Special Report

10 Mistakes You’re Probably Making Cleaning Groceries

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6. You’re using soap on produce

Since you can’t use disinfectant on produce, should you wash it with soap and water as you would your hands? No, say experts like Don Schaffner, a Rutgers professor of food microbiology and host of the podcast “Food Safety Talk.” “Accidentally ingesting soap can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea,” says Schaffner. Instead, rinse it thoroughly in warm water, using your hands or (for sturdy produce) a brush, then pat it dry with paper towels.

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7. You’re not handling the empty grocery bags or boxes correctly

Once everything is out of the bags or boxes, what do you do with them? Whether you plan to reuse them yourself or recycle them, let them sit, out of the way, to allow any harmful residue to dissipate. According to a recent British study, the coronavirus can live on paper for three hours and on cardboard for up to 24, so after that they should be safe to handle.

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8. You’re not disinfecting your unpacking and cleaning area after use

Once you’ve got everything unpacked and put away, remember to use disinfectant (spray or a wipe) on the service the bags or boxes were sitting on, just to be extra careful.

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9. You’re not washing your hands after unpacking your order

Now comes the last important step. You guessed it: washing your hands again, using warm water and soap, for at least 20 seconds. Numerous online tutorials demonstrate the best techniques.

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10. You’re going overboard

One final note: You’re cleaning your groceries because you want to be especially cautious, and that’s a good thing. But don’t get crazy about it. Every tiny corner of every package doesn’t need attention (concentrate on the parts that people would normally hold when picking it up), and as long as you wash your hands thoroughly (and often), your chances of picking up the virus from the surfaces of groceries or anything else are small.