How long does the virus live on fabric?

There isn’t concrete information on this yet — but experts guess anywhere from a few hours to a day.

The average Canadian shouldn’t worry about immediately washing clothing that has been worn outside, according to researchers, but those in the health-care field should follow their workplace guidelines, including “donning and doffing” protocol. 

But there's no harm in removing clothes worn outside if it makes you feel better, says Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease physician. 

“I don’t think the clothing you’re walking around with on a regular basis is going to be a big cause of concern,” Gardam told Global News. “That being said, I can’t absolutely prove that [people] could never get infected through contaminated clothing.”

Infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Maryland, adds that how long the virus survives largely depends on environmental conditions, including how quickly it grows in certain temperature and humidity levels. 

“I suspect that you can find viability of the virus for several hours to maybe a day on clothes,” Dr. Adalja told Health magazine. 

Throwing clothes into the laundry with standard detergent is an effective way to kill any virus you’ve come into contact with. 

Some tips from Alberta Health Services include using warm or hot water where possible, disinfecting laundry baskets, and not shaking dirty laundry. If you’re doing laundry for a sick person, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection recommends wearing disposable gloves. If you live in an apartment building, be sure to also wipe down the machine controls and wash your hands. 

Dr. Anne Bissonnette of the department of human ecology at the University of Alberta has been sharing research on homemade face masks made of cloth. She notes that not all materials provide equal benefit, and cloth masks primarily protect others from you, though they may help you remember not to touch your face. 

As for other surfaces, the World Health Organization (WHO) says the most important thing to know is that “they can easily be cleaned with common household disinfectants that will kill the virus. Studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, less than 4 hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard.” 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently clarified on its website that being physically close to people presents more of a risk to catch COVID-19 than touching contaminated surfaces. 

"It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads," the website says. 


Published By:
Emily Rendell-Watson

Emily Rendell-Watson

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Updated

Tagged:

safety

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For the latest updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, see edmonton.ca/covid19, alberta.ca/covid19, canada.ca/covid19, and the World Health Organization.