Disinfecting clothes: How to prevent COVID-19

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, health organizations around the globe continue to highlight the importance of physical distancing, hand washing, and disinfecting everyday items, such as clothes.

Although it is still unclear how long COVID-19 can survive on clothing, experts recommend caution when laundering clothes and other textiles.

Why is disinfection important?

Cleaning and disinfecting are different processes.

Cleaning involves removing dirt and germs from surfaces. While cleaning may lower the risk of spreading infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria, it does not kill them.

Disinfection requires the use of chemicals that kill germs. Disinfecting hard surfaces and textiles after cleaning them can further reduce the risk of spreading infections.

How to disinfect clothes

In this section, we cover a few basic guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 while doing laundry.

Doing laundry at home
  • Launder items with laundry soap or household detergent. Consider using a detergent that contains bleach. However, be sure to read the product description and guidelines to avoid potentially ruining certain clothing items. Consider soaking clothes in a solution containing quaternary ammonium before washing them.
  • Choose the warmest available water setting. The WHO recommend water temperatures between 60–90°C (140–194°F). However, high temperatures can damage or shrink delicate clothing items, so remember to read the care labels.
  • Dry clothing completely.
  • Disinfect laundry baskets with 0.1% sodium hypochlorite or one of these household disinfectants, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have approved.
  • Wear gloves when doing laundry. Wash the hands with warm water and soap immediately after removing the gloves. If gloves are not available, wash the hands immediately after handling dirty clothing and avoid touching the face.

Doing laundry at a laundromat

Not everyone has a washing machine in their home. However, those who use laundry facilities can still follow the guidelines that we have listed above.

In addition, consider the following precautions when doing laundry in a public place:

  • Maintain a 6-foot (2-meter) distance from other people.
  • Wear disposable gloves and avoid touching the face.
  • Disinfect the surfaces of the washer and dryer.
  • Fold the laundry at home.
  • At home, immediately wash the hands before folding the laundry.
  • Disinfect the laundry basket or consider using disposable laundry bags.