How to disinfect clothes and wash them at home

With the world facing a major pandemic, it has become even more critical to focus on disinfection. This is true for our clothes too. Read this article to understand how to disinfect clothes to ensure they're free of germs, viruses and bacteria.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

How to disinfect clothes
Comfort Delicates Fabric Conditioner

Reading time: 5 minutes

You know that washing your hands is one of the best ways to protect yourself against germs and infections. You may also be aware that germs can travel up to 3 feet after a sneeze or cough and come to rest on surfaces, clothes, etc. Thus clothes, too, may indirectly spread germs. It helps to know how to sanitise your clothes and laundry effectively.

Germs can easily transfer to clothing through coughs, sneezes and bodily fluids such as saliva. However, they can also be passed by touch. For example, if someone who is ill sneezes on their hand and then touches your shirt, or if you sit on a seat that someone has coughed on. Also, clothes worn by someone unwell, or by a person nursing someone who is sick, could harbour germs and transmit them. While experts are still discovering details about how germs can be transmitted through clothes, a sensible precaution would be to wash everyday clothing as normal, but separate any high-risk items; the latter can be washed separately.

To protect your clothes from attracting and harbouring germs, first try to minimise the risk of coming into contact with someone who is ill. Stay at least 2 metres away from everyone, even if they aren’t showing any symptoms. If you cannot do that, wash your clothes and sanitise them regularly.

Here are some simple tips to clean your clothes:

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1) How to Wash Clothes

With a normal laundry load (anything not high-risk), wash your clothes in the regular wash cycle with a good detergent. You can use a detergent like Surf Excel Matic Liquid, which is specially formulated for washing machines. Being a liquid, it dissolves completely in water and washes away without leaving any residue (as powders do).

It is recommended that you wash high-risk clothes in hot water for better hygiene, after rinsing off any stains with cool water first. High-risk clothes are those that have either come into contact with someone who may have an infection (especially someone you live with), or those that are soiled (with blood, urine, faeces, vomit, etc.). It's also important to deep-clean your wardrobe and keep it organised. Here's how you can do that.

High-risk items include:

  • Towels and bedsheets

  • Medical uniforms

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It is a good idea to separate these items from your regular wash loads. You may also sanitise them post-wash with a laundry sanitiser such as Lifebuoy Laundry Sanitizer. Follow pack usage instructions for soaking, and do not mix with detergent.

If you are using a washing machine, then for towels and sheets, choose the longest wash setting with an extra rinse. To ensure a proper deep-clean, make sure you don’t overload the machine so that the clothes have room to move around.

2) How to Dry Clothes

Clothes should not be even slightly damp when you fold them as they may then harbour germs. Allow the clothes to dry thoroughly in sunlight. If drying indoors is the only option, follow these tips:

  • Hang clothes on a drying rack in direct sunlight

  • Maximise ventilation with open windows

  • Hang clothes on coat hangers to speed up drying

  • Avoid exposure to mould spores by drying clothes in areas of your home you spend less time in; avoid bedrooms and the living room if possible.

If you have a tumble drier, it is recommended you use the longest drying cycle to ensure your laundry is thoroughly dry. Also, if you\'re a new parent who is looking for effective tips to keep baby's clothes germ-free, these tips will help you.

3) When to Wash Your Clothes

If you think there’s a good chance you’ve come into contact with an ill person (for example because you’ve been in a crowded area), or if you’re in a high-risk setting such as a hospital, it’s a good idea to wash your clothes as soon as you get home. Don’t leave them in the laundry basket as any germs could spread.

In general, clothes worn outside should not be repeated without washing, while the clothes worn at home should be washed as often as possible. If your curtains are looking dull and you want to give them a thorough clean up, here’s your guide.

4) How to Clean Your Washing Machine

If you wash your clothes using a washing machine, don’t forget to clean that as well. If the machine is dirty, or harbours germs, they may transfer to your clothes during use. You can find out how to deep-clean your washing machine here. Don’t forget to leave the machine lid open for at least half an hour after every use, for ventilation. Additionally, if you\'re looking for a systematic house-cleaning schedule and checklist, have a look at this helpful guide.

Key Tips

  • Avoid shaking your laundry before you wash it. You don’t want to breathe in any germs that get dislodged from the clothes. Hold the laundry away from your body while taking it for the wash.

  • Avoid sharing towels, napkins or face cloths if someone in your house is sick.

  • Ensure you don’t touch your face after handling dirty laundry. Wash your hands straight after.

  • Make sure all laundry is completely dry before you put it away (damp fabric can retain germs).

The above tips would have definitely helped answer the question of ‘how to disinfect clothes.’ It is pretty evident that just washing clothes is not enough; for proper disinfection, you need to make sure you use the right detergent, wash your clothes at the right time, separate high-risk clothing and also clean your machine.


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Originally published