Is Coronavirus on My Clothes? Experts Weigh In
Before you do your laundry, here's what experts say about COVID-19 on your clothes.
While leaving the house only when necessary, practicing social distancing, and thoroughly washing your hands are good places to start when it comes to protecting yourself against coronavirus, there's a pressing question on many people's minds amid the COVID-19 pandemic: Does coronavirus live on clothing?
Experts say that COVID-19 can linger on surfaces, from plastic to cardboard, for days at a time, meaning it stands to reason the same could hold true for fabric. But just how worried should you be?
According to board-certified family physician Georgine Nanos, MD, of Kind Health Group, coronavirus can indeed live on your clothes. She notes that the virus is thought to survive on fabric for "anywhere from six to twelve hours" at this point.
Luckily, you don't need to spray your clothes with disinfectant to keep yourself safe—Nanos says a wash cycle is enough to kill the virus.
"As of now, we believe that the COVID-19 virus cannot survive in temperatures above 80 degrees," explains Nanos, who recommends using regular detergent and the hottest temperature setting that's safe for your clothing to rid them of anything they may have picked up. But it's not just your indoor clothes that might need a rinse: If you've been opening doors with your sleeve or pressing buttons with your elbow, Nanos recommends giving your coat a thorough cleaning, too.
And if someone in your household has possible coronavirus symptoms or has been diagnosed with the illness, Nanos says it's still safe to wash their clothing in the same load of laundry as your own—just wash your hands thoroughly after touching anything they may have touched or worn.
However, this doesn't mean you need to suddenly double up on your daily laundry loads to protect yourself or your family. Nanos says that whether or not you wash your clothing immediately upon returning home depends on your level of exposure.
"I recommend changing shoes and clothes before entering the house if you feel you may have come in contact with potentially contaminated surfaces," she says, noting that this is a good routine for healthcare professionals and other front line workers to engage in for their own safety and the safety of those around them.