Why you are LESS likely to catch COVID-19 from clothes and soft furnishings than other objects – as the everyday surfaces that leave you at risk for up to three days are revealed
- COVID-19 is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes
- It can also be contracted from touching objects contaminated with coronavirus
- Soft surfaces like clothes, pillows and Doonas are least likely to carry the virus
- Researchers have confirmed contamination lives on these fabrics for 24 hours
- Washing laundry at 56°C or hotter and tumble drying clothes will kill the virus
- The virus dies also on clothes and cushions sooner than on hard surfaces
- COVID-19 can survive on glass, stainless steel and plastic for up to three days
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Tumble drying and machine washing at 56 degrees Celsius kills all traces of COVID-19 on clothes, cushions and Doonas, infectious disease specialists who study how viruses are transmitted have confirmed.
Professor Sacha Stelzer-Braid studies respiratory viruses at UNSW in Sydney
Professor Sacha Stelzer-Braid is a virologist with special interest in respiratory diseases at UNSW who is closely monitoring the spread of coronavirus in Australia, as nationwide infections top 4,167 and the death toll climbs to 17 after a woman in her 80s died at North West Regional Hospital in Tasmania overnight.
Professor Stelzer-Braid told Daily Mail Australia that cleaning laundry on a regular cycle will cause the virus to disintegrate and die, which means you’re unlikely to catch coronavirus from clothing if you simply wash loads as normal.
‘It’s been shown that washing clothes and bedding at 56°C kills the novel coronavirus specifically. It doesn’t need to be boiling, you don’t need to go overboard,’ she said.
56 degrees Celsius is the temperature at which COVID-19 breaks down, according to a recent study by the US National Library of Medicine.
Infectious disease specialists have confirmed that tumble drying and machine washing at or above 56 degrees Celsius kills all traces of COVID-19 on clothes and soft furnishings
HOW LONG CAN COVID-19 SURVIVE ON SURFACES?
In the air: Infectious disease researchers have found COVID-19 remains infectious in contaminated airborne respiratory droplets for at least three hours, however they have not determined whether humans produce enough of the disease in a single cough or sneeze to infect another person.
On soft, porous surfaces: COVID-19 can survive on porous surfaces like cardboard, paper, clothing and soft furnishings like pillows and Doonas for up to 24 hours. Porous surfaces allow air and water to pass through, which makes them much less likely to hold infectious volumes of the virus compared to non-porous objects like door handles, taps and phone covers.
On hard, shiny surfaces: COVID-19 has been proven to stay active on hard surfaces like glass, plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours. Hard, shiny materials are non-porous which means water, air and vapour cannot pass through and instead rest and accumulate on the surface.
World Economic Forum researchers have confirmed the virus does degrade over time, reducing the likelihood of infection the longer contaminated droplets have sat on a surface, but you should still avoid touching handles, buttons and other objects in public spaces. If unavoidable, you should avoid touching your face until you have thoroughly washed your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
Frequently touched household surfaces like taps, door handles, computer keyboards and toilets should be cleaned using bleach or alcohol solutions of at least 70 percent alcohol.
On hair: There is no evidence to suggest coronavirus can be carried in strands of beards or facial hair.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 4,220
New South Wales: 1,918
South Australia: 305
Western Australia: 328
Australian Capital Territory: 78
Northern Territory: 15
TOTAL CASES: 4,220
Viruses can only replicate inside a living cell, which means outside the cell, they either infect us or self-destruct before finding a host cell to multiply in.
How long a virus survives outside a cell varies depending on the surface it finds itself on.
Professor Stelzer-Braid said this is why there is less need to worry about contracting the virus from porous materials like clothes and soft furnishings than from hard objects like phones and door knobs.
Porous materials allow moisture to pass through, making them less likely to hold infectious volumes of the virus, while non-porous surfaces are resistant to moisture which creates a breeding ground where the virus can rest and accumulate.
World Economic Forum researchers have found coronavirus can live for up to 24 hours on soft, porous fabrics and as long as 72 hours on hard, non-porous materials.
This is because the mucus contained in contaminated respiratory droplets absorb into soft fabrics faster than they do on hard surfaces, meaning the virus dies on clothes and cushions sooner than on phone covers and door handles.
But even when droplets COVID-19 are present on clothes, a quick turn in the washing machine will eliminate all active infection.
Professor Nigel McMillan researches infectious diseases at Griffith University in Queensland
These claims have been supported by Professor Nigel McMillan, who studies the causes and transmission of infectious diseases at Griffith University in Queensland.
Professor McMillan said there’s no need for people to wash their clothes any more or any differently than they usually would – with the exception of frontline healthcare workers who are exposed to high densities of the virus and should leave gowns and personal protective equipment outside the house or at work.
‘Any normal wash will do the job so long as you use detergent. Viruses are made up of proteins and fats which fall apart when they come in contact with the surfactants and soap in standard household detergents,’ he said.
‘Hot washes are better than cold if you have the option, for sure, but as long as you use detergent it’s going to be absolutely fine either way.’
Tumble drying clothes on a hot temperature will also kill the virus, Professor McMillan said.
WHY YOU NEED TO WASH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES WITH SOAP
University of Sydney Associate Professor Timothy Newsome
University of Sydney Associate Professor Timothy Newsome specialises in infection, vaccines and virology, and has been watching closely as coronavirus restrictions heighten across Australia.
Mr Newsome confirmed that ‘every surface is a hazard’ when it comes to COVID-19, including fresh produce on supermarket shelves.
Mr Newsome told Daily Mail Australia that while the virus can live on most surfaces, people doing their weekly grocery shop should be particularly wary of the fruit and veg aisle as customers are constantly picking up and placing back down items.
While it would be ‘poor practice’ to test ‘every avocado for coronavirus’, Mr Newsome said people must treat everything they touch as potential sources of contamination.
The best course of action is to wash fruit and vegetables with soap as soon as you bring them home, instead of simply relying on the high heat of cooking them to ‘kill’ the virus.
‘Wash them with warm soapy water, just as you do your hands,’ Mr Newsome said.
COVID-19 survives for longer on hard surfaces because contaminated respiratory droplets absorb into soft fabrics faster, which means the virus dies on clothes and cushions sooner than on public seats and door handles (left, celebrity home renovators Mitch Edwards and Mark McKie hold a cushion, and right, a cleaner sanitises handrails on a Sydney Tram at Circular Quay station on March 28, 2020)
HOW COVID-19 IS SPREAD
The novel coronavirus is spread through contaminated respiratory droplets which become airborne when someone infected with the disease coughs or sneezes.
The virus can also be spread through handshakes and other physical contact with an infected individual, and by touching door knobs, taps or other surfaces which have been handled by a person with COVID-19 who has not washed their hands.
The time between when a person is exposed to the virus and when symptoms first appear is typically five to six days, but the time frame can range anywhere from two to 14 days, according to NSW Heath.
Boston infectious disease doctor Gabriela Andujar Vazquez agreed.
‘It’s perfectly safe for you to go back home with your regular clothes and just do what you have been doing [before] COVID-19,’ she told Market Watch on Sunday.
The experts’ comments are based on the findings of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which show COVID-19 can live on copper for up to four hours, on cardboard and porous fabrics for 24 hours and on stainless steel and plastic for up to to three days.
Other studies have shown the virus can remain on synthetic materials used in shoes like rubber for as long as five days.
But they warn these preliminary figures may be underestimates because the tests were carried out in clinical and laboratory settings.
‘These findings are from a lab study. In the real world, we have different temperatures, different humidity and other environmental factors that come into play which could enable the virus to survive for longer,’ Professor Stelzer-Braid said.
Coronavirus essential guide: Your top hygiene questions answered
Does hand-washing really work?
Yes. A new study published by the highly-respected Cochrane Database which summarises and interprets numerous studies says that hand washing cuts the chances of contracting a respiratory illness such as coronavirus by 54 per cent – the best odds of any deterrent.
So wash your hands – scrubbing every bit of skin from your wrist downwards – at every opportunity for at least 20 seconds (or for however long it takes to sing Happy Birthday in your head twice).
Should I use public transport?
Only if necessary. If you can work from home rather than commuting, and also minimise shopping trips, you will greatly reduce your infection risk.
One recent study in Nottingham found that people who contracted the flu virus in 2011 were nearly six times more likely than others to have travelled by public transport in the five days before developing symptoms.
lanes, trains and buses are high-risk environments for easily transmitted viruses – and Covid-19 is particularly infectious – to spread on to our hands via surfaces such as handrails, seats and handles.
If I stay at home will I be safe?
No. Family and friends can easily bring in the virus. To reduce this threat, institute a handwashing rule for everyone as soon as they enter the house.
And make sure there is one hand towel for each person. If that’s not practicable, wash towels frequently.
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