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Do clothes spread COVID-19 infection?

Do clothes spread COVID-19 infection?

Last Reviewed : 12/17/2020
Do clothes spread COVID-19 infection?

As COVID-19 continues to spread, everyone is taking stringent precautions to prevent the infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend several preventive measures like social distancing, wearing a face mask, regular hand washing, using disinfectants, and staying at home as much as possible to contain the disease.

As Novel Coronavirus can live outside human body on different objects for several days, there has been a concern if clothes can also carry COVID-19 infection. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, experiments were performed on plastic, stainless steel, copper and cardboard. Apparently, the virus was more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard. Novel Coronavirus was found living on plastic up to 72 hours. On stainless steel, it was found living up to 48 hours. On copper, virus was viable for 4 hours. Virus was found viable on cardboard for 24 hours.

There is no research that looked at Novel Coronavirus survival on clothes. However, virus does not usually spread through porous surfaces like clothes. When infectious droplets settle down on clothes, they get absorbed into the fabric. The virus is not easily transmitted from clothes as it gets transmitted from other hard surfaces.

Nonetheless, the risk is not zero, especially if you are in a crowded place or when you interact with public constantly on your job. You may need to take certain precautions to prevent COVID-19 infection spread through your clothes.

  1. Leave your clothes outside: If you work in a grocery store or interact with public a lot, make sure to remove your clothes before you enter your home. Staying outside for a long time can get your clothes contaminated. You may have to leave your outer clothes before you enter your home.
  2. Do not shake your clothes: It is not safe to shake your clothes as the virus or the contaminated droplets that are stuck to the clothes may get into air.
  3. Wash your clothes: If you go outside for grocery shopping and come right back home without staying out for a long time, you don’t have to wash your clothes. If you interact with public on your job, you may have to wash your clothes every time you come home.
  4. Use hot water: Novel Coronavirus can be inactivated, if it is exposed to a temperature of 70 C for 30 minutes. Use hot water to wash your clothes.
  5. Use detergent: Novel Coronavirus can be killed with most of the detergents that are used. To make sure if your detergent can kill the virus, check the following link where The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published all the disinfectants that can kill the virus.

https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2

  1. Beware of jackets: Jackets and synthetic clothes do not absorb droplets. Infectious droplets may settle on the jackets and may easily get transmitted, unlike regular clothes.
  2. Washing clothes of a COVID-19 affected person: Make sure to use gloves when dirty clothes are handled. Use the hottest temperature possible to wash the clothes. Sick person clothes can be washed along with healthy person clothes as detergent will kill the virus. Dry clothes thoroughly before folding them.
  3. Using laundromats: While it is safe to use laundromats during this pandemic, it is important to maintain social distancing. Use detergent and the hottest temperature possible. The risk of COVID-19 spreading from a washer or dryer in a laundromat is close to zero.

 

References:

  1. Stability and inactivation of SARS coronavirus. Rabenau HF et al. Med Microbiol Immunol. 2005 Jan;194(1-2):1-6.
  2. Heat inactivation of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. Leclercq I et al. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2014 Sep;8(5):585-6. doi: 10.1111/irv.12261. Epub 2014 Jul 29.

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