How to Disinfect Packages and Mail

Published April 2, 2020
man's hand removing letters from letter box

With all the fears that pervade people's current day-to-day life over becoming infected from touching surfaces, it's natural to extend that fear to mail and package delivery. While there are steps you can take to make yourself safer, mail and packages are not likely to be a hotbed of viruses and germs.

Can Germs Be Spread Through Mail?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), your risk of catching a deadly disease like COVID-19 from touching mail and packages is almost non-existent. "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." This is due both to the "poor survivability" of viruses on surfaces and the fact that transmission occurs largely from respiratory droplets transmitted through human contact. The CDC also reports that there have been no cases of humans becoming infected through handling their mail and packages. The World Health Organization concurs, noting on its website that, "the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low."

How to Disinfect Mail and Packages

Despite the low risk, if you are immune compromised, or simply want to do everything humanly possible to avoid infection, you can disinfect your mail and packages with a few simple steps.

  1. Since viruses have been found to live on cardboard and paper for up to 24 hours, one option is to simply leave your mail outside in your mailbox for 24 hours before taking it inside.
  2. Likewise, you can leave packages in an enclosed area such as a covered porch or in your garage for 24 hours.
  3. Another option could be to place the packages in your car if you don't have an outside area safe from weather to keep them for a day.
  4. When handling your packages when they are first received, wear gloves and make sure that you do not touch your face or exposed skin with the gloves.
  5. After handling the packages and storing them, remove the gloves, throw them away and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  6. After the 24-hour period, put gloves on and then open your packages and mail and bring the contents inside. Throw the packaging and envelopes immediately in the trash, then throw out the gloves and wash your hands thoroughly.
  7. You can now go through your mail safely. If you are still concerned, be sure not to touch your face while handling the mail and package contents and wash your hands when you are done going through it.

Using Disinfectant Wipes on Mail

If keeping your mail isolated for 24 hours isn't enough for you, you can also wipe your mail and packages down with a disinfecting wipe. Keep in mind that this can damage the paper and cardboard, so it's not advised to do so. If you use the wipe lightly enough, you can clean off the paper surface and keep it slightly damp without soaking the surface. You can also make a fine mist spray of a solution of at least 60% ethanol alcohol and water and lightly spray the mail, taking care not to soak it. Allow at least five minutes before wiping any excess moisture off. However, washing your hands thoroughly after handling your mail is more than enough of a precaution if you are concerned about germs on your mail.

No-Contact Mail Delivery

One area where transmission is possible is not related to your physical mail and packages, but with your mail delivery person. If your mail carrier is sick and coughs on or near you when you come out to greet him or her, this definitely can put you at risk. If you're worried about transmission of germs and viruses through the mail, it's best to avoid your mail carrier and wait for them to drop off your mail and leave before going out to get it. You can also use a disinfectant cleaner to clean the mailbox after they have touched it.

Keeping Your Mail and Packages Safe

The risk of getting a serious illness like COVID-19 from your mail and package deliveries is extremely low, and there is no evidence that such a scenario has ever happened. If you're concerned about your risk, you can isolate your packages and practice good hand hygiene, but anything beyond that, such as wiping down mail and packages with disinfectant, is overkill. It may make you feel less anxious to do so, but the CDC has assured the public that this is not an area of real concern.

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How to Disinfect Packages and Mail