COVID-19 & Your Clothes

The world is under lockdown right now due to the COVIDE-19 pandemic & people are trying their best to stay as safe and healthy as possible. There are plenty of ways to do that - social distancing, wearing face masks in public, disinfecting your homes on a regular basis - but what about when it comes to the clothing you’re wearing? Do we know how long (or if) COVID-19 can live on clothing? How often should we be doing laundry?

How long does COVID-19 live on your clothes? While we don’t know an exact amount of time COVID-19 might live on our clothes, the CDC has said that evidence suggests that it may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials, which includes clothing. And research from the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease found that COVID-19 can remain active after 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and 4 hours on copper. Since some materials on clothing, such as zippers or buttons, may be made of some of these materials that should be kept in mind.

How often should you be washing your clothing if no one in your household is ill? If nobody in your home is displaying symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19, it’s safe to continue cleaning clothes as you normally would. However, if you’ve been out to, say, the grocery store and others aren’t adhering to social distancing guidelines, it’s a great idea to machine wash the clothing you wore out as soon as you get back home.

What if someone in my household IS ill? How should laundry be handled then? If someone in your home is suspected of having COVID-19 (or has definitively tested positive), extra precautions must be taken. The CDC recommends wearing disposable gloves when handling any dirty laundry from the person who is ill, then disposing of the gloves immediately after use, followed by washing your hands thoroughly. Wash any dirty laundry according to manufacturer’s instructions AND using the warmest possible setting on the washing machine. The CDC says it’s fine to wash dirty laundry from an ill person along with the rest of the family’s laundry since the machine + detergent will kill the virus, but be sure to clean & disinfect any laundry hampers that have held an ill individual’s dirty laundry. Also, don’t shake dirty laundry or you could disperse the virus through the air.

Okay, but I have laundry that is specifically “hand-wash only” - can I still wash it that way? There have been no recommendations AGAINST hand-washing items, but you will get a much higher temperature of water via washing machine which helps in killing any of the virus that may be on your clothing.

Are there particular detergents that work better than others against COVID-19? The CDC and the EPA have both put out lists of products - including detergents - that are effective in fighting the COVID-19 virus. You can find them HERE and HERE.

These are trying times but you there are ways to keep yourself & your family safer. Follow these laundry guidelines, remember to wash your hands often, and practice social distancing. Stay safe & healthy out there!

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