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You already know how important it is to regularly sanitize your family’s phones and devices to prevent the spread of coronavirus. You’re also on top of disinfecting your home’s surfaces, doorknobs, light switches and the like—go you! But what about your family’s dirty clothes? You might need to pay attention to that overflowing hamper you’ve been avoiding. Coronavirus can survive on fabric, too.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it’s not yet exactly certain how long COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it could be anywhere from a few hours to several days. This varies based on temperature, humidity and the type of surface. As for clothing and soft surfaces, it’s still up for debate. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) still has preemptive cleaning guidelines for washing clothing, towels and linens, though:

  • Use gloves to touch dirty laundry, or wash hands afterwards.
  • Don’t shake the laundry—this prevents the potential airborne spread of the virus.
  • Wash laundry using the warmest water setting possible and dry it all completely. You can combine the clothing of a sick and well person.
  • Disinfect your hampers and surfaces that touch dirty clothes or hands (like the knobs and tops of the machines). Consider using a bag liner to throw away or launder.
  • If you’re doing the laundry of someone who’s potentially sick, wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry and dispose after use. Wash hands immediately after handling if no gloves were used. For reusable gloves, be sure to dedicate them to disinfecting around the house and don’t use them for anything else.

The Coronavirus Resource Center at Harvard Medical School also suggests thoroughly washing laundry and separating bedding or clothing with any kind of bodily fluid on them. Changing your clothing and taking off your shoes the moment you get home can also help prevent the spread of germs.

If you’re wondering what type of detergent will kill coronavirus, check out this extensive list of products from the American Chemistry Council.

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