How to handle laundry during coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus has upended every aspect of our lives, including something as routine as doing laundry.

So many questions right now, how do you handle the laundry of someone exposed to or infected with COVID-19, and are laundromats safe these days? Consumer Reports reveals some answers and simple steps to keep you safe.

If you're living with someone who has a suspected or confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, there are important safety precautions you need to take.

First, keep any contaminated laundry in a separate bin.

"We don't know for sure how long this coronavirus can survive on clothes, but researchers think it's possible the virus may remain infectious on clothes for hours or even days. So, any clothes that may have been exposed to the coronavirus should be treated as contaminated and kept in a separate laundry bin," said Rachel Rabkin Peachman of Consumer Reports.

When it's time to do the laundry, use disposable gloves if you have them, and throw them away immediately after you finish.

"If you don't have gloves, you can absolutely do the laundry with your bare hands. And just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward, whether or not you have gloves," she said.

You can wash the laundry of a COVID-19 patient as you normally would, experts say no special detergent or bleach is needed, but use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry them completely. After you put the laundry in the washer, disinfect all the surfaces in your laundry room that may have been contaminated, like doorknobs and the door pull on the washing machine.

Finally, if you're using a shared laundry facility, like in an apartment building or laundromat, disinfect handles and surfaces before you touch the machines.

"Your chances of getting the virus from someone else directly is much higher than getting the virus from a surface. So you'll want to keep at least six feet away from anyone else," she said.

And a final reminder: when you get home and finish the laundry, be sure to give your hands a thorough 20-second wash with soap and water.

These tips are also important to do if you're living with someone who works in a hospital or another place where there may be exposure to the virus.
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