No touching! Google Home voice control helps keep germs off your stuff

Talk more and touch less by adjusting these essential Google Home voice control settings.

Dale Smith Former Associate Writer
Dale Smith is a former Associate Writer on the How-To team at CNET.
Dale Smith
4 min read

Skip touch controls and use your voice with Google Home devices like this Google Nest Wi-Fi access point.

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to raise awareness about disease-prevention best practices like how to wash your hands correctly and how to disinfect your home, many are turning to tech to help battle the spread of disease. If you've got a Google Home or Google Nest smart speaker or display, you can help keep everyone in your household safer by setting up voice control for as many tasks as possible.

The less that you, your housemates and your guests have to touch in your home, the fewer opportunities there will be to exchange germs. That includes the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease, which may persist on surfaces for as long as up to nine days.

It definitely helps if you get in the habit of using body parts other than your fingertips when you do need to press buttons or flip switches, but here are five ways to use your Google smart speaker to avoid touching things altogether.

Western Digital TV Play

Put down that TV remote and set up Google Home so you can control your TV with your voice instead.

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Leave the TV remote on the coffee table

One of Google Home's most useful (and underused) capabilities is that it can control a wide array of TVs . Most new TVs from Sony and LG have Google Assistant baked in already, but Google Home can control any smart TV powered by Chromecast , Roku or Logitech Harmony, even if you use a dongle. 

Once you get set up in your Google Home app, anyone watching your TV should be able to turn it on and off, adjust volume and change the channel or service (say Netflix or Hulu ) with just their voice. 

Watch this: Pandemic: Here's what's changed about the coronavirus

If those controls don't seem to work, you may have to dig through your TV settings menu to turn on HDMI Consumer Electronics Control, or HDMI-CEC. Sometimes manufacturers call it something else, using words like link or sync (LG calls it SimpLink, Sony uses BraviaSYNC), but it has to be on or else some voice commands won't work.

To link your TV powered by Google Home, Chromecast, Roku or Logitech Harmony:

1. Open the Google Home app and tap the + sign in the upper left corner.

2. Tap Set up device.

3. If you're setting up a TV equipped with Google Home or Chromecast, under New devices tap Set up New Devices then tap on the device you want to set up.

4. If you're setting up a Roku or Logitech Harmony, under Works with Google tap Have something already set up? then scroll or search for the device you want to set up.

clean smartphone

You can't completely avoid using some devices, like your phone, but keeping them clean and using voice control whenever possible will help reduce the spread of germs.

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Stay off phones, tablets and computers

In addition to routine cleaning and disinfecting, minimizing how often you touch phones, tablets and computers may help reduce the spread of germs as well. One way to do that is by learning to ask Google Assistant for information you'd otherwise use those other devices to access. 

But for that to work, you'll need to make sure your Google Home device is set up the right way. Go into the Google Home app settings and adjust the following so you get accurate results:

  • Time, alarms and weather forecasts: To ensure correct responses, tap Settings > General and make sure your home address is entered correctly. If the default weather report still seems off, here's a list of other weather services you can try with Google Home.
  • Check traffic: Before you can ask Google Home to estimate travel time, you'll have to make sure it has an up-to-date list of your regular haunts (work, school, etc.). Open the Google Home app, tap Settings > More Settings > Your places and then tap Add a new place if you don't see a location you frequent on the list.
  • Checking the news: Go to Settings > More Settings > News, then under News sources tap Add shows. Scroll left to right on the menu bar to choose type of news (General, Technology, Business, etc.) then scroll up and down to see your options. Tap the star icon on the sources you want to hear news from.
  • Listen to music: You can either follow our guide to setting up your favorite music service on Google Home or simply open the Google Home App, tap Settings, scroll down to Google Assistant services and tap Music to link your accounts.

Check the weather forecast by asking Google Home for the weather report to avoid touching a phone, tablet or computer.

James Martin/CNET

To really refine the voice control features, as well as the voice responses you get from Google Home, check out these five tips and tricks to controlling the conversation with Google Home. If you're having trouble hearing Google Assistant (or it's having a hard time hearing you) you may need to clean your Google Home smart speaker for better communication. For a bunch more commands that'll help you minimize touching stuff around the home, check out our list of 32 essential Google Home commands.

Watch this: Coronavirus and COVID-19: Everything you need to know