Very hot things kill the novel coronavirus.

In general, contaminated clothing and surfaces are not the main way that people spread the novel coronavirus. Remember--the best way to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 is through social distancing and handwashing!

But what should you do about clothing that has been exposed to the virus? Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure how long this new virus can survive on fabric. However, in one study looking at a similar virus (SARS) scientists found that depending on how much virus was on absorbent cotton hospital gowns, the virus died in as little as 5 minutes, and with even super high amounts of the dying within 24 hours. Similarly, natural fibers, such as cardboard, may be harder for the novel coronavirus to survive on compared to plastic or metal.

So where does this leave us? The good news is that coronaviruses will definitely die in the washing machine, dishwasher, and in boiling water (212°F, 100°C). This is supported by research conducted on SARS and MERS, which found that the virus was effectively destroyed when put in hot water (150°F, 65°C, or higher) for at least 5 minutes. It might be tempting to try to kill coronaviruses with your clothing iron (irons get hot!), but there’s no research on using heat to kill dried coronaviruses on surfaces. And it’s probably hard to evenly iron every inch of your shirt anyway.

If you are caring for someone who might have COVID-19, check out the CDC guidelines for handling linens and clothing.

Last updated March 31, 2020 at 10:00 am ET
Science review: ERS, JAB