Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Even through an enforced stay at home most of us have still been wearing clothes, or at least we hope so! Given this however, it does pose the question, how long does COVID-19 stay on your clothes and what is the best way to wash them?
Unfortunately this answer to this one is not quite as straight forward as you we might like. Various reports into how long viruses can last on surfaces of differing materials have taken place and one suggests that it can remain in the air for 3 hours, on copper for up to four hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, on plastic and stainless steel for up to 2 to 3 days. Unless you have a very unusual wardrobe, you will not own many items of clothing made up from the above. So what about your clothes? The general conclusion is that on the whole they are more like cardboard due to their moisture absorbing properties, and so 24 hours may be assumed. However many articles of clothing also have plastic buttons or metal zips. Therefore on certain areas of your clothing the virus could last longer.
We haven't heard of any studies that have tested how long the virus can last on different articles of clothing and so if there is the possibility that they have been contaminated, you should take correct precautions.
If you or your family have been home alone for the last (however) many days, the chances that your clothing may have been contaminated is pretty slim. Similarly if you have been outside and maintained social distancing then there is also little chance that your clothing has picked up anything nasty along the way.
If someone with the virus has coughed or sneezed in close, and we do mean close, proximity to your clothing then there is the possibility that they may have been contaminated.
If you suspect that your clothing may have been contaminated then you should remove them as soon as possible. You should however wait until you are home to do this as it has been suggested that doing so in the supermarket could lead to other issues arising.
Once home and in a position to remove your clothing safely, do so without touching your face or other items that may them too become contaminated. Once removed the clothes should be placed into a safe area or container where they will not contaminate other items.
When doing laundry that you suspect may be contaminated with the virus it is best practice to wear disposable gloves, and once used thrown away. If you you not have disposable gloves, re-useable gloves should be kept solely for the purpose of handing potentially infected clothing only.
Once the items are in the washing machine, you need to set the temperature to the highest possible for those items as suggested by the garment care labelling. Use the correct amount of laundry detergents. The detergent should be sufficient to disrupt the viruses structure and so it is safe to wash non contaminated clothing with those items suspected of holding the virus. Once washed, dry all items completely, tumble dry where possible as this also helps to disrupt the virus.
Please do not however be paranoid about your clothing and the virus. Being outside is not going to cause your clothing to pick anything up without close contact with an infected person. You should just be cautions when and if you suspect that your clothing may have become infected.