen Yates Feb 28 at 22:00
  • @GlenYates If you call the side of a river “bank”, what do you call the company you have store your money? – 11684 Feb 29 at 1:30
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    @GlenYates Fried apples are called pommes confites but then then they are slowly fried in butter. Used for tarte tatin if I am not incorrect. Deep fried apples lack a French name AFAIK. – LosManos Mar 2 at 9:05
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There are gloves available that allow you to use your mobile phone while wearing gloves. They conduct enough electricity to allow "touch" sensitive (actually electric conduction sensitive) interfaces to work. The gloves are pretty cheap and available everywhere.

Here's an inexpensive version from Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/HONYAR-Gloves-Winter-Touch-Screen/dp/B07WJ4TPTZ/ref=sr_1_14?crid=27NFPMNHAV1JB&dchild=1&keywords=cell+phone+gloves&qid=1582904607&sprefix=cell+phone+glo%2Caps%2C180&sr=8-14

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    That is already mentioned in my answer and it's not a life hack anyway - just shopping. – Weather Vane Feb 28 at 18:49
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Do you have keys on you? Use those.

A pen on hand? Use the back end.

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-1

Use the point of a knife and touch it to the edge of the button where no human finger usually touches. The surface area contacting the button is extremely small, a lot smaller that the surface of your finger. Statistically speaking, if the surface area is a thousand times smaller, that's a thousand times better than using your finger.

Or use a copper wire and burn the end of it with a lighter to sterilize it afterwards.

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    And if you want to avoid the questions that come with carrying a knife around in public, a fork will do a similar job (admittedly with a somewhat larger surface area, but to me it would be worth it). – user45266 Feb 29 at 2:13
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    People enter the elevator. "Which floor?" you ask, knife in hand. – AleksandrH Feb 29 at 17:51
  • @user45266 Sure, because it's 100% normal to carry a fork with you into an elevator. – AleksandrH Feb 29 at 17:55
  • @AleksandrH I just think people might be less frightened by a fork than any kind of knife :) – user45266 Feb 29 at 23:33
  • Just don't point the fork at people with a hungry look in your eyes X-D – Danny Mar 1 at 13:57

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