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Do You Really Have to Disinfect Groceries? (And Other Burning Questions)

Do You Really Have to Disinfect Groceries? (And Other Burning Questions)

As the globe’s “new normal” continues to change the way we go about our day-to-day activities, shopping and other basic everyday practices have become infinitely more stressful than we’re accustomed to.


Although provincial governments have been issuing guidelines and protocols for our safety since March, several questions continue to linger as we second-guess ourselves. And while many answers to our most pressing concerns are still up in the air, experts have weighed in on some of our biggest questions revolving around the daily tasks we still need to perform.

Here, we break down some of your biggest questions involving cleaning and disinfecting.

Related: How to Make Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Question: Do I really have to disinfect all my groceries?

Answer: This one is a bit tricky to navigate and will depend on which medical expert you’re listening to, but the general consensus seems to be that the bigger risks come from the people in the grocery store, not the actual fresh foods or boxed items. While most stores have set up stringent rules around social distancing practices, continuing to maintain a distance of six feet from the person nearest to you is the best tactic to take. To minimize the risk of possible contamination, go into the store with a shopping list so you’re in and out fairly quickly. Wear a face mask and sanitize cart handles and your hands.

According to NPR, many experts aren’t washing and disinfecting their own groceries. That’s because the risk of infection from contaminated surfaces appears low, especially if the item has been sitting on the shelf for days. However, if it makes you feel better to take some course of action to increase the odds of zero contamination, wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly with cold water for an FDA-approved cleanse. Avoid washing fresh foods with soap or disinfectant cleaning wipes as leftover residue may result in sickness or stomach pains.

Related: Here’s How to Make Your Own DIY Cloth Face Masks


Question: Are grocery bags risky?

Answer: Although it’s technically possible that grocery bags (plastic or cloth) could contain some germs on their surfaces, most experts believe the risk is relatively low. If you’re feeling extra cautious and it would bring peace of mind, you could always leave them in the trunk of your car or the garage until you need to use them again.

Related: How to Make Reusable Disinfectant Cleaning Wipes

Question: What about mail and packages?

Answer: It’s technically possible that mail or package can become contaminated. But overall, the odds remain low. According to this study from the New England Journal of Medicine, the survival time of germs on cardboard is relatively low due to the fact that, unlike plastic surfaces, cardboard is absorbent and would be harder to pick up on your hands once you’ve touched the package. For the sake of caution, remove items from the package immediately and take the cardboard outside. For paper mail, open envelopes immediately and recycle or shred anything that isn’t needed.

Question: Should I disinfect my phone?

Answer: It definitely doesn’t hurt, especially considering that, in general, our phones are one of the most germ-filled surfaces we encounter on a regular basis anyway. Not only do they come in contact with our own hands and mouths, but they could come in contact with another person if we let them hold our phones or take a picture with it. We also carry them with us on a trip to the bathroom.

Frequent hand washing will help reduce the amount of bacteria that winds up on your phone, as will an awareness of the types of surfaces you put it down on. Try to keep it on your person at all times or on a surface you know is clean and resist the urge to hand it off to another person.


According to its website, Apple says it’s safe to clean your iPhone with disinfectant wipes as something like Clorox wipes won’t damage your screen. (Avoid using household chemicals like bleach, though). Additionally, Samsung suggests using an alcohol-based solution (70%) and wipe down with a microfibre cloth. (Don’t use pure alcohol as it can strip away the coatings that protect your phone screens).

For more tips, tricks and hacks, visit #CanadaTogether as we band together during this unprecedented time.

Image courtesy of Pexels

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