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Doing Laundry During the Pandemic: All You Need to Know

Ally Nelson |

The Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet even if, in many parts of the world, governments started lifting restrictions. With so many new cases every day and a general state of uncertainty, we should all limit our outings and follow the social distancing rules.

However, if online shopping for groceries and supplies managed to solve some issues, we still have plenty on our plates. One problem many encountered during the lockdown was laundry. With so many conflicting reports on the resilience of the new coronavirus on different surfaces (cloth and textiles included), there is no wonder that laundry was and still is a problem. Let’s discuss some issues today regarding doing laundry during the quarantine and after the lockdown.

Is the New Coronavirus Lingering on Your Clothes Waiting to Attack?

Those who have a washing machine at home fared better, but the ones depending on laundromats have quite a hard life. Even if they find a laundry shop open these days – which is rare – they might feel like characters in a post-apocalyptic horror movie or video game. Most of the time, the place is crowded, everybody sees and enemy in the other person, the prices spiked, and each person seems to calculate the fastest way of getting out of there unharmed.

So before we discuss in detail how to do your laundry safely during the pandemic – at home or a laundromat – let’s remind everybody that clothes are the least of your worries when it comes to the coronavirus spreading.

We still have a lot to learn about the new coronavirus, but apparently, wearing a mask/face cover during the pandemic, washing hands, and staying away from crowds seem to be working against the spread of the virus.

Moreover, despite the pro-plastic and pro-oil propaganda, scientific studies showed that the new coronavirus resists on cloth items for two days compared to other surfaces, where it can linger for up to a week.

Yet, the most common transmission mechanism remains to this day the spread of respiratory droplets. In other words – and to quote experts on this – it is not clothes that should be your biggest concern unless you live or have to care for a person already infected with the virus.

The best way to keep the new coronavirus away from you in your home is to wash your hands before and after you deal with dirty laundry.

So let’s see next how to deal with our laundry during the pandemic to stay safe and prevent any modicum of risk of contracting the disease through our clothes or other textile items like reusable shopping bags, laundry bags, and more.

How to Do Laundry during the Pandemic at the Laundromat in the City

You might feel the temptation of wearing clothes for more extended periods between the washes just to stay inside more, but it is not a smart idea.

Since the C.D.C pointed out a few months ago that the coronavirus can linger on clothes from ours to up to two-three days, it is best to wash your clothes, bed linen and sheets, towels, comforters, and even reusable shopping bags more often than before.

So here is the etiquette of doing laundry during the pandemic at the laundromat in your neighborhood!

  • Separate the dirty clothes in categories and place each pile in a different clean laundry bag. Do so wearing disposable gloves. Alternatively, wash your hands after you handled the laundry.
  • The pre-sorting and pre-treating of your clothes saves you a lot of time.
  • Use different bags for different clothes to make sorting and gathering the clothes faster and easier when you use the laundromat. For instance, place your t-shirts in a medium laundry bag. On the other hand, a few pairs of jeans require more space, so put them in a jumbo-sized laundry bag of a different color. In case you need to launder office shirts, a jacket, a suit, or anything along these lines, use a travel garment bag that prevents creasing on your way from the laundromat to your home. Take your own clothes hangers too.
  • Since spring is here and summer is coming, you may wonder what to do with your textile sneakers and canvas espadrilles. Bring each pair of such footwear to the laundromat in its own separate drawstring shoe bag and, if the items allow it, wash them at the highest permissible temperature inside the shoe bag to avoid damages.
  • If you have delicate clothing that does not withstand the high temperatures of laundromats, you should try washing them by hand at home or avoid wearing them for a while.
  • Do not go to the laundromat when it is full. While some such places already implemented crowd control policies, it is best to avoid rush hour. Call beforehand to make an appointment or learn about the quieter hours throughout the day.
  • Once you arrive at the laundromat, follow the basic rules of corona prevention by staying at least six feet away from the other people who are in there.
  • If you see people who are in the risk categories, let them finish their laundry and wait for your turn.
  • Bring some disinfectant and wipe down the machines or other objects before and after touching them. Alternatively, wear a pair of disposable gloves. Most laundromats also have sinks, so don’t forget to wash your hands!
  • Do not touch your face under any circumstance!
  • Avoid using the public laundry carts you find at the laundromat. Instead, use your own (clean and disinfected) laundry bags to gather your laundry pre- and post-wash/dry.
  • Set the temperature of the washing cycle at 160 degrees and more (60 degrees Celsius and even higher), use detergent, and even bleach (if it does not damage your items)
  • Opt for an extra rinsing cycle and drying. Depending on your type of clothes you wash, set the highest recommended temperature for them, the C.D.C. advises, so you should remember this.
  • Load the machines and wait outside or in your car, preserving the six feet of social distancing at all times.
  • Be ready to pay by card the moment you have your clothes available.
  • When the machines finish laundering and drying your clothes, gather them quickly in your laundry bags, as this is no time to linger around.
  • Save the folding for a home activity to avoid your clothes touching the folding table. Take the laundry bags out of the laundromat and minimize the waiting times of other people waiting for their turn. Folding at home also reduces the risk of others touching your laundry.
  • Once you arrive home with your laundry, wash your hands before and after you fold it and put it back where it belongs. Place the laundry bags in a place where they do not touch other items. If you can, wash your laundry bags by hand and let them dry in direct air and sunlight on a windowsill or balcony.

It is not a good idea to wash by hand heavy items like towels or bed sheets, jeans, or coats. If you cannot find a laundromat in your area with reasonable operating hours and coronavirus prevention methods already implemented, try switching to a wash-and-fold delivery service if you find one. Handle the delivered package of washed, dry, and folded clothes just as you would handle your online grocery shopping parcels and packages.

Alternatively, you can opt for dry cleaning. The chemicals and processes involved in dry cleaning could make the spread of the virus virtually impossible. Still, you should take into account the people handling your clothes, no matter what wash-and-fold or dry cleaning services you use. Usually, specialists in such facilities operate with gloves and masks, but if you feel particularly vulnerable, call ahead and ask about their protective measures.

How to Do Laundry during the Pandemic in the Building’s Laundromat

If you live in a building with a communal laundry room, things may be more comfortable and more complicated at the same time. First, you need to make sure you don’t crowd together with the other neighbors to do laundry. Wait for quieter hours and make sure you allow people in the risk categories to finish their work first.

Doing laundry in your building’s laundromat should follow the same rules and etiquette as using a laundromat downtown.

  • Bring your laundry bags and take the opportunity of having washing machines downstairs to wash your laundry bags as often as you can.
  • Take advantage of the machines’ proximity to sanitize your reusable canvas shopping bags every few days. If you don’t know how to wash your grocery bags with a washing machine, we hope our guide will help you keep your tote bags clean and safe now, and many years after this pandemic is over!
  • Pre-sort your clothes just as if you would take them a few blocks away.
  • Once you arrive in the laundry room, disinfect the surfaces you are most likely to touch and make sure you wash your hands after you handle items, clothes, and other surfaces.
  • Again, this is no time to dwell and have small talk with the neighbors, so unpack your laundry bags, put the clothes in the machine, set the temperature, the extra rinsing cycle, and the drying and wait back in your apartment.
  • When the washing is over, bring your laundry bags with you, gather the clothes, and go back home. Folding is best if kept inside your apartment and not on the folding table used by all the residents in the building.

Social distancing, washing your hands, and not touching your face should be the mantra of all your activities these days. Remember these rules, and you should be safe whenever you leave your home to go to the building’s basement and do the laundry once a week.

How to Do Laundry during the Pandemic with Your Washing Machine

Having a washing machine at home and benefitting from enough space to dry the clothes on a clothesline in the balcony or a clothes’ drying rack in the bedroom spares you of plenty of trouble. After all, if you keep your house clean and disinfected as the C.D.C. recommends, there should not be any problem. Here is what the experts recommend!

  • Launder items (clothing, towels, linens, and other things) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
  • Wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from a person who is sick.
  • Do not shake dirty laundry.
  • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers according to the official guide for surfaces and products.
  • Remove gloves and wash hands right away.

According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), the practical advice given to the population regarding home laundry of clothes and other items include the following:

  • Be mindful of everything that has been in contact with dirty clothes. It includes the clothes you are wearing, your hands, the floor, the countertop. In this way, you will minimize the risk of spreading the virus inside your home.
  • Keep dirty clothes belonging to a sick person separate from both clean and dirty clothes belonging to other members of the household;
  • The sick person’s dirty clothes should ideally be placed straight in the washing machine;
  • Keep clothes separate at all times even if there is no sick person in your home;
  • Turn the temperature up – as much as your clothes withstand – and add an extra cycle of rinsing;
  • Use your drier if you have one;
  • Ironing your clothes, particularly with warm steam, provides a further benefit;
  • Adding more detergent to a wash cycle may not be beneficial, on the contrary;
  • If you have clothes that you suspect may have come in contact with the virus, either put them straight into the washing machine or place them in quarantine for 24 hours (in a spare room, hung outside on the balcony, etc.).
  • Once you come home from outside, place your clothes in quarantine and change immediately in “indoor clothes.” It is where your sweatpants and used t-shirts come in handy.
  • Always wash your hands after handling dirty clothes or after you changed your clothes;
  • If you have any cuts or open sores on your hands, keep them protected with a bandage.

Bottom Line

Doing laundry in our current situation – outside the house, in your building, or at home – is not necessarily mission impossible if you follow the basic rules. Remember always to have a bulk of laundry bags at your disposal whenever you go to the laundromat in the city for easy carrying and gathering.

If you have other tips and tricks on how to do laundry during the pandemic, share your thoughts in the comment section below!