Tips to disinfect laundry of someone who is sick

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Cleaning hands and surfaces has been drilled into our heads for months because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now it’s cold and flu season, and the need to disinfect grows.

Although you’re probably wiping down countertops and toilets, you need to remember the soft surfaces, too. Bacteria can be spread via sheets, pillowcases and clothing, so you need to be careful when doing laundry.

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WebMD recently posted laundry tips to help keep you safer while caring for a sick person in your house.

Wear gloves

Before stripping the bed or loading the washer, put on gloves. Ones all the contaminated laundry is in the machine, toss those gloves in the trash. Before moving the clean items to the dryer, wash your hands and put on clean gloves so you don’t contaminate the fresh laundry.

Gather laundry

You don’t have to keep contaminated laundry separate from the rest of the wash, since it’s all going to be cleaned anyway, but you want to be careful when gathering it all up. There are a couple of things you need to resist doing: shaking and shifting.

You might be tempted to shake out those bed coverings to make sure there aren’t any tissues or crackers or stuffed animals in the folds. You also might want to jiggle and shift the laundry basket to get more clothes in it before heading to the washer. Both of those things, however, have the potential to make things worse.

“When dirty clothes are riled up, viral particles can get tossed into the air,” WebMD posted.

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Wash cycle

Wash your items on the hottest cycle they can take, WebMD stated, but know that hot water isn’t enough. You’re going to need to add some bleach.

“Whether it be mold, a virus, or something else, whatever triggered the illness can likely survive a hot wash cycle,” WebMD wrote. “A disinfectant, such as chlorine bleach, added to your load does a much better job getting rid of pathogens.”

In order to not ruin your clothes, check the label to see what kind of bleach you should use.

An empty triangle means you can use the hard core laundry bleach. An X through the triangle means no bleach is safe to use. A triangle with diagonal stripes means you should use oxygen, or “color-safe,” bleach. Use ¾ cup of chlorine bleach for a regular-size load with an average amount of soil. Use 1¼ cups of chlorine bleach if your load is extra large or heavily soiled.

Be sure you don’t overload the washing machine. The items need to be able to swish through the water to get clean and disinfected, and that can’t happen if you packed the washer too full.

Drying cycle

According to WebMD, this isn’t the time to be energy efficient. Use the hottest setting your machine has to finish the disinfecting process. If you’re drying clothing that might shrink, consider stringing up a clothes line outside.

“(R)est assured that hanging laundry outside in direct sunlight is an excellent way to help sanitize: The ultraviolet rays from the sun bring disinfecting superpowers to your laundry,” the website wrote.

Be sure you’re using either a sanitized laundry basket or one different from the hamper you gathered the dirty clothes in.

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Sanitize hampers

If you have only one laundry basket, sanitize it between having soiled and clean items in it. If the hamper or basket is a hard surface, clean it with soap and water, then spray with disinfectant. If it’s soft, toss it in the wash with the laundry. You can also use disposable bags to line the sick person’s hamper so you don’t have to clean it as often. You’ll also want to disinfect bedside tables, dressers, door knobs and any other surfaces the patient or their laundry might have touched.

There is no guarantee no one else in your house won’t come down with the flu or catch a cold, but these steps should help minimize the risk.

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