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  • Done With Your Grocery Run? How To Properly Disinfect Your Clothes When Returning Home

    Protect your family from COVID-19 by doing these tips after a trip outside the house.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Done With Your Grocery Run? How To Properly Disinfect Your Clothes When Returning Home
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Though we are advised to #StayAtHome during the enhanced community quarantine, there is still one designated member per household who is tasked with grocery runs and buying essentials. The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has made it mandatory to wear face masks when going outside to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but how do you protect the household from the virus upon returning home?

    How to disinfect clothes when you’ve been outside

    COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets (when an infected person sneezes or coughs). However, a recent study says that the virus can linger on surfaces and objects, including clothing, for as long as nine days unless these are disinfected.

    Changing out of clothing you’ve worn outside and taking off your shoes when you enter the house is “generally a good idea,” according to Angelique Corthals, a biomedical researcher and professor of pathology at John Jay College, in an interview with The New York Times.

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    This practice should be done especially when you’ve been to a hospital or have had contact with people with suspicious symptoms, according to a video uploaded by Xinhua News Agency, China's state-run press agency, using information provided by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. If someone sneezes or coughs on you, or if you’ve interacted with many people outside, you should also change out of your clothes immediately upon your return. Remember to keep these clothes separate from your pambahay.

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    “If the clothing material is resistant to high temperatures, physical disinfection can be applied,” according to Xinhua News Agency. Disinfect your clothes at 56 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes. If you have a dryer, adjust the dryer temperature to above 80 degrees Celsius and dry your clothes for 20 minutes.

    If the clothes are not resistant to high temperatures, you can soak and disinfect them using chemical disinfectants. “Common disinfectants include phenolic disinfectants, quaternary ammonium salt disinfectants, and chlorine-containing disinfectants.” (Click here for a list of disinfectants that can kill the coronavirus approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

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    Are certain types of fabric more susceptible to COVID-19?

    The duration of how long the virus can linger on clothes depends on the type of fabric, as some materials are more porous than others, according to Robert Amler, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College, in an interview with HuffPost.

    “Some researchers believe the fibers in porous material catch the virus particles, dry them out and break them apart. Smooth surfaces like leather and vinyl can be wiped clean,” Amler said.

    Other fabrics like polyester, spandex-like material may retain germs longer than breathable cotton-fabrics, said Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, a family and emergency doctor, to Huffpost.

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    Best practices by health workers

    Those who work at the hospital are at risk for exposure, so they take extra precautions at home to avoid passing it on to their families. Vanessa de Guzman Rivera, an operating room nurse at the Manila Doctors Hospital, says that she always takes a bath the moment she gets home.

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    “Pagdating ko sa house, diretso ako sa CR agad without touching anything,” she tells SmartParenting.com.ph in a previous article. “Naliligo na po ako agad, and my husband makes sure na prepared na ‘yung clothes na susuotin ko after maligo. After, magpupunas ako ng alcohol sa katawan.”

    She also disinfects everything that she touches. “Yung doorknobs na hinawakan ko ini-isprayan ko ng Lysol even ‘yung hamper kung saan ko nilagay ‘yung soiled clothes. Every hour, nag-che-check rin si husband ng temperature namin,” Vanessa adds.

    The American Academy of Family Physicians also offer some suggestions:

    • If you were unable to change clothes before leaving work, change in an isolated location (e.g. your garage, an outside bathroom, etc)
    • Leave your shoes outside. Clean them, top and bottom, with disinfecting wipes
    • If you can, wash clothes worn at work using your usual laundry detergent. You can also soak them first.
    • Wash hands after handling dirty clothes and shoes
    • Shower before interacting with your family

    If you think you are showing symptoms of COVID-19, click here to learn how to self-isolate when you are with family at home. For more stories on COVID-19, click here.

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