As coronavirus — and coronavirus-related panic — spreads, the internet is brimming with theories and suggestions for what measures to take to stay safe. Some are helpful, and some aren’t really based in fact at all. Drinking water every 15 minutes, for example, won’t prevent you from contracting coronavirus.
Cleaning your clothing at 300 degrees, however, very well might — which is what many clothing rental companies have been doing all along to prevent the spread of germs from returned clothing. And after the question of, “Is it safe to rent clothing during coronavirus?” arose among worried renters, many rental services were quick to set the record straight.
Last Wednesday, popular rental company Rent The Runway sent out an email sharing what they know so far about the virus and how they are working to combat it. The email starts out with a matter-of-fact statement from Harvard Health which reads, “There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted from soft surfaces like fabric or carpet to humans.” It goes on to explain that the cleaning products and practices used at RTR are “designed to kill” the common cold and flu, giving the company no reason to believe that they won’t do the same for this particular strain.
Rent The Runway’s cleaning process is as follows: Upon arrival, all returns are inspected before being sent to be both wet and dry cleaned. After, they are steamed using temperatures ranging from 248 degrees to 302 degrees, a heat significantly higher than 167 degrees, the heat at which flu viruses are killed, according to the CDC. All items are wrapped in sterile plastic after being washed, to then be sent to the next renter.
Similar processes are being taken for accessories like sunglasses and jewelry which are thoroughly cleaned with alcohol, as well as handbags, which are disinfected before being sent out for reuse.
Other popular rental services like Nuuly by URBN and Armoire are also keeping an eye out for the virus’s impact, and while doing so, continue to maintain the highest standards of cleaning for their pre-used clothing and accessories. “One of our areas of expertise at Nuuly is cleaning and sanitizing clothing,” Nuuly shared with us, along with their cleaning process which is almost identical to Rent The Runway’s. “The end result: clothing that is clean, free of germs or bacteria, and safe for the next consumer to use.” In addition, all Nuuly factories are equipped with hand sanitizing stations and all factory workers wear gloves at all times.
Neither Rent The Runway nor Nuuly commented on whether or not their business (read: profits) has suffered as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, but according to an article on Ad Age from March 4, RTR had yet to see a pullback in orders following the first diagnosis in the U.S. in February.
As per the company’s FAQ page, customers are also concerned about wearing garments manufactured overseas. In response, RTR explains that, according to the CDC, there is currently no evidence suggesting that COVID-19 can be transmitted via imported goods. The World Health Organization is adamant that receiving packages from areas affected by the virus is safe, stating that “the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”
Darshan Shah, MD, founder and Medical Director at Next Health agrees with WHO, saying, "Although theoretically it's possible for coronavirus to get onto a package at the source of delivery, it's virtually impossible [for the virus to survive] due to the package going through harsh conditions in transit. Mechanical, temperature, and humidity changes would likely kill the virus before it arrives at your doorstep."
With that being said, it can’t hurt to take a page from Naomi Campbell’s book and wipe all packages down with disinfectant wipes before opening them — whether you late-night ordered a lifetime supply of hand sanitizer or rented a Rejina Pyo skirt via your Unlimited account.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.