With the coronavirus pandemic spreading to all four corners of the earth, we are now required to take more and more precautions to keep ourselves and our families safe.  

 “The world has been plunged into a crisis situation that we are not prepared for, and if we want to beat the novel coronavirus education needs to be at the forefront of any communication,” says Sarah Webb, brand manager for laundry brand, Personal Touch. “We all have questions about what we need to do in order to protect ourselves and prevent the virus from spreading. One such question is, can the virus or any other virus survive on surfaces such as our clothes? And the answer is an emphatic YES.”

Viruses and germs can live on surfaces for extended periods of time and this includes clothing fibres.  Although, the lifespan of any virus on clothing, including the coronavirus, has not yet been determined, washing your clothes thoroughly is highly recommended. The action of washing your clothes combined with the active ingredients in the soap such as surfactants, help to remove the virus from the clothing fibres. “If you have come into contact with someone who may be infected, or if you have been in a position where the virus could have been transferred to your clothes, it is very important to make sure that your clothes are hygienically clean and virus-free in order to stop the spread,” says Webb.

“When washing your clothes to make sure that they are virus free there are no new tricks and methods that need to be implemented, just a few, small changes to your current laundry regime,” says Webb.

  1. Don’t fill the washing machine with too many clothes as the detergent needs to be able to penetrate all your clothing. If there are too many clothes being washed, the dirt and germs will re-deposit on the fibres and not be washed away. 
  2. Don’t increase the amount of detergent you use. Using the correct amount of detergent for your washing machine is critical to ensure optimal cleaning. Detergent molecules work by attaching itself to the dirt and germs on your fibres and lifting the dirt from them. Too much detergent will leave a residue which will serve as a breeding ground for more germs.
  3. Choose the highest temperature cycle that your clothes can withstand. High temperatures enhance cleaning and the killing of germs; ideally a temperature of 60°c will suffice. Washing your clothes at the preferred temperature of 30°C is not going to help when making sure your clothes are virus free. This temperature may be economical and suitable for delicate clothing, but it is not ideal for disinfection. Always follow the washing instructions on the care label to make sure that your clothing does not get damaged. 
  4. If you are not able to wash your clothing on such a high temperature, hanging your clothes out in the sun can also aid in the eradication of germs; UV rays are a natural and potent anti-germ and anti-viral agent. If your clothes are still clean, and don’t need to be added to the laundry load, airing them is a good hygiene practice. 
  5. Heat disinfects and kills germs, so, if you have a tumble dryer, use it. Not only does it dry your clothes, but it soothes out wrinkles. Ironing your clothes is another tip for killing germs. Due to the high temperatures of the iron, nothing much can survive. Again, it is important to only tumble dry and iron clothes that are made of fibres that can withstand high temperatures. 
  6. Some fabrics fibres are more porous than others and can retain more water droplets. Fabrics such as polyester and spandex-like materials may keep germs longer than breathable cotton-based fabrics.  “Although some fabrics can retain germs for longer, all fabrics are susceptible and should be washed regularly,” says Webb. Make sure that your clothes are completely dry before you pack them away.
  7. Keep your machine clean to stop the spread of germs. Run the cleaning cycle on your machine at least once a month to get rid of the build-up of germs and bacteria that may lurk in the drum, drainage pipes, etc.  Washing your clothes to rid them of potential virus contamination is of very little use, when the machine itself is not clean. 
  8. If you are still working from the office, change your clothes when you get home as a precaution to keep yourself from getting sick, and spreading germs to the rest of your household. If you make use of public transport and if you are not well, and have been coughing into your elbow all day, these clothes will also need to be washed immediately.

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