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Missing thrift stores, but worried about COVID-19

By Ellen Warren, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Fashion Daily News

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I am, or was, an avid thrifter. I haven't been in Goodwill or a church thrift shop since March. I'm getting very itchy to resume my bargain quest, but I'm still reluctant, considering how shoppers go through everything on a rack, handle things, try on items, etc. Am I being overly cautious?

- Pamela J.

Dear Pamela: No, I don't think you're being overly cautious. We all have our own scale of careful behavior and risk tolerance. I too love to shop in thrift stores and I too haven't been in one since March. It's killing me, but I share your worry.

A respected March study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus can remain on hard surfaces - like plastic and metal (doorknobs, elevator buttons, etc.) - for up to 72 hours. But that study didn't include fabrics. A 2005 study of SARS (another coronavirus) cited in The New York Times found that, depending on the concentration of the virus, it took five minutes, three hours or 24 hours for it to become inactive on cotton and cardboard. A key finding of that study quoted in the Times: "Even with a relatively high virus load in the droplet, rapid loss of infectivity was observed for paper and cotton material."

Like you, I especially worry about transmission on recently tried-on clothing and in dressing rooms. (That's why so many retailers have closed off their dressing rooms.) The most likely way to get the disease is person to person, not by touching clothing in a thrift store. But still ... I'm staying away for now. It pains me to write this because many of these stores hire people who might otherwise not be employed and the store income supports good causes. Your financial donations to these good causes are gratefully accepted (and often tax deductible).

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I live part of the year in the city and have city water. The rest of the year I live in a rural area with well water. The problem is that when I wash my hair in the well water it never seems clean. I use the same products in both places. My hair feels like the product isn't completely rinsed out, and my hair feels dirty even immediately after washing. Can you please ask your readers for advice on products, techniques or processes that work for them? I'm sure I'm not alone with this problem.


_Cheryl B.

Dear Cheryl: The only solution I can come up with - and it is a cumbersome one - is to buy a big jug of bottled water (grocery store brand, $0.89) and use that when washing your hair.

Readers: Please help Cheryl out with your experience and suggestions.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I have some jackets that I am wondering if they may be still in style. I have a baseball-style lightweight jacket (black) and I have a gray moto-style leather jacket. Are these styles considered a versatile, classic style?


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