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How Long Does the Coronavirus Stay Alive on Clothes? Can Detergent Kill It?

Everyone has been doing their part to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. All over the news, you hear specialists and reports preaching to wash your hands and wear face masks. But what about washing other items, such as our clothes?

The  Center for Disease and Control and Prevention  (CDC) states the COVID-19 is typically transmitted through a person who is infected sneezing or coughing (respiratory droplets) rather than by touching objects that are contaminated by the virus but the guidelines also state that the COVIS_19 virus can remain active for hours to days on certain surfaces.

Coronavirus Stay Alive On Clothes

The  National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease  in Montana concluded that the COVID-19 can be detected 3 hours in aerosols, 4 hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard and 2 to 3 days on plastics and stainless steel. They did not test the COVID-19’s detection on cloth.

“I suspect that you can find viability of the virus for several hours to maybe a day on clothes,” infectious disease expert  Amesh A. Adalja, MD , senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Maryland, tells Health. “It depends largely on the environmental conditions—temperature and humidity impact the growth of the virus.”

Dr. Adalja states that he does not believe that clothes act as “major vehicle spread” of the novel coronavirus.

But it’s better to be safe than to be sorry!

4. How Often Should Clothes Be Washed?

Washing Machine

If no one that lives with you tested positive for coronavirus or having any symptoms, you can continue cleaning your clothes as you normally would.

If you have been in the public (grocery stores, doctor’s office, etc) and have come in contact with other people where it is hard to keep your social distance (minimum of 6 feet away from people who do not live with you) it is a good idea to throw your clothes into the washing machine right when you get home.

With research showing that the virus can remain active for two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, so zippers, buttons, and other hardware that is on your clothing could potentially bring the virus into your home.

3. What About Clothes Worn by Someone With COVID-19?


If someone has the virus, or you suspect they do, extra care should be taken when washing their clothes. This includes any towels and bedding they use.

The  CDC  recommends wearing gloves and discarding then immediately after use. Clean your hands with hot soapy water for at least 20 seconds.

DO NOT shake the dirty laundry, as this could cause the virus to go airborne.

After looking at the manufacturer’s labeled instructions for washing the garments possible setting should be used. The CDC says it is acceptable to wash laundry from an infected person with other people’s clothes as washing machines used with detergent will kill the virus. Afterward, the clothes hampers should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Make sure not to put clean clothes into the used hamper.

The  American Chemistry Council  has published a list of products, which includes detergents, that can be used against viruses, including the COVID-19.

The  Environmental Protection Agency  put together a list of disinfectants that can be used against the virus.

2. Is It Recommended to Wash Clothes by Hand?


No recommendations have been stated to suggest a difference between machine or hand washed clothes. But a machine will get a higher temperature, which is recommended by the CDC’s machine-washing recommendations.

1. What About the Laundromat?


Laundromats are considered an “essential business” as they provide a necessary service to those who do not have washing machines in their own home.

The critical thing to follow is the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing. Since the virus can stay active for hours and up to days, it is critical to take precautions. You should wear gloves, avoid touching unnecessary items, disinfect the machines, wash your hands, and wear a face mask.

Handwashing remains the most important step in preventing the spread of COVID-19. So don’t forget that step when washing your clothes.


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For more information about the coronavirus, please visit the NYS Department of Health ( ) and the Centers for Disease Control ( ) websites.

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