/ Health

Are your deliveries, parcels and post safe?

We all want to limit our potential exposure to COVID-19 as much as possible, but do we really need to be disinfecting our deliveries and post?

The question of disinfecting deliveries has understandably come up a number of times this past month.

To get the facts and advice on how to handle deliveries as safely as possible, I spoke with Public Health England and Royal Mail.

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

Here’s what the risk is, what you should do if you’re receiving a delivery and what additional measures have been put in place.

How do contactless deliveries work?

All couriers are limiting contact with customers during the outbreak. This means you’ll no longer be asked to sign for parcels. 

Most courier services ask that you agree a safe place with them in advance. If there’s no safe place available, most couriers will follow these steps:

📦 The driver will leave the parcel on your doorstep

📦 They will then knock on your door and retreat two metres away.

📦 The driver will wait for you to retrieve the parcel and ask for your name as proof of delivery

If the courier hasn’t followed these steps you can ask them to do so through the door before opening. 

Some couriers, such as DPD and Hermes, might also take a photo of the parcel (not of the recipient) as evidence of delivery.

What does Public Health England recommend?

First and foremost, Public Health England (PHE) says it’s best for people to practise good hand hygiene.

That means you need to regularly wash your hands with soap and water.

If soap or water isn’t available and your hands are visibly clean then sanitizer gel can be used – but proper hand washing is the most effective method and this should be your first choice as soon as you’ve handled anything from outside your home – including parcels, post or other deliveries.

Is there a risk of catching coronavirus from a delivery?

PHE told us that while not a lot is known about COVID-19, it is likely to behave in a similar way to other coronaviruses.

How long any respiratory virus survives will depend on a number of factors, such as the surface the virus is on, whether it’s exposed to sunlight, different temperatures/humidity and exposure to cleaning products.

In most circumstances, the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surfaces is likely to have decreased significantly by 24 hours, and even more so after a further 48 hours.

Because COVID-19 is a new illness, PHE says it isn’t yet known exactly how it spreads from person to person, but similar viruses are mainly spread by cough and sneeze droplets, and ‘indirect contact with infected respiratory secretions’.

PHE said that appropriate infection and prevention control measures are being implemented to reduce the risk to the public.

You can read PHE’s guidance in full here

We reached out to the biggest delivery firm in the UK – Royal Mail – to find out more.

What’s Royal Mail doing to reduce the risk?

Royal mail told us that it’s committed to keeping the mail moving – delivering letters and parcels across the UK, including to those who find it difficult to leave their homes.

Royal Mail has committed around £15 million on buying equipment such as hand sanitiser, gloves and other additional protective measures designed to keep its people safe and the vast majority of mail can be posted safely through the letterbox without any interaction needed at all.

It has implemented a raft of changes designed to implement social distancing measures, including a new rule that means there can only be one person in a Royal Mail delivery vehicle at any one time.

You can expect your Royal Mail deliveries to work like this:

If you’re self isolating: If the item does not require a signature, it is asking you to safely advise your postie that you’re self-isolating (for example, talking through the door). They should then place the item at the door and step aside to a safe distance while you retrieve it.

Signing for items: Your postie will not hand over a hand-held device to you to capture a signature but instead log they will the name of the person accepting the item.  

Receiving a large delivery: If your delivery won’t fit through your letterbox, it will be left at your door. Having knocked on your door, you postie will then step back to a safe distance while you retrieve your item. This will ensure your item is delivered securely rather than being left outside. 

Care home deliveries: To keep the mail moving but prevent the spread of Coronavirus, Royal Mail has made arrangements to deliver to a central point, such as reception, instead of individual addresses within care homes.

Along with these measures, Royal Mail has been promoting regular hand washing with soap and water, enhanced disinfectant cleaning of its communal areas on a daily basis, as well as providing latex gloves to any staff who request them.

Are you worried about potentially being exposed to illness by your post or deliveries?
Loading ... Loading ...

How have you been approaching deliveries at home? Are you being extra cautious or carrying on as before? Let us know in the comments.

John Cordery says:
1 May 2020

This article completely fails to answer the question posed by the title:
“Should I be disinfecting my post and deliveries?”
and the link to PHE is a generic article that does not answer the question either.
Second rate jounalism!

Hil Beavan says:
3 May 2020

I must say I agree. We are keen to get definitive answers on these questions, and look to Which. But the article was all about how the deliveries are made – which is a different issue and I’m sure we’ve all experienced this by now. BBC offers this: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/z487mfr which includes this advice Studies show that the virus, carried within droplets produced by people coughing, lasts longer on hard surfaces. These include:

Cardboard: The virus can last for up to 24 hours on here.
Plastic and stainless steel: Up to two or three days.
Copper: Up to four hours.

TBH this is what I was expecting from Which. The same criticism applies to the food article – i don’t think anyone thinks you can get it from food, but I’d think that the packaging might be a risk given the above advice on plastic etc. Again I found the Which article very lightweight without much info. Disappointing.

I spray all mail with a dilute solution of bleach – wash hands – leave it for an hour – open it and bin the enclosure etc. – wash hands – do not touch the contents again for a couple of hours – wash hands.
Over cautious?Who knows for sure? No one on earth yet!

I usually take the letter out of its envelope which goes into my recycling collection. I then wash my hands before reading the mail.

Alwyn says:
1 May 2020

Yes, we do exactly the same

When we receive parcels, we remove the outer package immediately and put packaging in the appropriate bin. We bring items indoors and wipe with disinfectant or soapy water and quarantine said items. We then wash ourselves in hot soap and water
Are we over cautious? Or is it enough?

David Pelling says:
1 May 2020

I have been irradiating my mail with a strong UV torch (Convoy S2+). However, this emits UVA but I believe UVC is the most effective at inactivating viruses, so possibly a waste of time.

Jill says:
1 May 2020

We leave all deliveries, via post and courier, in the garage for three days to allow any virus to degrade, we hope. Then bring the package or letter into the house, wipe the outside with weak bleach, open and dispose of the outer packaging. Before touching the contents we then wash our hands thoroughly. Maybe this is a bit over the top but we are both over 70 and are self-isolating.

I have had two deliveries recently just before I read information on how couriers were implementing new procedures but on both deliveries made on the same day neither followed the new procedure. The first delivery was left on the doorstep (my door was slightly open and I was sat on the sofa) and they knocked on the door I went to the door and the courier was walking away and I said thank you the second courier door closed, knocked on the door opened the door, courier was walking away I said thank you again, but neither courier stopped to wait acknowledgement and neither asked to confirm my name.!

Martin says:
1 May 2020

The question posed not answered! If you don’t know, why not say so.
What about microwaving the post/newspaper? and if it works, for how long should you microwave for?

Microwaving paper can apparently start a fire, though it’s not something I have tested.

I certainly treat all deliveries as suspect. I keep a pair of rubber gloves and paper knife handy and wear them to remove all outer packaging (envelopes, plastic bages etc) by tipping the contents out. I then wash the gloves (whilst still wearing them) and the knife in soap and water. Then remove gloves. This avoids haveing to subject my hands to yet another wash. For supermarket deliveries I wash down items before putting in the fridge; for non perishable items I leave untouched for 72 hours. I am officially extra vulnerable and can’t be too careful.
Also, I agree that the article does not answer its headline question.

The PO parcel deliverer did not try to leave with a neighbor but left a card which required a visit to the sorting office by my carer!

I prefer Royal Mail to leave a card and return the parcel to their depot if we are not available when they call to deliver an item. It’s so easy to book a re-delivery on-line and the service is very reliable.

I would like other carriers to do the same but they won’t, so they leave things in odd places [e.g. “in the garage” means “behind the bins”].

We returned from our brief ‘constitutional’ this afternoon to find an upturned plastic crate on the doorstep covering a parcel. I have no idea which carrier delivered it and I had not expected it today as the latest delivery forecast was 11 May! I suppose it was an ingenious piece of initiative by the carrier – the crate had been in the woodstore with some kindling in it and I now have the tin of timber treatment I had been waiting for.

j ball says:
1 May 2020

I receive many more newspapers than parcels or letters (incidentally letters are not mentioned).
Is it necessary to take precautions with newspapers, leaflets etc which do not come via Royal Mail?

If you are self isolating it should be quite safe to stick a post-it note on your front door to this effect, checking occasionally to make sure it is still in situ.

SIGNED ………………..

If all else fails!!!!!


A post-it note containing your signature is easily removed by the delivery driver and used as proof of delivery.

Apologies for caps but hopefully acceptable on this occasion.

JimD says:
1 May 2020

I leave ALL post behind the door for 24 hours then spray plastic before opening.

Dave says:
1 May 2020

We are classed as vulnerable and have put a notice on the outer door of our enclosed porch to leave parcels inside. Without touching them, all mail/parcels are marked with the date of receipt and left for 4 days before opening. After this period we assume the items to be safe. No other protective measures are taken regarding mail/parcels.

Chris Southgate says:
1 May 2020

I agree with others that your article does not meet the need. A poor effort.
Suggest your try again on this critical subject and, at least, write more about the stats or probabilities. Some of the imaginative ideas put forward by other members deserve assessment.

A Black says:
1 May 2020

I discard all packaging and envelopes, set what was in them aside, then wash my hands before reading any of the mail items. Just a precaution.

Trevor Haris says:
1 May 2020

“Should I be disinfecting my post and deliveries?” is a subject which will interest most people in these dangerous times. However, having read the article, I am non the wiser. Can we please have a follow-up article which answers the question?

Helen Sanderson says:
1 May 2020

Because we are not sure we quarantine all deliveries for 48 hours with the exception of food, some of which is quarantined for 48 hours and some, wrapped fruit and vegetables, are wiped with an antibacterial cloth.

Patricia says:
1 May 2020

I put on my rubber gloves to pick up and open packages, and break down the box afterwards. This then gets sprayed with a disinfectant and put in the recycling box. The item gets thoroughly washed or wiped with disinfectant and I wash my hands afterwards. I receive almost no ordinary post such as letters, but these are put aside for 3 days before opening.

Josie says:
1 May 2020

Should postmen delivering letters be wearing gloves, if only perhaps to minimise them touching their face? Those I have seen have all been bare handed.