The question on everyone's minds nowadays is:
“How long can COVID-19 survive on clothes?”
Recent studies and the WHO claim that COVID-19 may last up to several hours on different kinds of surfaces, making it vital to disinfect possible sources of infection. The exact lifetime of the virus is still not clear, and could be from a few hours to a few days. Harvard Health suggests that the virus is more likely to survive on hard surfaces than soft surfaces such as fabric.
Here is a list of potential sources and the life span of COVID-19 on these materials:
According to recent studies, the virus could survive in the air for about three hours after a person sneezes or coughs. That means that even though you may not have touched anything when outside, the virus could be caught on the fibers of your clothing. Therefore, the way we wash our clothes gets a bit more complicated during this pandemic, requiring extra care and attention.
COVID-19 is spread by tiny droplets ejected from the nose or mouth of an infected person after they cough or sneeze. A single cough can produce up to 3,000 droplets about 1 to 5 micrometers in size – 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
Clothes can sustain these droplets which, as time goes by, dry up and the virus becomes less active. It is not clear how long these droplets take to dry, however, heat and humidity significantly affect the survival of the virus on various surfaces.
Are some types of fabric more sensitive to the virus than others?
Most germs can survive on fabrics for some time. However, Vincent Munster, head of the virus ecology section at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, suggested that the virus may dry up more quickly on absorbent natural fibers. It is believed that the virus will weaken faster on clothes than on hard surfaces. Studying the virus’ behavior indicated that it would likely survive longer on artificial fibers such as polyester rather than cotton. Due to its weak porosity, leather seems to be less absorbent, thus making it harder for the virus to get trapped on the surface. Therefore, it can be easily cleaned with a sanitized wipe.
What kind of detergent to use and at what temperature to wash?
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that clothes worn outside should be washed immediately with the warmest appropriate water at a longer washing cycle and along with good quality detergent, as quoted by the South China Morning Post.
Specialists suggest that detergents with whitening factors such as bleach are very effective at killing the virus. The American Chemistry Council has put together a list of products including detergents for the fight against COVID-19. You may find the list here.
Hot water plus soap has been proven to effectively deactivate the deadly virus. And the hotter the water, the better. The CDC says that temperatures above 75 degrees Celsius can kill most flu-causing viruses. Also, try using a dryer on high heat and for a little longer than usual.
Can I wash my clothes by hand?
If a washing machine isn’t an option, you can wash your clothes by hand as long as the water is hot enough (above 30 degrees Celsius). However, make sure that you wash your hands after you handle dirty clothes.
How often should I wash my clothes?
Some people wait until there is a big pile of clothes to wash. Clothes should be washed frequently, especially if there are confirmed COVID – 19 cases in the area. If you do not have the time or resources to wash your clothes immediately, store them carefully in clean bags or hampers until laundry day. Don’t forget to clean and disinfect the hampers and bags after they are emptied.
Take care and stay safe! :)