Laundry in the time of COVID

Laundry in the time of COVID

7th Apr 2020

We’ve had a lot of questions from our customers regarding the efficacy of a number of our products. Here, we provide some tips and answer the most common queries we’ve received about handling laundry.

Can COVID-19 spread via clothes, towels or linen?

The truth is, there’s not a lot of information currently available as to whether a coronavirus can actually survive on textiles. So, most experts suggest taking a few extra precautions when doing the laundry ­– particularly if you are an essential worker, have someone sick in the home, or share a laundry.

Current research suggests that the virus can live for up to three days on surfaces such as steel and plastic. This means that clothing items with zippers, buttons, buckles could be affected.

  • High pH comes from your laundry detergent
  • Soap, yet again from your laundry detergent
  • Agitation is provided by your washing machine, or a high energy hand wash (think wash boards used in the olden days!)
  • Heat comes from the temperature of your washing machine (and dryer).

The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has made several recommendations in these times of COVID-19 (Read more here):

  • Never shake out clothes ­– this can disperse germs through the air.
  • Use as warm a wash as possible. Set your machine to the hottest wash setting that is appropriate for the type of clothes you are washing. This may go against the grain, as this costs more in electricity and impacts our environment, but we are living in an unusual time!
  • Dry your clothes thoroughly, on the washing line or in a clothes dryer on a hot setting.
  • Disinfect your laundry room on a regular basis. Include your laundry baskets and hampers. If you’re self-isolating and well, you won’t need to do this often as someone who leaves the home or is sick.

The CDC also recommends washing your hands immediately after handling the laundry.

I’ve been self-isolating and have not gone out. I am not sick. Should I do anything different than normal?

Other than following your usual practice for clothes washing, you should be fine.

I’m an essential worker and go out daily – should I take extra precautions?

Even though the risk of infection via clothing is believed to be low, it’s a good idea to throw your work clothes into the laundry basket as soon as you get home.

If you wear a uniform, best to wash it nightly (and, as an essential worker, you’ll be working extremely hard and be under a certain amount of stress, so a fresh uniform is a comforting thought!)

I’ve been self-isolating and have not gone out. I am sick and may have COVID-19. Should I do anything different than normal?

Wear disposable gloves when handling your dirty laundry (or the laundry of any person who is sick). Do not shake the laundry but place it directly into the machine to wash.

Use your normal dose of laundry powder or liquid but add an in-wash oxygen-based sanitiser such as our Fragrance-Free Stain Remover Powder, at double the dose. If you wish to take further precautions use one of the end-of-wash fabric sanitising solutions (brands such as Canestan) that go into the rinse cycle of your wash like a fabric softener would. That is, if you can find it in these days of empty supermarket shelves. Do NOT add in the main wash.

  • Ensure they are wearing clothes that are easy to put on and take off, like pyjamas or track pants.
  • Make sure the clothes they wear don’t have zippers or buttons.
  • They should put all dirty clothes in a bag, like a single-use rubbish bag.
  • Follow the laundering steps above.
  • Sort your dirty clothes first in your home. This will help you minimise contact with surfaces.
  • Wash your hands before you go to the laundry room.
  • If you have disposable gloves, put them on before going out and/or bring a disinfectant with you and clean the surfaces you can’t avoid touching ­– setting buttons, handles, coin slots etc.
  • Carry laundry in your own basket and have as little contact as possible with surfaces.
  • Social distancing also applies to laundry rooms – if someone is already there, come back another time if needs be.
  • Once you’ve got your laundry on, leave immediately. Wash your hand thoroughly the minute you return to your home.

In Summary

The relationship between fabrics and coronaviruses is not completely known at this stage. Therefore, the general recommendations are:

  • Turn the heat settings of your washing machine up as high as possible.
  • Dry clothes thoroughly.
  • Wear disposable gloves when handling laundry of a sick person. Take care with clothing that has zippers and buttons.
  • Disinfect your laundry room, laundry basket, and hamper regularly.
  • Essential workers need to take extra precautions and change clothing immediately upon getting home.
  • If you share a laundry, take the now-familiar care routine with surfaces (and don’t touch your face!)
  • If you’re taking care of someone who is sick, take extra precautions such as adding an in-wash oxygen based sanitiser.

Ultimately, good hand hygiene remains the main tool in the fight against the virus. Don’t become overly obsessive about a new laundry routine – common sense is all that’s needed!

We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work.