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How to Wash A COVID Patient’s Clothes

Dr Suneetha Narreddy

Infectious Disease Specialist, MD; ABIM

4 min read


The novel coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe! According to the World Health Organization (WHO), regular washing of UR hands and maintaining social distance prevents the spread of the virus. Some studies suggest that the virus can remain on clothes for some hours and last for a couple of days and can carry the virus.

Even though scientists believe that there is a slim chance of the virus getting transmitted through clothes, it’s best to be cautious and follow certain precautions, even if isolation is maintained. Here are a few practical tips U can follow when doing laundry of a COVID patient or when you go outside and come back home from a potentially infected place.

How to Wash Soiled Clothes?

Ideally, it would be best if you washed these clothes with disposable gloves and then dispose of the gloves properly afterwards. In case you don’t have disposable gloves and are using reusable ones, ensure these gloves are used only to wash the clothes and nothing else. While handling the clothes of the patient, refrain from shaking out the clothes too much, as viral spores can be released into the air. Wear a mask and gloves while washing the clothes. Though our hygiene has improved immensely, we should focus on taking care of how we do our laundry too. Here’s how.

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What to do

  • Wash the soiled clothes separately and keep them in a separate laundry bag to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Soak the clothes in detergent for a longer time than usual. Doing this is essential, especially after visiting a hospital or if you’ve been outdoors for long hours.
  • Don’t leave soiled clothes lying around – wash them immediately!
  • Heat the water to a temperature of between 40 to 60 degree Celsius to wash the clothes, especially if U R using UR hands for washing and not a washing machine.
  • Dry the clothes in the sunlight before the clothes are used again.
  • Add bleaching agents like baking soda; lemon, distilled white vinegar, or organic detergents etc. to the clothes.

While it is unknown about the amount of time the virus survives on clothes, some research reports state that it stays for 24–72 hours. It is always good to keep dirty garments and clothes that may have come in contact with the virus, separately from the rest of the lot.


What the Experts Suggest

The (CDC) Center for Disease Prevention and Control recommends using clothes only after they are completely dry.

Make sure you don’t remove UR mask all the time, and in case you don’t have a washing machine, soak the clothes in hot water (60 degrees Celsius) with soap. Wash the clothes with soap/detergent and water.

Use an appropriate amount of laundry detergent. Preferably, the laundry detergent U use should be able to disrupt the virus’s structure. You can wash other clothes with potentially contaminated ones if U R using a suitable detergent. But if possible, try not to wash all the clothes in the house together.

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Keep dirty/contaminated laundry separate from clean, uncontaminated clothes.

While it is unknown about the amount of time the virus survives on clothes, some research reports state that it stays for 24–72 hours. It is always good to keep dirty garments and clothes that may have come in contact with the virus, separately from the rest of the lot. If possible, keep two separate bags for placing clothes before washing —one for clothes that are exposed to the virus and another one for clothes that are not contaminated.

Ensure the clothes are not in contact with any surface before it is washed.

The soiled clothes mustn’t touch any surfaces in the house before they are washed. All the layers of the clothes needn’t be washed. Just wash the layer that may have come in contact with the virus. Don’t forget to wash UR hands thoroughly after washing the clothes!

Clean the washing machine and the area where U washed the clothes.

This will help in eliminating any harmful bacteria and virus. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry. Washing and cleaning all the time may become overwhelming, but it is the best way to beat this virus. You can use the clothes detergent or any antibacterial solution, which can help disinfect the machine.

Most importantly, maintain social distance. The best way to stay protected against the virus is by restricting UR contact with other people as much as possible. If you have doubts of being infected by the virus, get in touch with the occupational health service provider in UR locality at the earliest and seek prompt medical advice.