Fact-sheet: Coronavirus on clothing

The Claim: Can Covid-19 be transmitted via clothing?
The Verdict: claim verdict

Although experts said there has been not been any documented case of Covid-19 transmission through clothes, they warn that not all situations are risk free depending on one`s exposure to the virus.

One of the frequently asked questions about Coronavirus is how long the virus can stick to clothing and whether one can be infected by coming into contact with clothes worn by Covid-19 patient.

People who live with patients who are self isolating at home, have also asked how they can launder clothing to prevent potential contamination.

Some families use boiling or hot water to wash their clothes.

Others said after removing their clothes, they shake them – a move which is not advised as that can potentially spread the virus. 

Research by Hackensack Meridian Health, a network of health care providers in the 
United States, said the virus does not survive for long on clothing compared to hard surfaces, and exposing the virus to heat may shorten its life. 

The study noted that the virus was detectable on fabric for up to two days, compared to seven days for plastic and metal, meaning when the virus is exposed to high heat it can become inactive.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said to make sure that clothes do not spread Covid-19, people should wash their clothes using detergent or soap in 60 to 90 degrees Celsius or add bleach.

After washing, WHO added the clothes must be dried in a high temperature drier or out in the sun.

In an interview with CITE, a specialist community physician, Dr Nyasha Masuka gave the following tips on how to launder clothing during the Covid-19 era:

·         Place clothing and reusable masks in the washing basket when you remove them

·         Do not shake out dirty clothing items, in case you release the virus into the air

·         Wash your clothing with the warmest water 

·         Use bleach such as Jic which may inactivate the virus (if it is present)

Dr Masuka added that when households has someone who has Covid-19 and is in self isolation, their laundry should preferably be done last after everyone else has done theirs.

·         Ideally those with Covid-19 must be isolated away from others, food must be brought to them and they must have their own utensils

·         Their clothes must not be mixed with the rest of the others but done separately  

·         Masks must be worn so that other people are not affected around that person

·         Disinfect the washing basket

·         Wash your hands thoroughly

·         Use a disinfectant to clean surfaces

“These practices should help to limit the chances that any residual virus can transfer to the next person,” Dr Masuka said.

Director of the Health Services Department in Bulawayo, Dr Edwin Sibanda, said one must go into isolation with enough clothes so that they avoid contact with others.

“Ideally no washing is to take place because there should be no contact with others. When someone is in isolation that means they must not be in contact with others. They must stay in isolation until their days are complete,” he said.

“When one goes to Elangeni the number of days they stay depends on when they go. One must carry enough clothing because there will be no one washing for you because you will be isolated. Theoretically one must carry enough underwear or they can be washing their own underwear during that isolation period.”

Dr Sibanda recommended that after the isolation, clothes must be disinfected.

“We recommend Jik (Bleach) although it may bleach other clothes.  The dilution concentrate must be as follows, take 10 ml of Jik and pour into 10 litres of water. From that 10 litres, take 10 ml to wash hands and clean the whole house.

Meanwhile, WHO also said the likelihood of shoes spreading the virus and infecting individuals is “very low.”

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