A handbag can easily carry 10,000 types of bacteria without us knowing it. Coronavirus bacteria may last 72 hours on surfaces and, guess what, leather is a favorite breeding ground! While our hands are primary carriers of the virus, our very own handbags become the immediate next touch.
Sinclair says supermarkets are a prime location where food, the public, and pathogens can meet. In a 2018 study published by the Journal of Environmental Health, Sinclair and his research team found that reusable bags are not only highly likely to be contaminated but are also highly likely to transfer pathogens to store employees and shoppers, particularly at high-contact points like check-out conveyors, food scanners and grocery carts.
Think about what you do with your purse at the grocery store. It typically gets placed in the shopping cart until it is set down on the payment counter at checkout. Sinclair says these two surfaces — where high volumes of other shoppers touch — make it easy for viruses to spread from person to person.
While polypropylene bags are one of the most common types of reusable bags sold at grocery chains, they are difficult to disinfect. Made from a more durable plastic than lightweight, single-use plastic bags, their construction material prevents proper sterilization with heat.
What’s the best way to disinfect reusable grocery bags? Sinclair recommends washing bags before and after trips to the market using these methods:
- Launder cotton or canvas totes in a washing machine on a high-heat setting and add bleach or a disinfectant containing sodium percarbonate like Oxi Clean™.
- Dry totes on the highest dryer setting or use sunshine to sanitize: turn washed bags inside-out and place them outside in direct sunlight to dry — for at least an hour; turn right-side out and repeat. “Ultra-violet light occurs naturally from sunlight is effective at killing 99.9% pathogens like viruses and bacteria,” Sinclair says.
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