Explained: For how long can virus in this outbreak survive on clothes?

Does the novel coronavirus survive on your clothes, and if so, for how long? The answer to the first question is that it probably does survive, but it is not clear for how long.

Studies have looked at how long the virus can survive on various surfaces — plastic, steel, cardboard — and even in the air, but none has looked at fabric yet.

Union Health Ministry update at 9.30 pm, March 30. Some states may have reported higher numbers. Only states with most cases are listed above.

Most viruses, however, have been known to survive longer on nonporous surfaces such as steel, than on porous ones such as cardboard. And fabric is porous. A good thing about porous surfaces is that they tend to trap the virus, making it tougher to transmit than it would have from, say, plastic.

In any case, it is imperative to keep clothes clean. “There are no advisories for clothes. WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines say do laundry at 60-90°C for linen. We believe detergents can kill the virus,” said Dr Tanu Singhal, infectious disease expert. “But no data is available for coronavirus. Care should be taken to wash clothes of infected people separately.”

The Health Ministry advises on its website: “Clean clothes, bedclothes, bath and hand towels, etc. of ill persons using regular laundry soap and water or machine wash at 60-90°C with common household detergent. Dry it thoroughly. Place contaminated linen into a laundry bag. Do not shake soiled laundry and avoid direct contact with the skin and clothes with the contaminated materials.” About masks, it advises: “If using cloth masks, wash them at least daily.”

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