A study done by scientists at De Montfort University in Leicester found viruses similar to the strain that causes Covid-19 can survive on commonly-worn fabrics for up to three days. The study tested a model coronavirus on polyester, polycotton, and 100% cotton. Study results showed polyester posed the highest transmission risk, with the virus still present after three days and with the ability to transfer to other surfaces. On 100% cotton, the virus lasted for 24 hours, while on polycotton, the virus only survived for six hours.
The study also looked at the effectiveness of laundering on eliminating the virus on cotton fabric. The virus was completely eliminated on cotton fabric when washed with detergent at a high temperature (104°F). Using temperature alone, 152.6°F was required to eliminate the virus. The study found there was no risk of cross-contamination when clean items were washed with those that had traces of the virus on.
The full project and methodology has not been submitted to a journal and while this has not been peer reviewed or fully vetted we wanted to share the most up-to-date information. If you are handling linen suspected of being contaminated with Covid-19 make sure you are using personal protective equipment, handling as little as possible, and set aside for three days out of an abundance of caution.
What are the implications for dry cleaners handling polyester garments? Should they wait three days as well?