The spread of the coronavirus has meant that many independent fashion brands and retailers are struggling to stay in business, with customers worrying about spending, but also inviting the virus into their homes by receiving packages.
Is it safe to order online? Can the virus spread through clothes and shoes? I asked infectious disease expert Dr. Morgan Katz, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, to clear up a few points.
Can the coronavirus live on fabric?
Recent tests done at the National Institute of Health were looking at the virus on different surfaces, and while they weren’t done on fabrics, research found the virus could last up to 3 days or so on some surfaces like plastic or aluminium steal. That was the longest amount of time, and up to 24 hours on cardboard.
What it didn’t look at is how infections this virus is and we don’t think this is the main way it’s transmitted. It’s a very low likelihood that you would catch it from cardboard or fabric.
Is it still safe to order clothes online?
The likelihood of catching the virus in this way is super low. Imagine if you said it lasted 24 hours on fabric, that would mean someone who has Covid-19 would have to sneeze on the clothes while packaging them up, and then the order would have to get to you within that time frame. Then it would still have to be enough of a viral load to cause an infection. The risk of that is very low.
Should we leave parcels in a separate room for up to 72 hours just to make sure?
That’s a bit drastic, if it’s cardboard, I might leave it outside until I need it, but if it’s urgent then I recommend you open it and wash your hands well afterwards.
How should you wash bedsheets & clothes if there is an infected person in your home?
I don’t recommend shaking the bedsheets as that could send respiratory droplets flyingin the air and you could breathe them in. Wash those very carefully with gloves on, the hotter the better.
Can the virus spread through your shoes?
Again, low risk. I would still recommend taking off your shoes before you come inside just to minimise risk of any pathogens you could track through your house, but that’s best practice at the best of times. Developing Covid from your shoes is highly unlikely.
Are fabric masks efficient?
Yes, we have seen that 95% of droplets are blocked from fabrics alone. We recommend saving surgical masks for healthcare workers. Fabric can be good to make sure you’re not transmitting germs to others even if you don’t have symptoms. A scarf is fine to use too.
What about leather or knitted gloves?
Yes, same principle. But really hands are fine as long as you wash them straight away, and don’t touch your mouth, eyes or nose. You can only catch it by breathing it in really, it doesn’t get absorbed through your skin.