Katia, that’s a great question, and your instincts are good. Porous surfaces just aren’t significant vectors for coronavirus. There’s an extremely low likelihood of picking up any meaningful quantity of active virus from cardboard, clothes, paper, grocery store produce, grocery bags, etc. I rinse my produce with warm water, just a basic rinse to remove debris and chemical residues, like I’ve always done. I don’t wipe down my groceries with Lysol, and I don’t wipe down mail and packages, but I do wash my hands after putting away groceries and after opening mail.

Remember that the presence of the virus is not the primary problem. The primary problem is getting a critical mass of active virions into your eyes, nose or mouth. That is what is required for infection. I don’t intend to put my cereal box in my mouth, and I wash my hands before I sit down to eat. So wiping down groceries and packages seems to me to be a misunderstanding of the need for and effectiveness of hand washing.

This article is kind of dense, but it’s a great run-down of the actual science behind why we shouldn’t be too afraid of virus in the air or on our groceries: https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/16/coronavirus-can-become-aerosol-doesnt-mean-doomed/

Thanks again, Katia. Paper-bag-hands unite!

A.M. Carter earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. She writes about philosophy, science, politics and current events.

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