The Healthy Way to Handle Home Deliveries

Here are 11 safe home delivery practices that will help reduce your chances of getting sick.

More and more people are opting for the convenience of home food delivery, subscription meal services and online shopping. And that’s especially true during cold and flu season.

While the risks of catching and passing on germs are lower with home delivery than shopping in a store, there are still some precautions worth taking. Here are nine expert tips to keep in mind when it comes to safe home delivery.

  1. Opt for “no contact” delivery, if possible. Viruses most often spread through human-to-human contact, so cut out or limit any interaction with your delivery person. Many delivery apps like Instacart and DoorDash give you the option to leave deliveries at your door. To completely eliminate human contact, opt for electronic tipping or leave a cash tip in an envelope outside.

  2. Wear a face mask if you must have contact. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend wearing cloth face coverings in public. Even basic DIY face masks made of handkerchiefs or pillowcases can help slow the spread of certain viruses.

  3. Don’t stress about germs on packaging surfaces. The risk of catching a respiratory virus infection from packaging, postal mail and food is very, very low. And when it comes to food, there are few receptors in your digestive tract for a respiratory virus to take hold, meaning your body would simply get rid of the virus.

  4. Don’t sanitize your packages or leave your food outside to “disinfect.” Food safety experts say there’s no need to sanitize delivery boxes or to wipe down food packaging. Also, don’t leave groceries outside for hours (or even days) to rid them of germs. The research clearly shows your risk of infection from packaging is extremely low. Plus, you put yourself at risk of catching a foodborne illness if you don’t refrigerate perishable food ASAP.

  5. That said, take extra steps if you’re at higher risk. While a healthy person shouldn’t worry about getting sick from germs on packaging, it’s a different story for the elderly and immunocompromised. Experts recommend that people with vulnerable immune systems wear disposable gloves when picking up delivered packages. After removing the items inside, they should throw away the packaging, toss the gloves and thoroughly wash their hands.

  6. Disinfect any surfaces the delivery person touched. Respiratory viruses mainly spread through person-to-person contact. Still, if your delivery person touched your door knob, doorbell or any other surface in your home, it’s a good idea to disinfect those surfaces ASAP. The CDC recommends using any of the following solutions: EPA-registered disinfectants, alcohol solutions that are at least 70 percent alcohol, or a mixture of four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water. Learn more about how to clean your house to avoid getting sick.

  7. Wash your hands immediately after unpacking. Katie Heil, a certified food safety professional at StateFoodSafety, reiterates the CDC advice. “There’s no evidence that you can get a virus just by touching food packaging,” she says. “However, it’s a good idea to wash your hands after putting away your groceries.” The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.

  8. Skip the signature or do it from a distance. Both FedEx and UPS are currently suspending the normal requirements to sign for packages. If a signature is required, have the delivery person leave a note outside before moving a safe distance away from you. Sign with your own pen, if possible. Then leave the signed note for the delivery person to pick up after you go back into your house.

  9. Have a delivery area for packages. You can eliminate the need for face-to-face contact with a delivery person by placing a box, mat or crate outside of your door, along with a note requesting that all deliveries go there. Regularly sanitize the delivery area to eliminate germs.

  10. Designate a “unpacking” zone. While the chances of a package spreading a virus are low, it’s still not a bad idea to play it safe by dedicating a special area for unpacking deliveries. Your best bet is a hard surface like a countertop that you can easily sanitize once you remove items from the box or bag. Another option is to open all packages outside, then throw away all boxes or bags without bringing them into your house.

  11. Order direct from restaurants, if possible. Ordering through a third-party food delivery app, rather than through the restaurant, means that an extra person is probably coming in contact with your food. So order delivery direct from the restaurant (or pick up the order yourself) to cut out any extra contact with your food. Ordering from the restaurant also saves the owners money by eliminating the third-party delivery fee.

Amanda Prischak
Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer based in Erie, Pennsylvania.