As people get into the drill of protecting themselves and their loved ones against the notorious coronavirus, travellers returning home just as bans are being enforced may feel safe on home soil. But could they have brought the back with them on their travel bag?
Even if they didn’t encounter any sick people, there’s a chance their luggage could be compromised, according to luggage storage service Bounce.
I’m home now. What do I do with my luggage?
As mentioned above, global health experts are modelling preventative measures against previous viral outbreaks, such as MERS and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
Ann R. Falsey, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Rochester, estimates coronavirus might survive for two to four days on hard surfaces, less than one day on fabrics, and 30-60 minutes on hands.
Hard, non-porous materials like metal, glass, and plastic are more hospitable to viruses than softer ones. For example, let’s say the travel bag is like many on the market: a wheeled canvas case with an adjustable aluminium handle. If the bug has somehow made its way onto your luggage, it’s likely to live longer on the metal handle than the fabric.
Best ways to wash your travel bags: Part one
When travellers think of bugs in their bags, they might flinch at memories of catching bed bugs in a hostel and having to go into full assault mode to get rid of them. Rest assured, you’ll not need to burn your entire suitcase and everything in it.
Experts suggest several relatively easy (albeit time-consuming) tactics for dealing with compromised baggage.
Focus on the parts of the luggage that have been handled by other people. Think of baggage handlers, shuttle drivers, and porters — anybody involved in your bags’ passage from airport to accommodation. Poland says to wipe the affected areas with antibacterial towelettes.
If your local supermarket’s shelves are bare (not uncommon in the wake of panic-buying), use hot water and soap. Alternatively, the CDC’s coronavirus page lists a recipe for bleach solution.
Bear in mind the difference between cleaning (wiping germs from surfaces, rather than killing them) and disinfecting (involving the use of germ-destroying chemicals that can damage fabric). Also keep in mind that the bags may become discoloured or stained in the process.
Poland advises leaving potentially contaminated items in the sun. As mentioned above, coronavirus is enveloped, meaning it’s more sensitive to factors like heat and humidity. While heat is not a guaranteed COVID-killer, prolonged exposure to sunlight could theoretically disrupt viral development on affected surfaces.
For clothes, do what you normally would after a long trip: run them through the washing machine (though skip the eco- and colour-friendly cold cycle) and dryer. Or, send them off to a dry cleaner if fabrics aren’t machine-washable.
Extra heat and time in the dryer should inactivate viral droplets. Don’t shake clothes from your laundry bag and lazily dump them on the floor in a pile; doing so may release viral particles into the air.
Tempted as one might be, don’t ruin all the clothes by boiling everything. Experts say using a regular washing machine would kill the virus, potentially even if one were to combine sick and healthy people’s items in one load (though wash separately if you can). If you can’t access laundry facilities, hand-wash garments at home in water that’s above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees celsius).
Dr. Amy Faith Ho, an emergency physician in Dallas-Fort Worth, suggests cleaning frequently-touched items in our hand luggage we might not consider, like your passport and cover, glasses case, mobile phone, and lotion bottles.
Also, you’ve likely been dragging your travel bag across dirty floors and carpets, so give the wheels a good wipe down for good measure.
Finally, if you’ve tried everything and are still scared to go near any of your possessions, Falsey instructs gathering together all your travel items and isolating them somewhere in your house. Choose an area that won’t be entered by accident, and steer completely clear of it for several days. “Leave items alone for a week, and the virus will die,” she says.
What fabrics do coronavirus love most?
We’ve already gone over how hard surfaces can create longer-lasting environments for coronavirus than softer materials. Robert Amler, Dean of Health Sciences at New York Medical College, says the duration of the virus depends on the porousness of the fabric it touches.
“Some researchers believe the fibers in porous material catch the virus particles, dry them out, and break them apart,” Amler says. “Smooth surfaces like leather and vinyl can be wiped clean.”
It’s also been suggested polyester and other spandex-like materials may hold germs longer than breathable fabrics, like cotton; so be sure to wash leggings, underwear, and dresses carefully. Finally, initial studies on COVID-19 indicate the virus’ ability to stay on cardboard, steel, copper, and plastic surfaces. Note how buttons, zippers, and other clothing hardware can consist of these materials.
Best ways to wash your travel bags: Part two
Of course, while we’re talking about cleansing garments of a contagious disease, you might conversely be picturing yourself wearing something resembling a hazmat suit.
Just how careful do you have to be in your cleaning habits? The CDC provides more specific instructions for germ removal:
• Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Get rid of the gloves after each cleaning. If gloves are reusable, make sure they’re never used for any other purpose.
• Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves. Use warm, soapy water, rub all those nooks and crannies, and wish yourself a happy birthday twice. (In other words, keep your hands lathered for at least twenty seconds.) Alternatively, use hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol.
• If disinfecting, using diluted household bleaches or solutions of at least 70 per cent alcohol. Make sure the room is properly ventilated, follow instructions on the bottles, and never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner.
• For porous surfaces and fabrics like canvas, cotton, and that souvenir rug you bought from a souk, wash with typical cleaning products indicated for use with those particular materials. Machine-wash clothes on the warmest possible setting and allow them to dry completely. If no disposable gloves were used while handling laundry, wash your hands afterwards. - TradeArabia News Service