How do you keep the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) out of your house? Are your groceries safe? How about the clothes on your back? Your shoes?
Here is everything you need to know about tracking COVID-19 into your house, according to the medical professionals Healthline interviewed.
Clothes have a low risk of transmitting COVID-19
“There is a lot we don’t know about this virus, and we are learning more about it every day. But this is our current understanding: If you are out for a run in your neighborhood or making a quick visit to the grocery store, it is highly unlikely that you would contract COVID-19 via your clothes or shoes. We don’t believe shoes or clothing are a significant source of transmission,” explained Dr. Vincent Hsu, MPH, a board-certified physician specializing in infectious diseases, preventive medicine, and internal medicine at AdventHealth in Orlando, Florida.
Hsu said that there have been zero documented cases regarding the transmission of the novel coronavirus through clothes and shoes.
Also referred to as SARS-CoV-2, the flu-like respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, spreads via respiratory droplets. Coughs and sneezes from an infected individual are the most probable means of direct transmission.
However, scientists also revealed that SARS-CoV-2 can survive on different surfaces for a few hours up to a few days, which can result in disease transmission if touched. For instance, the virus can survive for up to 2 to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Meanwhile, clothing may not be a material conducive to the virus’s survival.
“Our best studies in this area are with influenza and other previously known viruses, but clothing, in general, is not thought to be the best incubator of viruses,” explained Dr. Kathleen Jordan, an infectious disease specialist and vice president at CommonSpirit Health.
Furthermore, moisture and humidity play a significant role in whether or not a virus thrives. The nature of most clothing materials is not instrumental in this matter. “Clothing is usually more of a mesh than a hard surface, which could potentially aerate the environment more readily,” said Jordan.
Transmitting COVID-19 through clothing is unlikely. However, the health care practitioners that Healthline interviewed all agreed that there are some scenarios wherein immediate laundering is best.
When to take extra precautions with clothes tracking COVID-19
If you are caring for someone or frequently near a person infected with the virus, then changing your clothes and doing laundry often should be an essential part of preventive hygiene. This comprises, in particular, high-risk individuals such as doctors, nurses, caregivers, and other healthcare workers. Changing clothes and doing laundry after going out should also be essential to people with a high risk of having and succumbing to COVID-19, including cancer patients and other immunocompromised individuals.
If you are generally healthy and are not caring for anyone with COVID-19, then a quick trip to the grocery store should not necessitate changing your clothes and doing the laundry as soon as you arrive home. However, if you were unable to keep a safe social distance from others, or if someone coughed or sneezed in your direct vicinity, then changing your clothes and washing them would be a good idea.
Focusing on other areas of good hygiene, such as maintaining clean hands and avoiding the urge to touch your face, is more important than getting out of and laundering clothes.
“We do know that social distancing is our most effective means of controlling transmission. So going to the grocery store obviously is a break in our usual patterns of social distancing. To take extra precautions, you would certainly use hand hygiene going in as well as going out, and management of anything that could potentially have been touched or handled by other persons. Any hygiene you can add to that practice is additive,” shared Jordan.
To eliminate any virus on your clothes, “Regular washing machines with regular soap and water is felt to be safe and effective,” disclosed Jordan.
Can shoes track COVID-19 in the house?
Although Hsu reported that there have been no documented cases of transmission of COVID-19 via shoes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed in a new study that the novel coronavirus can survive on the soles of shoes. The CDC’s researchers took samples from the soles of shoes worn by doctors and nurses at a hospital in Wuhan, China. Half of the samples tested positive for the virus.
Regardless, the shoes on our feet are an unlikely source of COVID-19 transmission due to how we treat them in the first place.
“What we usually do with shoes is already protective. We do not put our shoes on the kitchen table. We do not put shoes in our mouths. They are not high touch areas. So, our daily patterns already reflect our management of shoes as dirty objects,” stressed Jordan.
Of course, you can take additional safety measures to ensure that COVID-19 does not enter your home by removing your shoes and either cleaning them or leaving them on your doorstep. Avoid wearing expensive designer shoes, as you risk contaminating and damaging them by constantly disinfecting or leaving them outside.
“Taking off your shoes and cleaning them before you enter your home (and leaving them in your garage, washroom, or porch) would also be advisable. This will prevent you from introducing the virus into your home from a simple trip to the grocery store. Just make sure you clean them outside your home or apartment, and let them dry naturally,” suggested Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Even though concerns have grown in recent months about the potential for clothes and shoes to transmit the novel coronavirus, the truth is that exposure to respiratory droplets from an infected individual is still the primary form of transmission. Therefore, following the CDC’s recommended prevention and hygiene tips continue to be the best way to stay healthy.
“There is a minimal chance that the novel coronavirus can survive on your clothing or shoes and be transmitted to others. The bottom line is this: It’s person to person transmission, not clothing to person, or shoe to person transmission in any significant way,” assured Glatter.