By Katie Conner

Can coronavirus live on your clothes and shoes? Here’s what we know

As businesses such as retail stores and salons prepare to reopen this month in some states and countries, it is vital to know the precautions to take to prevent the spread of coronavirus — like wearing a face mask, maintaining social distancing and washing your hands frequently. And while you already know that you should be sanitizing your home regularly, should you be doing the same with your clothes and shoes?

COVID-19 can spread from person to person, through respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze or by touching an infected (usually solid) surface and then touching your face. The virus can even live on some surfaces for longer than nine days. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found coronavirus RNA that had survived in the Diamond Princess cruise ship 17 days after the passengers had departed.

However, the likelihood of you contracting the virus from your clothes is considered rare, especially since there’s no evidence that the virus can survive on clothing. On the other hand, if you’re a healthcare provider, it may be safest to leave your work clothes and shoes outside until they are sanitized.

With that said, if you believe you may have come into contact with the virus, or you just want to be cautious, here’s what you need to know. Note that this article provides information drawn from the CDC and offers an overview of what we currently know. Recommendations may change over time in light of new research and developments. This story updates often.

Do I need to wash my clothes when I get home?

After you come home from the grocery store, you don’t have to change out of your clothes — especially if you kept a six-foot distance from others at the store. It is recommended that you wash your hands, though. However, if you work at a healthcare facility around COVID-19 patients or think you’ve been exposed to the virus, it’s best to take additional precautions and launder your clothes when you get home.

The CDC recommends that you don’t shake your dirty laundry, as this may cause the coronavirus to become airborne again, although it’s not certain if it’s infectious at that point. Researchers are currently studying whether the coronavirus can be cultivated from airborne RNA particles, the New York Times reports. Remember that the most likely form of transmission is known to be from person to person. So maybe don’t plan that dinner party just yet.

Do I need to leave my shoes outside?

You may be wondering if it’s safe to wear your shoes into your house after going to the grocery store or other public places. A new study conducted by the CDC at Wuhan hospitals suggests the virus can survive on shoe soles. However, they’re unsure if the droplets were still infectious.

The Cleveland Clinic says that while it’s possible for the virus to live on your shoes, it’s very unlikely for it to be transmitted to you unless you directly touch the infected area and then touch your face.

If you think you encountered someone or a surface that was infected with coronavirus, remove your shoes before walking into your home and then wash your hands immediately. You’ll want to spray the shoes with a disinfectant before bringing them inside.

What if my clothing label says to use cold water or line dry only?

While the CDC suggests you should use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely, your clothing label may say otherwise. If the laundry instructions on your clothes say to wash in cold water or line dry only, you should. Since the coronavirus is surrounded by a layer of fatty membrane, your detergent alone should be able to kill the virus. However, if you’re still worried about whether or not the virus survived the wash, you can put your clothes in a bag for several days to let the virus die naturally.

While the country may be reopening, we still need to understand what that means for us. Here are 16 practical ways to help stay safe when going out in public, what to do if you think you’ve contracted the coronavirus and what to know about wearing homemade face masks in public.


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