Can coronavirus live on your clothes?

Yes, germs can live on your clothes and body, too. While this may not be the most buzzworthy conversation topic about transmission, it’s important to take precautions where we can. The UK’s National Health Services states there are three primary ways germs can be spread by clothes and towels: Shared towels or bedding can spread contamination, dirty laundry can spread germs when handled, and the laundering process itself can spread germs.

While much of the guidance for coronavirus revolves around hard surfaces and high-touch surfaces — like your cell phone — the CDC also implies a risk when handling the clothes or bedding of an infected person. The organization recommends that you wear gloves when processing laundry for a person sick with COVID-19 and discard these immediately after use. Caretakers should then wash hands properly after handling. The organization further reminds people not to “shake” the laundry while cleaning to avoid risk of further spreading any germs or viruses, and follow up by cleaning and disinfecting any hampers or laundry collection devices that have been used.

More tips for disinfecting cloth and clothing during the coronavirus outbreak

Unfortunately, virus concerns make that large laundry pile even more pressing. If you have been out in public near at-risk persons or exposed to a person suspected of having coronavirus, take precautions now. The NHS further recommends that germs and viruses require disinfecting, recommending you wash in water of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and use a bleach-based product (available in most laundry aisles). Remove any soiled fluids or substances prior to washing in the machine. The CDC adds further guidance on cleaning, reminding everyone to let these laundered items dry fully. 

For other soft surfaces in the house such as furniture and carpet, follow a similar process with gloves. First clean with detergent and water, then follow up with a disinfectant. Typical disinfectants with a diluted bleach mix or at least 70 percent alcohol in solution and EPA-approved antiviral products are expected to work well for this type of cleanup. As a reminder, never mix chemicals, such as bleach and ammonia, and as unknown cleaners may cause bleaching or discoloration on furniture, use caution before applying to a large area.

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