The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from person to person through drops of breath through coughing or sneezing, or by touching an infected (usually solid) surface and then touching your face. The coronavirus may even live on some surfaces for more than nine days. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survived 17 days after passengers departed from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
However, the chances of contracting the virus through your clothes are considered low, especially since there is no evidence that the virus can survive on clothes – and it seems that only one study so far has shown that can survive coronavirus on shoes. On the other hand, if you are a health care professional, it may be safest to leave your work clothes and shoes outside until they can be disinfected.
With that said, if you think you may have come into contact with the virus, or just want to be careful, here's what you need to know. Note that this article provides information that comes from the CDC and provides an overview of what we currently know. Recommendations may change over time in the light of new research and developments. This story is often updated.
Do I have to wash my clothes when I get home?
After you get home from the grocery store, you don't need to take your clothes off – especially if you're six feet away from others in the store. However, it is recommended to wash your hands. However, if you work in a healthcare facility around COVID-19 patients or think you have been exposed to the virus, it is best to take extra precautions and launder your clothes when you get home.
The CDC recommends that you do not shake your dirty laundry, because then the coronavirus may get back into the air, although it is not sure whether it is contagious at the time. Researchers are currently investigating whether the coronavirus can be grown from airborne RNA particles, the New York Times reports. Remember that the most likely form of person-to-person transmission is known. So maybe don't plan that dinner yet.
Should I leave my shoes outside?
You may wonder if it is safe to wear your shoes in your house after going to the supermarket or other public places. A new study conducted by the CDC in Wuhan hospitals suggests the virus may survive on shoe soles, but it's not clear if the drops were still contagious.
The Cleveland Clinic says that while the virus may live on your shoes, it is very unlikely to be transmitted to you unless you touch the infected area directly and then touch your face.
If you think you have encountered someone or a surface infected with the coronavirus, remove your shoes from your home before walking and immediately wash your hands. You want to spray the shoes with a disinfectant before you bring them in.
What should I do if my clothing label says to only use cold water or line drying?
Although the CDC suggests using the hottest water setting and drying items completely, your clothing label may say otherwise. If the washing instructions on your clothes say that you should only wash them in cold water or in the dryer, you should do that. Since the coronavirus is surrounded by a low-fat membrane, only your detergent should be able to kill the virus. If you're still worried about whether or not the virus survived the laundry, you can put your clothes in a bag for several days to let the virus die naturally.
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The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional if you have questions about a medical condition or health goals.