The coronavirus pandemic continues to claim lives and upset society around the globe. Uncertainty reigns and people everywhere still have many unanswered questions.
One thing you may wonder is, “Should I clean my clothes and shoes each time I leave the house?” While health care workers should sanitize before entering any areas where family members congregate, what about merely taking a walk or running to the store for requisite supplies?
The Case for Washing Your Clothes
Can clothes transmit coronavirus? Theoretically, yes, although to date, experts have verified no documented sources of transmission via this method. However, research involving cardboard confirms that the virus can live on porous surfaces for up to 24 hours.
One reason experts think transmission via this method is unlikely is that the germ can get stuck in the fibers. This quality makes it unlikely that your mom, for example, could get the disease by laundering your dirty socks. The reason that health care workers need to take additional precautions is that they have close personal contact with those who are infected. In such settings, a nurse might have a patient sneeze or cough directly on them.
If you want to remain 100% safe, you should probably do some laundry if you had a close encounter with someone who might be infected. For example, if you went to the store and accidentally bumped into someone, you could theoretically have picked up the virus from them. This advice becomes more critical if you or someone in your home is immunocompromised or has a medical condition such as high blood pressure.
If you are caring for someone infected, you need to take additional precautions. If you aren’t sure if your typical soap will kill the virus, the EPA recently published a list of cleaning chemicals it has approved for use against coronavirus. You also should let the infected person handle cleaning tasks individually if at all possible, to stop the spread. They should remain in their room and avoid using mutual areas to prevent giving the disease to others.
When You Can Safely Avoid It
That said, if you have started going stir-crazy and you head out for a walk or a run, you are probably OK to pass on doing laundry every day. If you follow proper social distancing guidelines and don’t stand within 6 feet of anyone else, you won’t have to worry about respiratory droplets. Of course, to protect your neighbors, you should wear a mask in case you do encounter someone.
If you tend to remain on your balcony or backyard when you go outdoors, you can probably stick to your regular laundry cycle. When you do tackle the wash, use the warmest available setting and be sure to dry your clothes thoroughly in the dryer. Wet conditions allow all sorts of nasties to proliferate, not only the novel coronavirus. Plus, your clothes will smell musty, and if you are in close quarters with others, you want to stay as fresh as possible.
Yes, Please Check Your Shoes at the Door
It’s always a wise idea to have all family members remove their shoes before they enter the house. While it may be the one making headlines, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 isn’t the only nasty that creates problems. Studies show that fecal matter and diarrhea-causing bacteria can linger on shoes. When you wear them indoors, you spread them all over your house.
While these germs are particularly problematic to crawling infants, anyone could catch the bug and get sick. You probably don’t want to go to the hospital right now if you can avoid it.
Should You Clean Your Clothes After Leaving the House?
If you have a healthy immune system and head outdoors only for exercise or a quart of milk, you probably don’t need to do laundry immediately upon returning home. However, peace of mind matters, too. If it makes you feel better to do a load of wash, don’t hesitate.