Explained: Should you wash your clothes every time you return home?

Coronavirus: When someone returns from outdoors, is it essential to wash their clothes? The risk of infected clothes depends on where you went.

When someone returns from outdoors, is it essential to wash their clothes? While it always helps to wash your clothes if you can, you might want to weigh the need against the risk — or what is known of it — of not doing so.

The novel coronavirus probably survives on fabric for some time, although no research has been done on how long that is. Generally, viruses tend to last longer on non-porous surfaces (steel, plastic etc) an for a shorter time on porous surfaces (which include clothes). Read in Tamil

The risk of infected clothes depends on where you went. At highest risk are healthcare professionals who deal with COVID-19 patients, and the government has guidelines including on washing their clothes. Dr Tanu Singhal, infectious disease expert, said, “It is assumed a detergent kills the virus when clothes are washed.”

As of now, the general population in India is seen as being at low risk because widespread community transmission has not yet begun. So, if you stepped out, return and change but leave your outdoor clothes unwashed, it may be safe to wear the same clothes the next time you step out. This is provided you have not kept wiping their unwashed hands against these clothes. And if you are a healthcare worker, repeating unwashed clothes is not safe.

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Should such clothes be washed separately? If you stepped out to buy groceries, it is probably safe to wash those clothes together with everyone else’s. If you travel out often, you should use a separate towel. If you travel frequently to high-risk clusters, to hospitals or quarantine facilities, you should wash clothes separately.

The government guidelines advise that if a person is suspected to have symptoms of COVID-19, his or her clothes must be separately washed wearing gloves to avoid contamination. In Kasturba Hospital, the nodal isolation facility for patients in Mumbai, staff go home, bathe and wash their clothes in warm water separately from other laundry as a precaution against transmission.

Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?

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