The Worst Thing You're Doing With Your Laundry Right Now, CDC Says

Doing this could spread COVID particles into the air and onto surfaces.

Many of us have found ourselves doing more laundry than usual during the coronavirus pandemic. Even though we've come to understand that COVID is transmitted primarily through person-to-person interaction, there's still a chance of contracting the virus by touching a contaminated surface—and that includes your clothes and linens. That's why it's important to do your laundry safely, according to the guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And one word of warning in particular might surprise you: Shaking your laundry before washing it could spread COVID particles into the air.

In a recent study published in the CDC's journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers looked at "environmental contamination" in a hotel room shared by two presymptomatic COVID patients. They found the highest amount of viral particles on the bed sheets, duvet cover, and pillow cover. Therefore, the study concluded, "to minimize the possibility of dispersing virus through the air, we recommend that used linens not be shaken upon removal and that laundered items be thoroughly cleaned and dried to prevent additional spread."

This is not the first time the CDC has advised against shaking laundry. In fact, it's one of their cleaning and disinfecting tips for households. "If possible, do not shake dirty laundry," they advise. "This will minimize the possibility of dispersing virus through the air."

young black man and woman making the bed

There are two potential dangers when it comes to shaking viral particles into the air. First, these particles could land on nearby surfaces, which they might be touched by someone who then touches their face. But there's a risk of COVID infection even if the particles don't settle: Experts are now confident that coronavirus is airborne, and those COVID particles shaken off dirty laundry might linger in the air, especially in an enclosed space with poor ventilation.

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Your risk of catching coronavirus from laundry is low, but that doesn't mean it's not worth taking extra precautions. As the recent study notes, "presymptomatic patients with high viral load shedding can easily contaminate the environment in a short period," so it's worth treating sheets like a potential source of infection. Luckily, it's easy enough to wash the virus away.

Once you've avoided shaking those linens, the CDC simply recommends that you "launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely." And for more essential cleaning advice, check out these 23 Cleaning Tips From the CDC You Need to Follow.

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