NASSAU BAY — (APRIL 22, 2020) —Right now, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic likely has you armed to disinfect every commonly touched surface in your home. But what about your clothes? After a trip to the grocery store, is it possible that your clothes are contaminated with coronavirus?
Can coronavirus live on your clothes?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the most likely way for the virus to spread is through close contact with someone who’s infected (even if they don’t know it). This is why continuing to practice social distancing is so important.
However, early laboratory evidence also suggests that coronavirus can survive on plastic and stainless steel surfaces anywhere from hours to a few days.
Unfortunately, the same study didn’t examine how long the virus can survive on fabrics — so it remains a possibility that coronavirus can live on clothes for several hours. On the other hand, soft, porous surfaces — such as the sleeves of your shirt — actually limit the likelihood of spreading these viruses for two reasons:
- These viruses are more likely to get trapped within the fibers and weave of permeable surfaces like fabric, making it less likely for the virus to later transfer to your hand, face or another surface.
- These viruses are much less infective (potentially non-infective) when dried out, and fabrics are more likely to absorb and suck water away from a virus.
When in doubt, do some laundry
If you’re worried that your clothes may have been contaminated while at the store or another public space where social distancing is challenging, toss them into the washing machine when you get home. If you’re taking care of someone who has COVID-19, there are extra precautions the CDC recommends when it comes to handling and washing clothing, including:
- Wearing gloves while handling a sick person’s laundry, and then washing your hands after removing the gloves
- Avoiding shaking dirty laundry
- Using your washing machine’s warmest water setting, when possible
- Cleaning and disinfecting laundry hampers regularly or using a disposable bag liner
In addition, if you rely on a communal space to wash your clothes, such as a laundromat, you may also want to take these extra precautions:
- Continue to social distance. Make sure you keep six feet between yourself and others.
- Lessen the amount of time you spend there. Consider sorting and folding your clothes at home and avoid hanging out at the laundromat between wash cycles or loads.
- Carry hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Before and after touching communal washing machines, sanitize your hands and wipe down handles, buttons and knobs.
A quick word on coronavirus and your cloth mask
The CDC recommends washing your cloth mask in your washing machine using household laundry detergent regularly, depending on frequency of use. This means that the more often you wear your cloth mask, the more often it should be washed. In addition, if a washing cycle damages or misshapes your cloth mask, it’s time to make a new one.
Concerned you may have COVID-19?
- If you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can speak to a Virtual Urgent Care provider 24/7. The provider will help you determine if testing is needed and advise you on where you should go. For more information about Houston Methodist Virtual Urgent Care, please visit houstonmethodist.org/virtual-urgent-care to learn how to connect with a provider.
About Houston Methodist Clear Lake Hospital
Houston Methodist Clear Lake brings the expertise and compassionate care of Houston Methodist Hospital in The Texas Medical Center to Clear Lake communities. The hospital provides a broad spectrum of adult medical and surgical care, is an accredited chest pain center, and is also a Primary Stroke Center designated through DNV. Houston Methodist Clear Lake offers many inpatient and outpatient services including a Breast Care Center with 3-D mammography, state-of-the-art imaging, labor and delivery with a level II neonatal ICU, Cancer Center, weight loss surgery and advanced laparoscopic surgery, comprehensive orthopedics and sports medicine, cardiovascular services, neurology, urology and otolaryngology. Visit houstonmethodist.org/clearlake to learn more and to find a doctor near you.