Ways to Disinfect Clothes & Fight the Virus

Ways To Disinfect Clothes

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably never thought that much about washing your clothes. You probably just throw them inside the washing machine, wait until their done, dry, iron, and fold them away. However, today with the uncertain threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s worth taking another look at his basic habit and see if there are any better ways to disinfect clothes. 

The big question is – are my normal laundry habits enough to disinfect my clothes? Your clothes may have picked it up from the supermarket, the gas station, the elevator, anywhere where there are others. Let's help put these worries to rest by making sure your clothes are properly disinfected.

By now, we all know that the most important habit you can have to be safe is to wash your hands often throughout the day, and especially after touching something in public. Since we were young we’ve been taught the proper method – but what about our clothes?

I’ve seen many sources speculating and testing how long the virus can remain on surfaces. I’ve seen some claiming several hours, all the way up to several days (depending on the surface of course). This, of course, means that though your hands may be free from the virus after washing, your clothes may have picked them up from the outside waiting for you to touch them (undressing for example).

So What Are The Best Ways To Disinfect Clothes?

1:  Cleaning With Laundry Detergent

Thankfully, cleaning clothes with good quality laundry detergent is one of the most simple and effective ways to disinfect clothes. The strong soap breaks apart and carries away any lurking virus, bacteria, or fungi that may be clinging to your garments.

Powder detergent is slightly more effective than liquid so prefer that if you have it. Lean towards smaller loads of clothes with a full water level to get a thorough wash and rinse. If you are focused on disinfecting as best as you can, don’t skimp on the detergent. If you have an abundant supply saved up, use the maximum your washer recommends.

Set your washer to the hottest, safe, water temperature that your clothing allows. Be careful with full or blended synthetic fabrics as they cannot take much heat, follow the recommendations the manufacturer recommends. Sort your natural and synthetic fabrics into separate loads. The CDC recommends washing in water over 160 degrees Fahrenheit, or 71 degrees Celsius, as effective for disinfecting. 

2:  Using Added Disinfectants

Adding disinfectants is another one of the ways to disinfect clothing. Though this method is effective, since the products are specifically designed for the purpose, it can be expensive. Additionally, disinfectants, depending on the state of where you are, disinfectants may be in limited supply if you haven’t stocked up beforehand.

The most important thing to remember when using disinfectants is to strictly follow the manufacturer's instructions. In general, you should prewash the clothes in hot water with laundry detergent, and then use disinfectant on a rinse cycle. Make sure to allow some time for it to work – if your machine has a soak setting, use that.

Bleach As A Disinfectant

Liquid household bleach is an effective disinfectant and is quite inexpensive when compared to branded disinfectants. Some fabrics cannot be washed with bleach, namely wool, and silk. Additionally, bleach will remove the color from colored clothes. So, obviously this is an option only really suitable for light clothing or a time when you have no other choice.

Like the brand-name detergents, follow the manufacturer's instructions, and use after washing the clothes. It is important to remember that bleach is a powerful chemical and must be handled with care. Absolutely avoid mixing bleach with any ammonia-based, or acidic products, as this will create extremely dangerous chlorine gas.

3:  Wipes And Sanitizers

Ethanol (alcohol) or bleach-based wipes should be used to clean accessories and clothes that cannot be washed, as they, of course, can carry the virus. Leather and faux leather bags, garments, as well as jackets, fur, etc. For alcohol wipes, make sure you use at least a concentration of 70%. Using these wipes on leather will dry out the leather, so make sure to re-hydrate it again with your preferred method.

4:  Pressing And Steaming

Using a hot iron on clothes can disinfect clothes, to a degree. However, it is not as reliable as the other methods, as well as requiring you to touch the potentially infected fabric many times.

Steaming, if you have access to an appropriate tool can be effective. The steam is easily hot, enough to disinfect, the critical part is getting complete coverage of the clothing.

5:  Boiling

Clothes can be boiled in a large pot for a few minutes, which is a surefire way of sterilizing anything. This is not a very practical option but it’s a good one to have in your arsenal nonetheless. 

Some Closing Words

Always remember when you are disinfecting clothes that may be infected, wear rubber gloves and a mask. Disinfect or safely dispose of them once you are done.

Also, don’t forget to store your supply of cleaning agents safely and out of the reach of young children. Everything in this list from bleach to hot irons can be extremely dangerous.

And of course, it goes without saying to limit your exposure to the outside. Remember that all surfaces are potential homes for the virus, that means groceries from the store, anything delivered to your home – wipes or soap should be used on what you can.

Stay updated with the CDC.

Be safe everyone and Happy Sewing!

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18 Responses to Ways to Disinfect Clothes & Fight the Virus

  1. Maureen Knight says:

    I think I would be more worried about my face and hands, which is the main part to protect, than my clothes. If soap is ok for hands I’m sure detergent is enough for clothes

  2. Leslie Leben says:

    How donI forward this to a friend?

  3. Kristin Morrison says:

    Dry heat or steam at a temperature of 70C or 160 F for 30 min is effective for disinfecting medical equipment so if you have something that is not washable you can put it in the oven – carefully wrapped in tinfoil if needed.
    This can be done with surgical/N95 masks as well except the elastic will need to be replaced – FYI info comes for the man who developed the N95 originally so please share with those who need to know this.
    https://utrf.tennessee.edu/information-faqs-performance-protection-sterilization-of-masks-against-covid-19/

  4. sewsable says:

    Drying in the sunshine is an excellent way to kill any infection in clothes; most will be removed by washing but the sun kills almost everything that’s left.

  5. Carole says:

    Be careful what you add to your washer to avoid a chemical damaging hoses and parts. I also saw a recommendation for sunlight to disinfect – might be an option for those who have a clothesline and sunshine.

  6. Tina Cavaluzzi says:

    You can add vinegar instead of fabric softener for cleaning as well.

  7. Marti Morgan says:

    If you wash your hands for 20 seconds and use soap and water, which they say is perfect, then your close washing for 10 minutes would do the trick, with good detergent and water. Maybe think about warm water.

  8. Pat says:

    is normal, off the shelf white vinegar the same as ‘ double strength’ you are mentioning

  9. Christine Rhea says:

    I use lysol in my wash. Is that enough with soap.

  10. Ann says:

    Although white vinegar can be used in cleaning, it does not kill viruses and will not disinfect your clothing or any other surface.

  11. Linda V says:

    How about using double strength cleaning white vinegar instead of fabric softener in the rinse cycle. I always use it for towels and face cloths, it also prevents detergent build up and softens towels!

  12. Leigh says:

    I use hydrogen peroxide in my wash. Is that enough?

  13. Elisa says:

    Very good, thanks

  14. Helen Jankul says:

    Thank you for sharing this info.

  15. Maureen McQuinn says:

    Great content Mayra. Thanks so much for sharing. It’s important to keep this virus out of your clothes. By the way, I bought you a coffee or is it Ko-Fi? Hope you enjoy.

What do you think?