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Corona: This is how long the viruses can survive on our clothing | study

When we sneeze or cough, many droplets can get on our clothes. Can the coronavirus survive there too? A new study from the UK clarifies this.

The coronavirus is spread through droplets that we release when we speak, cough or sneeze. It is also known that it can be transmitted by shaking hands or contaminated surfaces. Doctors speak of a smear infection in this case.

Studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 can persist on certain materials for up to several days. This raises the question of whether the coronavirus can also be transmitted via fabrics from jackets, trousers or sweaters that have been worn - for example in shops when trying on clothes or at home.

Viruses survive on surfaces for different lengths of time

In laboratory tests, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus survived for up to four hours on copper surfaces, up to a day on cardboard, 48 hours on stainless steel, and around three days on plastic. According to Australian research, the coronavirus can survive for up to 28 days on smooth surfaces such as cell phone displays or ATMs. This was recently shown by a study by the Australian science authority Csiro, which was published in the "Virology Journal" at the end of 2020.

But these times cannot simply be transferred into practice. The Charité virologist Christian Drosten emphasized in the NDR podcast "Coronavirus Update" that laboratory results cannot be used to infer the risk of transmission in everyday life. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) only wrote in an assessment: In theory, it is possible and conceivable to transmit coronaviruses in this way.

How long can the coronavirus stick to clothing?

A team of researchers from De Montfort University (DMU) from Leicester in Great Britain has now carried out tests with various textiles and observed how long the pathogen survived on them.

The results:

  • 100 percent cotton - 24 hours
  • Mixture of cotton and polyester - 6 hours
  • 100 percent polyester - 72 hours

According to the study authors, these results suggest that textiles can pose a certain risk of transmission. The investigation also showed that the virus can be eliminated with common detergents at a water temperature of at least 40 degrees. Low-temperature household laundry at 30 degrees may therefore not be enough.

Experts: Take care when washing certain clothes

However, the German Textile Cleaning Association (DTV) warns against washing potentially infectious textiles in the home environment. This applies in particular to textiles from the health and care sector as well as work clothing in general. It is best not to wash them at home to avoid spreading pathogens to families and patients.

Because at home, the soiled laundry is forcibly picked up several times before the actual washing process, and the same laundry basket is often used for dirty and clean laundry. Or the washing machine itself may be in the kitchen next to the stove or dishwasher, which results in completely different possibilities for cross-contamination, says Andreas Schumacher, managing director of DTV.

"Clothing that may be contaminated for three days should, in the best case, not even reach the home environment. Textiles contaminated with corona viruses should be treated in a controlled environment such as the textile service," says Schumacher. Dirty laundry is handled safely there.

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

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  • Christian Drosten,
  • Textile industry,
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