COVID-19 and Clothes: How Big Is the Risk?

COVID-19 and Clothing: How Big Is the Risk?

( – The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the world. As it ravages on, many people have been left wondering if they’re doing enough to stay safe. How far do most people need to go to protect themselves and their families? And how far is too far?

There’s been some concern that shoes and clothing might serve as sources of COVID-19 contamination. Most authorities aren’t so worried, but here’s what the science says about the risk of contracting the virus through clothing and laundry.

Low-Risk Surface or Perfect Vessel?

Compared to many other surfaces, fabrics are one of the less hospitable. According to a study published in The Lancet, COVID-19 can survive on cloth for about 2 days. This might not seem long, but it could be long enough to transfer the virus from one person to another.

And some fabrics might be better receptacles than others. Dr. Juan Dumois of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL told Marketwatch that artificial fibers like polyester could allow for longer virus survival. Bottom line: Clothing might not be the ideal place for COVID-19 to settle, and most fabrics may be considered low-risk surfaces, but they might still potentially trap and carry copies of the virus.

And depending on where a person has walked, shoes may also be an issue. Again, most officials aren’t too concerned about shoes tracking COVID-19 through people’s homes. However, we previously found evidence that shoes can distribute all sorts of pathogens, so it may be best to make it a habit of leaving shoes at the door — even when there isn’t a pandemic.

Is Your Laundry Safe?

The bigger threat could be in people’s laundry. The CDC and WHO both assert that a wash with regular detergent (using the warmest possible setting) and a tumble dry is plenty to stop the pandemic’s spread. But beware: Until a load of laundry has gone through the dryer, it may not be fully sanitized.

A Time report revealed numerous viruses could survive a cycle in the washing machine, even in the hottest water setting. Even worse, the surviving viruses can distribute throughout the rest of the load, contaminating up to 90% of other articles. And a person can contaminate their hands and their hamper if those wet clothes touch either before hitting the dryer.

People living with COVID-19 patients or using public laundry facilities should take extra precautions to sanitize machine exteriors, hands and hampers to avoid virus spread. For articles that can’t go in the dryer, consider using bleach or a commercial laundry sanitizer.

Clothes definitely shouldn’t be a person’s biggest concern, but they do deserve some reasonable caution. Consider the material and whether the potential for exposure has been high and be careful about the possibility of contamination through shoes and laundry. Stay sensible and safe, and the risk of spread should remain low.

~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!

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