How to do laundry during COVID-19: Do's and dont's

(BPT) - Good laundry practices in the home are more important than ever. Recommendations from the North American Cleaning and Sanitization Expert Panel, which recently convened in a workshop hosted by the University of Arizona, offer guidelines to help reduce the spread of infections and illness when it comes to laundry practices in your home. These methods can give you better peace of mind, knowing that you're doing all you can to help reduce the spread of viruses that cause COVID-19, the flu and colds.

Here are some easy-to-follow do's and don'ts for laundry best practices in your home:

DO use a deeper-cleaning, high-quality laundry detergent that removes deeply embedded soils and germs.

According to one of the experts on the panel, microbiologist and University of Arizona professor Dr. Charles P. Gerba, regular good laundry practices, combined with the use of a deeper-cleaning, high-quality detergent and precautions like washing your hands after handling soiled or wet laundry is enough to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.

"Viruses that cause colds, flu and COVID-19 are very sensitive to the surfactants found in deeper-cleaning, high-quality laundry detergents," said Dr. Gerba. "Combined with the regular laundry process and special handling precautions including hand washing, deeper-cleaning detergents can provide better protection for you and your family versus the use of lighter cleaning detergents."

DO always wash or sanitize hands after handling soiled laundry and transferring wet laundry from washer to dryer, even in healthy households.

DO use special precautions if COVID-19, the flu, or a cold is suspected or confirmed. Wear disposable gloves if possible when handling dirty laundry (clothes and linens) from a person who is sick. Dirty laundry from a person who is sick can be washed with other people’s items. Do not shake dirty laundry. Clean and disinfect clothes hampers, appliance and other surfaces that contact soiled laundry. Remove gloves, and wash or sanitize hands right away. Wash or sanitize hands again after transferring wet laundry from washer to dryer.

DO frequently wash clothing and other items such as bath towels, hand towels and kitchen towels. Bedsheets and especially pillowcases also require frequent laundering.

DO use the highest temperature clothes washer setting you can safely use, according to the care instructions for the items being laundered if a respiratory illness such as COVID-19, the flu or a cold is suspected or confirmed. Healthy households can wash clothes in cold water.

DO regularly clean and disinfect your home's clothes hampers, appliances or other surfaces that come into contact with soiled laundry.

DON'T use a laundry sanitizer for everyday cleaning. Laundry sanitizers are an added extra step needed during specific illnesses, such as the stomach flu, and are not needed to protect you and your family against the viruses that cause colds, the flu, and COVID-19. In special situations where a laundry sanitizer is recommended for use, it should always be used after washing with a deeper-cleaning laundry detergent.

DON'T wait to wash soiled clothes or bedding of an ill family member — wash those items as soon as possible to avoid spreading infection in your household.

DON'T wash bedding or clothes from a family member who is ill with an enteric virus (stomach bug, vomiting and diarrhea), has a weakened immune system, or work clothes contaminated by germs from sick people or animals together with laundry from other members of the household. Keeping that laundry separate can help prevent viruses or bacteria from spreading to others. Wash in hot water, using a deeper-cleaning laundry detergent plus a registered sanitizer and/or sanitizing cycle on the washing machine. Dry in a dryer on high heat. Wearing disposable gloves when handling soiled laundry from an ill household member can provide an extra layer of protection.

Following these laundry practices can help ensure your family will be less likely to spread bacteria or viruses, says Dr. Gerba, helping to reduce the risk of illness for everyone in your home.

Learn more about good laundry and cleaning practices as recommended by the North American Cleaning and Sanitization Expert Panel by visiting News.Arizona.edu/story/dirt-laundry-and-how-reduce-your-risk-getting-sick.

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