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How to wash clothes properly to help ward off viruses

The best advice on how to wash clothes and reduce the risk of transmitting germs

Updated

How to wash clothes properly to help ward off viruses

The best advice on washing clothes and reducing the risk of transmitting germs.

Washing our hands is the best way to help protect ourselves against the coronavirus. But is it easily spread through clothes too? Although experts haven’t verified this for sure, knowing how to disinfect your laundry will surely help you to ward off viruses.

Can the coronavirus spread through clothes?

The short answer is yes. Clothes worn by someone who has a virus, or by a person nursing someone with a virus, can transmit germs. While we are still finding new answers about how the coronavirus is transmitted, a wise precaution would be to wash everyday items, as per normal, separating the high-risk items which must be washed separately.

It’s worth noting that when washing a normal load (no high-risk items) most harmful bacteria is killed when clothes are hung in direct sunlight to dry or in the high temperatures of a tumble dryer cycle.

Has your lifestyle during the Covid-19 lockdown affected the type of stains you get on your clothes?

How to wash clothes that are high risk

If clothes have come into contact with someone who has a virus (especially someone you live with) or is soiled, it is considered high-risk. These items must be separated from your regular wash load, washed differently to regular washing, and washed at a much higher temperature. Here are a few high-risk items:

  • Medical uniforms
  • Bedsheets and towels
  • Sportswear
  • Any clothing from someone with a virus

What temperature kills viruses on clothes?

Wash only high-risk clothes at a hot temperature to ensure a deep clean that will kill most viruses. A standard wash using regular detergent is effective at killing bacteria on everyday items. High-risk fabrics clothes can reportedly be disinfected by washing them at a minimum of 60°C, adding a bleach-based product for added disinfecting power. Remember to check the washing instructions before adding bleach to garments.

For sheets and towels, which are prone to harbouring bacteria, choose the longest wash setting with an extra rinse. To ensure a proper deep clean, be careful not to overload the machine.

What about drying to disinfect clothes?

If you have a tumble drier, it is recommended that you put laundry on the longest drying cycle to ensure it dries completely. If items like sheets and towels are still damp, they can harbour bacteria. Tumble driers reach around 65°C in temperature, which will kill most germs.

If you don’t have a tumble drier, hanging clothes out to dry in direct sunlight is your next best bet. Otherwise, if hanging clothes indoors is the only option, follow these tips:

  • Hang clothes on a drying rack near heaters or radiators
  • Open extractor fans or windows to maximise ventilation with open windows
  • Speed up the drying by hanging clothes on coat hangers
  • Do not expose to mould spores – drying clothes in areas of your home you spend less time in, so avoid spare bedrooms if possible.

Deep cleaning clothes at a glance

  • Separate high-risk clothes from a regular load and wash separately
  • Use a minimum 60°C cycle when washing high-risk clothes
  • Sheets and towels can be washed on the hottest setting
  • Add a bleaching agent to a hot cycle to disinfect
  • Use a tumble drier where possible or hang in direct sunlight

Follow these simple steps to help ensure your laundry is clean, germ and virus-free. For more tips on how to keep your home safe during a virus outbreak, we share some straightforward tips on home hygiene here.

Originally published