envelope full of covid
July 12, 2020 9:06 AM   Subscribe

I have an envelope full of covid in the flower bed. Maybe?

My youngest sister sews; we asked her to make us some masks several weeks ago. She was finishing up the school year and slow to get to it (which was fine, she was doing us a favor). In the meantime, she was feeling crappy, her GP ordered a covid test, and sure enough, she was positive.

She's been feeling better (thankfully!) and isn't symptomatic now. However, she keeps testing positive (not surprisingly). She finished up our masks and mailed them to us. They got here yesterday, and I... have no idea what to do with them. (To be fair, she gave us the chance to opt out and we felt ungrateful saying "no, please keep these masks we asked you to make"; we should have just said "thanks, but we'll pass.")

Logically, I know the we're finding out that the odds of surface transfer are pretty low; our household hasn't been quarantining groceries or packages, we've just been washing anything that seemed dodgy. But I'm having a lot more trouble with something that came from someone I know has tested positive. Should we watch the masks on our sanitation cycle? Boil them? Put them in the garden shed and hoping she doesn't want pictures? We both work on a college campus and are eventually going to have to go back to work in person, so the extra masks would be handy, but we're both feeling (hopefully understandably) reluctant.

(This is not a question I ever expected to be using on the green...)
posted by joycehealy to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Just wash them in a regular cycle, and practice good hygiene after you touch them.
They'll be safe after that.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:09 AM on July 12, 2020 [27 favorites]

Best answer: Wash em, soak in (diluted) bleach, let em dry in sunlight. Probably fine now if it's been in transit for a few days.
posted by sammyo at 9:10 AM on July 12, 2020

Best answer: You could also use an iron on the steam setting which is what my mask maker (who is a respiratory therapist) recommended for sanitization. But yes, if you wash them first and dry either on high heat or in sunlight you should be more than fine.
posted by eleanna at 9:12 AM on July 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I would just wait quite a while before using them (and then wash them as well). The virus can't live on its own and at least one study suggests that it might survive on cloth for only a couple of days at most.
posted by pinochiette at 9:27 AM on July 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: WHO guidance on how to care for fabric masks - in summary, wash on a hot cycle or bleach in light bleach solution
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:28 AM on July 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It's not really necessary but out of an abundance of caution and to make myself feel better, I'd be inclined to let the envelope sit in an out of the way spot for a few days first. After washing them, as described above, I'd have no discomfort using them.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:41 AM on July 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Soap kills it. Open the envelope right into the washing machine, start it running, and wash your hands very, very, very thoroughly. Even assuming they were slathered with COVID, even assuming that COVID survived several inhospitable days in the mail, they touched nothing that was not then doused with soap, and there will be no way for you to get it.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:45 AM on July 12, 2020 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: I've marked everyone as best answers because I appreciate everyone humoring my anxiety and pointing me at the right information. I think "let them sit for a few days, straight into the sanitation cycle in the washer, and sun" may be our answer here (though I may grab some bleach from Target curbside too).

I really appreciate y'all.
posted by joycehealy at 9:51 AM on July 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Is the mailbox in a sunny spot? Leave them for a day or 2. The virus is dead because it doesn't survive long on cloth, and it's been in the mail system a couple days, but, you know. Then wash with laundry detergent and dry in sunshine for several days.

I hope your sister's okay. I would wear the masks, and only feel weird the 1st time.
posted by theora55 at 10:16 AM on July 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You need real bleach, not the color safe kind. The bleach may fade the fabric and may do it in splotchy way so I would rely on time + the washer and dryer to be double sure everything is safe.
posted by metahawk at 2:46 PM on July 12, 2020

Best answer: One thing to consider is that you should really be treating these masks no different to how you are treating any of the others that you have worn, or to put it the other way, whatever procedure you feel is necessary for these, should be used in general. The only difference here is that you know for definite that these were in contact with someone with a case (while the others are a bit more Schrödinger's Covid.) On the other hand, these have been in transit for a while, whereas ones you have been wearing have not.

I'd maybe use this is a way of finding out what you feel you need to do to process your masks to feel that they are safe. Everyone's comfort level is a bit different, and depends on their situation. (The level of cases in your area, your own risk factors, the level of mask wearing around you, etc.)
posted by scorbet at 6:25 AM on July 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

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