There’s still plenty to be learned about the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that is causing the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including information about if it can be spread through contaminated surfaces. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Which leads many to question: Does this mean clothing, as well?
Cleaning visibly dirty surfaces and properly disinfecting them is the recommended prevention method for COVID-19. This includes regularly and properly washing your clothes, especially clothes that you wear when going outside your home or coming into contact with sick household members.
While the most studied transmission method is through respiratory droplets from an infected person sneezing or coughing, there is still a potential threat in contaminated surfaces. Researchers at the National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) have studied how long SARS-CoV-2 lasts on cardboard, plastic and steel. However, there’s still not much information about fabric.
“I suspect that you can find viability of the virus for several hours to maybe a day on clothes,” infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Maryland, told Health. “It depends largely on the environmental conditions—temperature and humidity impact the growth of the virus.”
The CDC provides tips for how to handle laundry that may have been contaminated:
- Wear disposable gloves and discard them after each use. If you are using reusable gloves, use them solely for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19. Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves or if gloves are not available.
- Do not shake dirty laundry in order to minimize the possibility of dispersing the virus into the air.
- Try to launder items in the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely. Clothes can be washed with other items that haven’t been potentially contaminated.
- Clean and disinfect laundry hampers and bags. Use disposable or washable liners if possible.
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