How to deal with laundry during COVID-19By Veita Bland, M.D. / August 28, 2020
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So, in a pandemic it is important to clean hard surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops and boxes we bring in the house. There are different rules we should consider when dealing with soft surfaces such as laundry.
It is generally believed that it is less likely to transmit COVID-19 from a soft surface than a hard surface. So, does that mean all clothing is exempt? Well, not so fast. Surfaces such as buttons and zippers should be considered hard surfaces so care must be taken. If you maintain a social distance of six feet, wear a mask and the people all around you are doing the same, you will probably be okay. Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer. If others fail to wear masks and do not maintain their distance or they even cough in your direction, you should come home, change and wash your clothing. Dry everything on a high heat setting. It is known that 133 degrees F will kill the virus. If you are wearing a garment that should not be machine dried on a high temperature, add disinfectant to the wash. You should not shake any clothing that you fear could harbor COVID-19 because the viral particles may become airborne.
If you must use a communal laundromat, the game plan changes. First, sort your clothes at home. Second, try to use a laundromat or communal washer and dryer at a time when others are not there. If people are present, maintain social distance. Again, bring gloves and sanitizer to clean out the washer and dryer before and after use.
It is recommended that you then take your clothes home to fold to lessen the different surfaces you may touch. Do not use the cart in the facility. Use your own laundry basket. If someone in your home is ill with COVID-19, special precautions should be instituted when caring for their clothing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC-P) suggests gathering a COVID-19 patient’s clothing in a disposable bag while wearing gloves. This bag should be washed if it is reusable. The CDC did not recommend using disinfectants in a home washer but I cannot see how it would hurt. Once again, make sure not to shake garments to avoid airborne particles. Wash the clothing in as warm of water as possible and dry them completely on high heat, if possible. CDC says you can mix the clothing of those who are ill with those who are not ill. I am not sure I agree with that one.
Many COVID-19 frontline healthcare professionals change our clothing prior to leaving work and we wash our clothes as soon as we come into the house. May healthcare workers are now wearing scrubs instead of regular clothing. Some of my colleagues even change in their garage before coming into their homes in order to protect their families. Some of this may certainly be overkill but when dealing with a virus that does not mind killing us, overkill is quite okay by me.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.