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How to wash your clothes to make sure they’re free of coronavirus germs

Keep clothes clean during the COVID-19 crisis

Abigail Malbon
Lifestyle Writer
Updated: 27 July 2020
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Granted, the coronavirus pandemic is slowly easing in the UK, but that doesn't mean we should become slapdash with our cleaning approach. You've probably nailed cleaning and disinfecting your homes regularly to make sure they’re free of coronavirus germs - but what about washing your clothes? It may be one of the last things you’re thinking of, but what you’re wearing can easily pick up germs too - so how often should you wash, and will your regular laundry products do the trick? Here’s everything you need to know.

How often should you wash your clothes during the coronavirus crisis?

Probably more than usual. A new study by The New England Medical Journal confirms that the virus can last in the air for up to three hours, on cardboard for 24 hours, and plastic and steel for two to three days, which means those germs are likely to hang around on your clothes if you’ve been outside. 

Clothes which come into contact with a lot of bodily fluids, such as sportswear, will have a great number of germs on, so could pose a greater risk.

It’s recommended that anything you’ve worn outside be put straight into the washing machine - and even if you’re the most eco-friendly of people, now is the time to increase the temperature.

Can you wash clothes with regular laundry detergent?

Tests haven’t been undertaken yet, but your regular powder, liquid or tablets should clean your clothes effectively. Be careful not to shake out materials as you put them into the washing machine, as this could spread germs.

If you want to clean the machine itself, Dettol and Dr Beckmann washing machine cleaners both claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria.


Laundry kit, £12, Amazon

dettol cleaner

Dettol washing machine cleaner, £3.50, Amazon


Dr.Beckmann deep clean washing machine, £8, Amazon


What temperature should clothes be washed at?

If you usually do a cool wash, it could be time to switch it up - preferably to 60 degrees. Not all clothes will survive a wash this hot, so it’s best to wear materials that won’t shrink.

Dr Beckmann spokeswoman Susan Fermor said: “There’s a common misconception that people should wash clothes on the hottest possible setting to kill bacteria, but it’s unnecessary. Tests have proven that washing your clothes at 60°C, with a good detergent, is perfectly adequate to kill bacteria.

“Just make sure that you check all garments are suitable to be washed at this temperature before putting them in the washing machine and take care not to ruin your clothes by boil washing.”

Having an ‘indoor’ and ‘outdoor’ wardrobe may be beneficial right now to help you  - make sure to use easily washable fabrics outside. 

Is it safe to wear shoes indoors?

It’s not known how long germs can stay on shoes, so experts say it’s best to leave your outdoor footwear at the door where possible.

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