You know that washing your hands is one of the best ways to protect yourself against germs and infections. You may also be aware that germs can travel up to 3 feet after a sneeze or cough and come to rest on surfaces, clothes, etc. Thus clothes, too, may indirectly spread germs. It helps to know how to sanitise your clothes and laundry effectively.
Germs can easily transfer to clothing through coughs, sneezes and bodily fluids such as saliva. However, they can also be passed by touch. For example, if someone who is ill sneezes on their hand and then touches your shirt, or if you sit on a seat that someone has coughed on. Also, clothes worn by someone unwell, or by a person nursing someone who is sick, could harbour germs and transmit them. While experts are still discovering details about how germs can be transmitted through clothes, a sensible precaution would be to wash everyday clothing as normal, but separate any high-risk items; the latter can be washed separately.
To protect your clothes from attracting and harbouring germs, first try to minimise the risk of coming into contact with someone who is ill. Stay at least 2 metres away from everyone, even if they aren’t showing any symptoms. If you cannot do that, wash your clothes and sanitise them regularly.
Here are some simple tips to clean your clothes:
Wear disposable gloves if you’re handling the clothes of someone who is either ill or a frontline health worker. Discard the gloves straight afterwards and wash your hands thoroughly. You can wash them with soap or an alcohol-based sanitiser, such as those available from Lifebuoy.
1) How to Wash Clothes
With a normal laundry load (anything not high-risk), wash your clothes in the regular wash cycle with a good detergent. You can use a detergent like Surf Excel Matic Liquid, which is specially formulated for washing machines. Being a liquid, it dissolves completely in water and washes away without leaving any residue (as powders do).
It is recommended that you wash high-risk clothes in hot water for better hygiene, after rinsing off any stains with cool water first. High-risk clothes are those that have either come into contact with someone who may have an infection (especially someone you live with), or those that are soiled (with blood, urine, faeces, vomit, etc.). It's also important to deep-clean your wardrobe and keep it organised. Here's how you can do that.
High-risk items include:
Towels and bedsheets
Any clothing from someone who is sick
It is a good idea to separate these items from your regular wash loads. You may also sanitise them post-wash with a laundry sanitiser such as Lifebuoy Laundry Sanitizer. Follow pack usage instructions for soaking, and do not mix with detergent.
If you are using a washing machine, then for towels and sheets, choose the longest wash setting with an extra rinse. To ensure a proper deep-clean, make sure you don’t overload the machine so that the clothes have room to move around.
2) How to Dry Clothes
Clothes should not be even slightly damp when you fold them as they may then harbour germs. Allow the clothes to dry thoroughly in sunlight. If drying indoors is the only option, follow these tips:
Hang clothes on a drying rack in direct sunlight
Maximise ventilation with open windows
Hang clothes on coat hangers to speed up drying
Avoid exposure to mould spores by drying clothes in areas of your home you spend less time in; avoid bedrooms and the living room if possible.
If you have a tumble drier, it is recommended you use the longest drying cycle to ensure your laundry is thoroughly dry. Also, if you're a new parent who is looking for effective tips to keep baby's clothes germ-free, these tips will help you.
3) When to Wash Your Clothes
If you think there’s a good chance you’ve come into contact with an ill person (for example because you’ve been in a crowded area), or if you’re in a high-risk setting such as a hospital, it’s a good idea to wash your clothes as soon as you get home. Don’t leave them in the laundry basket as any germs could spread.
In general, clothes worn outside should not be repeated without washing, while the clothes worn at home should be washed as often as possible. If your curtains are looking dull and you want to give them a thorough clean up, here’s your guide.
4) How to Clean Your Washing Machine
If you wash your clothes using a washing machine, don’t forget to clean that as well. If the machine is dirty, or harbours germs, they may transfer to your clothes during use. You can find out how to deep-clean your washing machine here. Don’t forget to leave the machine lid open for at least half an hour after every use, for ventilation. Additionally, if you're looking for a systematic house-cleaning schedule and checklist, have a look at this helpful guide.
Avoid shaking your laundry before you wash it. You don’t want to breathe in any germs that get dislodged from the clothes. Hold the laundry away from your body while taking it for the wash.
Avoid sharing towels, napkins or face cloths if someone in your house is sick.
Ensure you don’t touch your face after handling dirty laundry. Wash your hands straight after.
Make sure all laundry is completely dry before you put it away (damp fabric can retain germs).
Following these simple steps will help ensure that your laundry is clean and sanitised, and your family safe from germs.