A new study conducted by De Montfort University Leicester has revealed that viruses similar to the strain that causes COVID-19 can survive on clothing and transmit to other surfaces for up to three days.
For the research, the team focused on testing a model coronavirus on polyester, polycotton, and 100 percent cotton—and the results suggested polyester posed the highest risk even after seventy-two hours.
Meanwhile, the virus on full-cotton samples lasted one day and just six hours on the polycotton blend.
“When the pandemic first started, there was very little understanding of how long coronavirus could survive on textiles,” the study’s author Dr. Katie Laird, head of the Infectious Disease Research Group at the university, said in a statement.
“Our findings show that three of the most commonly used textiles in health care pose a risk for transmission of the virus. If nurses and health care workers take their uniforms home, they could be leaving traces of the virus on other surfaces.”
The researchers then conducted a number of tests using different water temperatures and washing methods, which included domestic washing machines, industrial washing machines, on-site hospital washing machines, and an ozone wash system.
The results showed that the “agitation and dilution effect” of the water in all of the washing machines did enough to inactivate the virus. But when the team soiled the textiles with artificial virus-laden saliva (to mimic the risk of spread from an infected person’s mouth), they discovered that domestic washing machines did not fully kill the virus and some traces survived.
It was only when they added a detergent and increased the water temperature that the virus was completely eliminated. The team found that coronavirus was stable in water up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit but was inactivated at 153 degrees Fahrenheit.
“While we can see from the research that washing these materials at a high temperature, even in a domestic washing machine, does remove the virus, it does not eliminate the risk of the contaminated clothing leaving traces of coronavirus on other surfaces in the home or car before they are washed,” Laird said.
“This research has reinforced my recommendation that all health care uniforms should be washed on site at hospitals or at an industrial laundry. These wash methods are regulated and nurses and health care workers do not have to worry about potentially taking the virus home.”
In a separate recent study conducted by Australian researchers, it revealed that the coronavirus has the ability to survive on banknotes, glass, and stainless steel for up to twenty-eight days.
The findings further showed that in an environment that is 68 degrees Fahrenheit, SARS-CoV-2 was able to remain infectious for nearly a month on smooth surfaces like banknotes and smartphone screens.
For comparison, the influenza A virus was found to survive on similar surfaces for up to seventeen days.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.