Coronavirus: lower your risk by properly cleaning your clothes

Cleaning your clothes correctly, and often can help ward off Coronavirus and other illnesses. Here's what you need to know about germs and clothing...

clean clothes
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Getting worried about the coronavirus and your risk of contamination? The fact is, we all are exposed to bacteria of all kinds every day, and some of them inevitably get onto our clothing. Don't panic, though: most clothing items don't need cleaning all that often; it's knowing which ones you do need to wash often (and in hot water) that can make a real difference to staying healthy. 

Find more advice and tips at our health and beauty hub page. 

1. Wash your gym kit as soon as you get home

Your sports wear is a breeding ground for bacteria – even the NHS says so. Sweaty sportswear should be washed immediately after use, separately from your other clothes.

Not only is it sweaty, but it's also collected all the bacteria from previous gym users, and you really don't want that collection of bacteria lying around in your house. Oh, and while you're at it, pop your sports bag in the wash, too. Wash everything at the highest temperature it can stand without shrinking – usually 40ºC for synthetics and 60ºC for cottons. 

And your trainers? You can try washing them, too, or at least air them out outside for a bit before bringing them in. 

2. Wash your towels on hot, especially if you share

Towels are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria: deep-pile fabric that gets damp all the time; you get the idea. Hand towels must be changed every three days at the most. Bath and shower towels can be changed every five days or so, provided only you are using the towels. If you share, change them more often and always wash them on a 60ºC cycle.

More on how to wash towels in our guide.

3. Wash your underwear separately

If you are a fan of low-temperature washing, wash your underwear separately. It's unlikely that your knickers will give you the coronavirus, but they might give you food poisoning, because of, you know, faecal matter (sorry). If it's cotton, wash it in 40ºC; if it's synthetic or silk, 30ºC is ok. 

4. Don't forget your gloves and scarves

Good news: your winter coat is unlikely to give you a virus, unless you wore it while in contact with someone ill, or was tending to someone ill. Winter coats are typically made from materials like wool that naturally repel dirt and germs – up to a point, of course. You should have your winter coat cleaned at least once mid-season, and again before putting it away for the summer.

Your gloves and scarf, on the other hand, could legitimately make you sick. Your gloves are absolutely full of germs and should be washed every week during peak cold and flu season (yes, really), even if they're leather. Your scarf is the item of clothing that spends the most time level with other people's coughs and sneezes, and should also be washed about every week. 

5. Clean your handbag and reusable shopping bag

It may not seem that way, but, ladies, your handbags are filthy. One in five handbags has more germs on it than a toilet seat – and it's the one item you use every single day, placing it on all kinds of surfaces. Clean yours with a leather cleaner or mild detergent. 

If you're an eco-friendly shopper, you're probably taking reusable cotton tote bags with you shopping. These get very dirty very quickly, absorbing bacteria from absolutely everything around them, including food. Wash them separately on a hot cycle. 

More on how to clean leather