How to Clean Luggage During the Coronavirus Outbreak

As New Yorkers commuting amid the coronavirus outbreak are already keenly aware, the subway is teeming with bacteria. I mean, it’s always pretty gross—think lots of human bodies contorted like tetriminoes, sweating and sneezing all over each other—but still, the virus has even jaded New Yorkers a little more on edge.

Those carrying luggage, backpacks and bags on the subway may want to exert a little extra diligence in washing their personal belongings. Most people understand the importance of hand-washing, which is awesome. But the objects we tote around—including suitcases—also need a little love every once in a while. 

(One of the benefits of renting luggage is we constantly clean our bags with an eight-step inspection every time they’re returned—just saying.) 

But if you’re traveling with any sort of baggage, it’s important to know how to properly clean it. We spoke to Dr. Tara C. Smith, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at the Kent State University College of Public Health, to learn how to keep your luggage squeaky clean.

     Cleaning products and suitcases

    Casey: What kinds of germs might your luggage come into contact with while you're traveling?

    Dr. Tara C. Purcell: anyone handling your luggage could be carrying a number of pathogens. Obviously coronavirus is a concern right now, but we're also in influenza season, and norovirus is a constant issue. 

    How often should people clean their luggage? 

    TCP: I think in the current situation where everyone is trying to be as cautious as possible about travel and coronavirus, each time you get it back from another individual would be prudent--at least wiping down handles at a minimum with a disinfecting wipe. 

    Woman with dirty hands and man with suitcase

    Any tips for disinfecting different types of bags, like hard shells versus soft bags?
     
    TCP: For hard-sided luggage, cleaning with a disinfectant wipe would probably be adequate, or spraying with a disinfectant cleaner and wiping dry with a paper or cloth towel. For cloth luggage, treat hard surfaces like handles the same as above, and the cloth could be sprayed with a disinfectant like Lysol to kill any germs on the cloth. 
     
    Should people take any extra precautions with their luggage during the coronavirus outbreak?
     
    TCP: I think we just need to be mindful of everything we touch. Generally the germs on our luggage will come from our own hands, so keep that in mind as you step up your hand hygiene. If you had dirty hands on your luggage handle, washing them and then touching the handle right away can re-contaminate your own hands. Even just a wipe with a wet paper towel in a bathroom is better than nothing in a pinch. 
     
    You can follow Dr. Purcell on Twitter here.

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