How to Wash Work Clothes to Protect Yourself from COVID-19

With the federal guidelines on social distancing expiring tonight (30th April), and a number of US states looking to open up again in the very near future, many people will be keen to go back to work.  However, until a vaccine is found, the threat posed by the coronavirus is far from over, and it is thought that certain social distancing measures and hygiene guidelines will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

These will most likely include hand washing and sanitizing, possibly the wearing of masks while at work, and certain distancing measures to be implemented where possible. However, for anyone still concerned about picking up the virus and taking it home, there are other measures that can be implemented to minimize the risk. For those likely to head back to work next week, dealing with your clothes on your return home is a case in point.

Here then, we take a look at the current advice on how to wash your clothes to minimize transmission of the coronavirus and ensure that you stay safe.

Do clothes carry the virus?

In truth, the risk associated with your clothes carrying the virus is pretty low, and you should certainly concentrate on washing your hands frequently and comprehensively as the best preventative measure. However, certain studies have suggested that the virus can live on surfaces for up to three days, and this includes fabrics.

For those anyone working in environments where maintaining social distancing is tricky, dealing efficiently with your clothes at the end of the day may be a good idea.

What should I do with my clothes when I return home?

On your return home, you should immediately undress and isolate your work clothes ready for washing. Ideally, this should be separate from the rest of your laundry. After taking a shower, you should then dress in your “inside clothes”, or clothes that are only worn at home. This will help to minimize possible infections as the clothes you wear will not leave your residence.

How should I wash my clothes?

Current guidance from the CDC suggests that you should wash work clothes on the highest possible temperature setting, and dry clothes completely before either wearing them or putting them away. If you have gloves, then wearing them as a precaution while doing the laundry may be a good idea, however, it is always important to wash your hands anyway, so gloves are probably unneeded.

For anyone working on the frontline, in particular healthcare professionals or anyone regularly dealing with people, then washing your clothes immediately when you return home is best practice. Additionally, if you suspect you have been coughed on or sneezed while at work, then the same is true.

What If I Don’t Have a Washing Machine

If you use a laundromat or your building has a shared washing machine, then you should pay attention to the guidance given specific to those facilities. As before, keep your work clothes separate from the rest of the laundry while at home, and wash your hands properly before and after dealing with your workwear at the facility itself. Additionally, you should practice social distancing while in the facility to minimize potential infections.

While it is thought that workwear and other clothing carries little threat of infection, for anyone with family members considered at risk, it pays to be cautious. For more information on hygiene and safe working while at work, speak to your employer and follow the advice given by the CDC. Finally, remember to wash your hands!

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