CHICAGO — The social-media post spread quickly, in different variations: Be careful when touching a gasoline dispenser handle—it could be contaminated with the coronavirus.
The post warned others to wear gloves or use a paper towel when touching gasoline pumps. The warning went viral, and it even triggered a response from the rumor debunking website Snopes.com, which gave it a “mixture” rating.
The site said there have been no confirmed reports of transmitting the coronavirus from a gasoline dispenser handle. It acknowledged that surface contact is one mode of transmission for the virus, and because different people handle gasoline pumps throughout the day, “they are a potential route for the virus to spread from person to person,” especially when the handles are not being cleaned between uses.
Consumer Reports advised consumers to wash their hands properly and regularly and take protective measures, such as wiping down the handle and payment keypad, plus carrying disposable gloves or using paper towels on the fuel island when filling up. It also advised consumers to use hand sanitizer after removing the gloves and getting back into their car.
Gilbarco Veeder-Root, Greensboro, N.C., which manufactures Encore fuel dispensers, posted detailed cleaning instructions in a recent blog post. They include cleaning the dispenser with soap and water, disinfecting it by wiping on a diluted bleach solution, and then rinsing this off with water.
CAF Outdoor Cleaning, Maple Valley, Wash., has also posted tips for cleaning and sanitizing the forecourt, including a printable poster offering outdoor surface cleaning and disinfecting steps.
Several c-store chains have introduced and promoted their own cleaning procedures, including Kwik Chek, Bonham, Texas, which is having its employees sanitize PIN pads and gas pump nozzles. Some operators have even introduced full-service fueling, such as Lou Perrine’s Gas & Groceries, a single-store operator in Kenosha, Wis.
And in a recent bulletin, BP shared cleaning guidelines and resources with its branded marketers, including a poster with safety advice for customers that can be printed and placed near gasoline pumps. The Houston-based oil company recommends its branded retailers clean pumps and handles every hour, if possible, offer hand sanitizer on the forecourt and have an employee visibly clean high-touch surfaces.