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WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK AND WASHING CLOTHES

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Washing clothes is a weekly routine for nearly everyone. I wanted to look at how the coronavirus outbreak is in relation to washing clothes, especially at laundromats. Here are the most common questions asked:

How long does the coronavirus last on clothes or fabrics?

Right now, no one is quite sure about the answer to that. It can survive for days on smooth surfaces like plastic and stainless steel, but how it fares on more porous materials is not established. Viruses like this tend to last less time on fabrics than on metals.

Should I wash my clothes after going out on an essential errand?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not offer specific guidance for people who venture into the community. So for now, unless someone coughs or sneezes on you, there is probably no need to rush your attire straight to the washing machine. The current advice is to stick with your usual laundry schedule. Remember that not all of your clothing is fabric. Buttons and zippers likely are plastic or metal, so tossing items more regularly into the laundry isn’t necessarily overkill. And don’t forget to launder items that perhaps make it through cleaning less often, like coats and hats. If you work in essential functions that might increase exposure, such as healthcare, once you arrive home, a change and a laundering of what you wore that day isn’t a bad idea.

What detergent should I use?

The virus does not fare well under the pressures of soap or detergent, but it is especially vulnerable to bleach. If it makes sense to use a detergent with bleach, do so.

What should I do about laundry if I’m caring for someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?

Advice does exist for people living with or caring for someone who has suspected or diagnosed COVID-19. The CDC says that caregivers should wear gloves when handling used clothing, towels, and linens that the affected person has used. They should then throw the gloves away and wash their hands thoroughly. Other tips from the CDC for handling laundry in this situation:

  • Do not shake the clothes because doing so could launch viruses into the air.
  • Follow the washing instructions the clothing maker gives, but use the warmest appropriate water setting.
  • Dry everything to completion. A hot dryer setting is important.
  • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers and baskets, following the CDC’s guidelines for surface disinfection.

The CDC says that clothing from affected and unaffected people can be laundered together. If that doesn’t sit quite right with you, they suggest using a separate bag liner for clothes from the affected person and laundering it as you do the clothes

I am under ‘shelter-in-place’ orders. Can I still go to a laundromat?

(AS OF MARCH 21, 2020 – NO shelter in place orders are present for any county in our coverage area)

For now, the orders commonly allow for laundromats to stay open and provide services. Your precautions should be the same as any you’d take in an outing for an essential purpose, including keeping a distance of at least 6 feet from other people. In a laundromat, with its chrome and steel, the most suspect areas will be the washer and dryer handles, rolling baskets and flat areas for folding. Your best protective steps include wearing gloves and then washing your hands according to guidelines. That means soap and water and vigorous scrubbing, including the wrists, for at least 20 seconds. As for concerns that you might pick up something in a washer or dryer someone else has used, that’s unlikely. The process should clean away the virus.


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