We are all washing our hands more, but what about our clothing? Can that carry coronavirus?
Can Clothes and Towels Spread Germs?
There are 3 ways that germs can be spread by clothes and towels:
- when towels or bedlinen are shared then germs are able to spread between them
- when someone touches dirty laundry, germs can get on their hands
- when your clothes are washed, germs can be spread between items
How do germs get onto clothes and towels?
Germs get on our clothes and towels from our own bodies. We all have bacteria on our skin and in our gut. These are usually harmless, but some cause infection.
Most germs cannot penetrate the skin but may colonise it. Washing hands regularly is significantly more important than clothes washing at preventing infections. You can pick up germs on your clothes, for example, if you have someone with an illness living with you.
How to stop clothes spreading germs
Washing clothes regularly reduces the risk of germs. Clothes that have been in contact with someone with suspected coronavirus should be washed at a higher temperature than normal – experts suggest 60 degrees.
The following items are at high risk:
- clothes soiled with bodily fluids
- sports clothing
- cloths used for food preparation
- shared towels
You can protect yourself by wearing disposable gloves when handling high-risk laundry. Always wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after touching anything you suspect harbours coronavirus.
Washing everyday items
For lightly soiled everyday items, a normal wash with detergent is very effective at reducing the risk of transmitting disease.
- wash heavily soiled clothes separately
- wash high-risk items separately
- wash your hands after touching unwashed clothes
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