Here's Exactly How Doctors Say to Sanitize Your Mail and Packages

Medical experts say this is the best way to handle your mail during the coronavirus pandemic.

With businesses closing their doors across the globe, countless people are turning to online retailers to have everything from groceries to personal items delivered right to their front door. And while this approach makes it easier to abide by the rules of social distancing, certain concerns remain about the potential health risk all that mail may carry.

While getting sick from your mail isn't a forgone conclusion, it's a completely valid concern—given that recent research indicates that coronavirus can live up to three days on plastic and 24 hours on cardboard. Also, you never know who previously handled your mail, or when they did so.

"Even if a carrier company such as USPS or Amazon or UPS was to screen every one of its employees every day, there is no guarantee that they would not be asymptomatic carriers of the illness," says Taylor Graber, MD, owner of ASAP IVs.

That leads us to the pressing question: How do I sanitize mail and keep my home safe?

According to Graber, the answer is relatively simple. First, he suggests opening packages and other mail in an area of your home that can be easily wiped down with an antibacterial cleaner—a supply table in your basement or something similar, for example. Designate half of the surface for "dirty" items and half for "clean" ones.

Place a newly received package on the "dirty" side and open it wearing gloves. (If you don't have gloves available, Graber recommends washing your hands before and immediately after.) Remove the contents and any exterior packaging, such as plastic wrap, and place the item, or items, on the "clean" side, immediately disposing of all packaging materials. Finally, dispose of your gloves.

"This way, hopefully the innermost part of the package should be the cleanest," Graber says. "The remaining articles in the clean section should have had minimal contact with outside hands and risk of transmission should be minimized."

To play it extra safe, Valerie Sauda, PhD, chief nurse administrator and assistant professor at Husson University's School of Nursing, recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds once you've completed the steps outlined above. "That's the equivalent of singing the 'Happy Birthday' song twice or 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' once out loud," she explains.

While it certainly can't hurt to take an additional step of wiping down the package's interior contents with an EPA-approved coronavirus disinfectant, they're unlikely to be a transmission source for COVID-19 by the time they've reached your door.

"In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures," the CDC says. And for more ways to protect against COVID-19, here's How Experts Say You Should Clean Your Phone to Stop Coronavirus Spread.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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