The Safest Way To Wash Clothes During The Coronavirus Pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic has shifted virtually every aspect of life, right down to the most mundane chore. While most people have been doing laundry for years, few are well-versed in the best practices for how to wash clothes during coronavirus, a public health crisis.

From wondering how long COVID-19 can live on clothes to contemplating the safety of laundromats right now, concerns about doing laundry are at an all-time high.

Fortunately, experts are here to provide some much-needed clarity and insight. Below, they offer tips and advice for keeping all your clothes clean during this time.

How to wash clothes during coronavirus

“Everyday clothing can be washed in cold water with the appropriate dose of a high-quality laundry detergent,” Mary Johnson, principal scientist at Tide and Downy, tells Bustle. “Underwear, outerwear, sports clothing, towels, and sheets may need an extra boost by washing in warm water (80°F or higher) with the appropriate dose of a high-quality laundry detergent.”

Have doubts about whether a garment is safe to wash in hot water and bleach? Don’t guess, Johnson advises. “Read the garment’s care label for specific washing instructions and instructions on the additive.”

It’s essential to follow the CDC’s guidance on washing your clothing in the midst of this pandemic. These are the main points to remember:

  • If you’re handling an ill person’s dirty laundry, wear disposable gloves and discard after each use. Reusable gloves are OK, but those gloves should be dedicated for the cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces for COVID-19. They should not be used for other household purposes. Wash your hands immediately after gloves are removed. If no gloves are used when handling dirty laundry, always wash hands afterward.
  • If possible, do not shake dirty laundry. This will minimize the possibility of dispersing the virus through the air.
  • Launder items following the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, use the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely (more on that later). Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.
  • Clean and disinfect laundry hampers according to CDC guidance. Consider using a disposable or washable hamper liner.

How often should you wash loungewear?

Johnson says that really comes down to how much wear is actually involved. “Typically, you can wear tops and bottoms two to three times before laundering,” Johnson explains. “However, if you are sweating excessively or have worn the loungewear for 24-plus hours, you should wash them after one wear.”

How do you wash clothes by hand?

If you’ve got delicates or other items that require hand washing, use the warmest water allowed by the care label (at least 80°F) with the correct amount of high-quality detergent.

“Allow to soak for 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly,” Johnson says. “Follow care label instructions for drying, but if allowed, dry completely in a dryer. Otherwise, hang or lay flat to air dry completely. Wash hands as per CDC guidelines — for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water — after handling soiled laundry.”

What’s the best method for drying clothes?

Follow care label instructions for drying. Ideally, though, it’s best to opt for a dryer. If not, air dry items as thoroughly as possible.

Is it safe to visit a laundromat during coronavirus?

Yes, but just practice common sense. Basic rules, like frequent hand washing and not touching your face, can go a long way in protecting you from catching the virus. “Wipe down all surfaces, especially high touch surfaces like the door handles, or wash your hands after touching these surfaces,” advises Dr. Edo Paz, VP of Medical at K Health. “You could also try to go at a time when there are fewer people inside.”

The CDC also has guidelines for disinfecting surfaces that may have come into contact with the contaminated clothes, like the outer surfaces of laundromat washers and dryers.

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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.