Can Coronavirus Live On Clothes? Your Fashion Questions, Answered

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Now a pandemic, coronavirus is having a major impact on the lives of people across the globe. Major events are cancelled or postponed, travel is restricted, companies are asking employees to work remotely, and a certain segment of the population is just learning how to properly wash their hands. And while many grapple with disruptions to their everyday routine, some coronavirus patients suffer far worst fates as hospital beds fill up and the death toll rises. But there’s still a lot that remains unknown about the virus, specifically as it affects one of the mainstays of your daily life: your clothing. Can coronavirus live on clothes? Is it safe to rent clothing or shop online? Here’s what experts are saying:

Can coronavirus live on clothes? If so, for how long?

Information on whether coronavirus can live on any surface is still unclear, but there are a few reassuring things we do know. Harvard Health says the disease is more likely to survive on a hard surface than a soft surface like fabric. Smoother surfaces, like patent leather, may be safer to wear. The length of time that coronavirus can live is also still under speculation. The World Health Organization estimates the lifetime of the disease is between a few hours and a few days.

Saralyn Mark, American Medical Womens Association leader and Senior Medical Advisor to HHS, tells Bustle that it’s best to practice good clothing hygiene. “If one is living with a person who is vulnerable — age, pre-existing conditions — it may be worthwhile to change clothing once inside your home and wash items.” She recommends washing clothing in detergent in hot water, and washing surfaces with alcohol-based products.

How to wash clothes during coronavirus:

Currently, there’s conflicting information about whether the coronavirus can be killed at a certain temperature or if it can survive through a laundry wash. To be on the safe side, wash items in hot water when possible. You should also consider wiping down your washer and dryer with a disinfectant.

“People can practice infection control through basic hygiene,” Mark says. “Wash surfaces with alcohol-based products — at least 60% — and clothing in detergent in hot water.”

If you don’t have your own in-unit washer and dryer — which is especially common in major cities — you should take extra precautions when heading to your building’s laundry room or laundromat. Experts recommend wearing gloves and sanitizing all of the shared spaces you might use. You may also want to dry your clothes on high heat and for a little longer than usual.

How do I protect myself from coronavirus when shopping?

Some good news: For the most part, you should feel free to shop away. The likelihood that a person can infect a package — and that the infection will last through the shipping process long enough to infect the recipient of the package — is relatively low.

“The biggest risk from shopping is going to come from interaction with other people, not the product,” says Brian Labus, assistant professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Public Health. “If you minimize direct contact, you will reduce your risk of disease. As it is a rapidly changing situation, there may be numerous changes in recommendations as to how we go about our day-to-day lives, and that will include our shopping behaviors.”

Can you get coronavirus from packages?

All official government sources estimate the risk of infection via a package is low, even if an infected person has handled it.

“By the time products reach your store shelves, it has usually been a few weeks since they were manufactured,” Labus explains. “The virus might be able to survive a few days given the right environment, but it will be long dead by the time you purchase that product. Even if something you order online is shipped to you the next day, it has been sitting in a warehouse somewhere long enough for the virus to die.”

Can coronavirus be spread through renting clothes?

In a statement provided to Bustle, the clothing rental service Nuuly explained how it’s working to ensure the safety of its customer base.

“Even before the coronavirus, we have had precautions in place when handling newly returned and therefore unwashed garments and bags,” the statement read. “During the receiving and unpacking process, our employees have always worn gloves and we have fully stocked our fulfillment center with hand sanitizing stations. Additionally, one of our areas of expertise at Nuuly is cleaning and sanitizing clothing.”

The company also uses both wet and dry cleaning for all of its garments and bags to eliminate dirt and germs, and it sends everything through a steam tunnel at 250 degrees. “The end result: clothing that is clean, free of germs or bacteria, and safe for the next consumer to use,” Nuuly said.

Another player in the rental space, Armoire, is doing the same.

“All Armoire clothing is cleaned and sanitized prior to shipping,” says the company’s founder and CEO, Ambika Singh. “We use both wet and dry methods for cleaning, and utilize a steam process, which heats to 250 degrees. We are also doubling down on our standards and quality control around shipping.”

According to Singh, Armoire hasn’t seen major changes in customer usage yet. “As the situation evolves and more people are working from home, that could change,” she says. “We would like to urge our customers to keep supporting the services you rely on normally. Your support of small businesses matters.”

How are retailers dealing with coronavirus?

Retailers are taking the spread of coronavirus day by day, but they are in a critical position: supplying the public with much-needed everyday items. Walmart, known for its response to Hurricane Katrina, has pledged to remain open as long as possible. The retail giant wants the ability to provide necessary materials to those who need them like antibacterial soap, food, water, disinfectants, among other items.

Target released a statement informing customers it would be increasing the inventory of priority products (disinfectant, hand soap, toilet paper, etc.) and cleaning times to every 30 minutes in accordance with CDC recommendations.

Several retailers including Nike, Lululemon, and Aritzia are closing stores due to coronavirus, but their e-commerce sites are still running.

Luxury brands aren’t faring as well as the big box brands. Brands like Burberry are experiencing closures all over China — where the outbreak began — that have affected global supply and demand. Coronavirus will likely have consequences for the luxury space for years to come.

Read more here:

What Stores Are Closing Due To Coronavirus? The List Is Growing

Is It Safe To Online Shop With Coronavirus? Your Questions, Answered

Coronavirus Anxiety Is Everywhere. Experts Explain How To Feel Better

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC or NHS 111 in the UK for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here, and UK-specific updates on coronavirus here.

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