Plus, how to wash your clothing and bedding in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
Mar 25, 2020 @ 6:30 pm
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Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) has everyone searching for the safest measures to take with what were once considered basic everyday tasks — going to the grocery store, pumping gas, and yes, even doing laundry.

When it comes to laundering items that may have come in contact with COVID-19, there are actually a few important measures you'll want to take, says Tide scientist Jennifer Ahoni. While dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items, here is what the CDC recommends:

  • Wear disposable gloves.
  • Do not shake dirty laundry.
  • Launder items according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using the warmest water setting you can for the fabric (check the garment label).
  • Be sure to dry items completely.
  • Clean and disinfect hampers according to the guidance provided by the CDC for surface cleaning. 
  • Wash hands with soap and water as soon as you remove the gloves.

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Here, some other easy tips to take the confusion out of doing laundry — and keep your clothes in tip-top shape.

1. Put detergent in first.

No matter the type of detergent you use, there's one thing you should adhere to across the board: Put your laundry detergent in first and then add water and clothing. This is especially true with laundry detergent packs, which are designed to dissolve before clothing is added. Ahoni says this rule applies to washing machines across the board, including top-load and high-efficiency (HE) machines.

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2. Use cold water when you can.

If you're tired of slipping into your favorite duds only to find they are losing their original coloring, then listen up. Fading happens due to a combination of chlorine in water, dye loss, and damage to the fiber of the fabric, Ahoni explains. 

While you can't control the chlorine present in your water, you can opt to use cold water, which is gentler on fabrics. "Hot water can open up fabric fibers and release dyes, whereas cold water helps to keep them closed and prevent dye loss," she says.

3. Turn your denim inside out.

This is one simple step that can mean the difference between your denim looking fresh or faded. After sorting your clothes by color (i.e. white/lights, brights, and dark colors), you'll want to divide jeans into two categories, Ahoni says. Wash lightly soiled jeans in cold water on the delicate cycle and moderately soiled jeans in cold water on a regular cycle.

"This helps preserve jean’s finish and helps minimize shrinking," she says.

Consider also that 70 percent of soils in wash loads are invisible body soils that are typically found on the inside of our clothes, Ahoni notes. "Turning clothes inside out not only helps to better wash away these soils, but it also helps prevent additional abrasion and friction on the outside, which helps protect colors," she adds.

4. Spend extra time on your bedding.

"It’s really important to take as many measures to get your bedding clean because, while it may not be visibly dirty, it can easily have a lot of invisible soils," Ahoni says.

"Over the course of one day, the average adult produces one liter of sweat, 10 grams of salt, 40 grams of sebum (body oils) and 10 grams (or two billion) skin cells." If you're getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night, then that's a sizable chunk of your day spent between the sheets, giving those body soils plenty of time to transfer to bedding.

"Additionally, sebum from our face can transfer to pillows, which can make acne worse," Ahoni says. "And since dust mites feed on dead skin cells they can cause reactions in people with dust mite allergies." In other words, its really important to make sure you get your bedding really clean. 

Most sheets can be washed at home in your washing machine, but specialty fabrics may require special treatment, so be sure to check the label first. Once your bedding has the green light for at-home washing, you'll want to wash it at least once every other week. If you or your sleep mate are heavy sweaters, if you have sex, and/or if you sleep naked, you should up this to once per week. 

When washing your bedding, choosing the hottest water temperature setting listed on the care label, Ahoni says. Hot water kills most germs and also takes care of dust mites that thrive in bedding. (Polyester blends are best washed using warm water, while cotton can tolerate hot water.)

Keep in mind that washing bedding typically means a larger load size, so make sure you are using enough detergent to ensure bedding is getting clean, Ahoni says. This could translate into a full cup of liquid detergent or multiple detergent packs. You could also try a detergent that's intended for larger loads, like Tide Power PODS

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5. Don't forget to give your dryer and washing machine some TLC.

It might sound funny to clean a machine that's mean to, well, clean, but Ahoni says it's an important step in order to make sure detergent can do its job.

And if you are dealing with a smelly washer, then you'll especially want to do a bIt of maintenance. "If your washer starts to smell, it’s probably due to a buildup of odor-causing residues left behind from laundry soils, detergents and hard-water minerals stuck in the drum," Ahoni says. "Dirt removed from clothes can stick around in the drum after washing and create a bacterial breeding ground. In this dark, warm and damp environment, these residues not only make your washer smell unpleasant, but also can transfer these odors onto your clothes."

To avoid this, Ahoni says you should wipe your washer clean every month with soapy water, taking care to clean the inside of the drum as well. You can also try a product meant for cleaning your washer, like Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner.

 "Ultimately, if your washer drum is dirty, it doesn’t matter how good your detergent is," she says.

As for the dryer, make sure to empty the lint filter before every load. Not only does it prevent lint from making its way to the filter to your clothes, but cleaning the lint filter between cycles also promotes proper airflow and helps prevent overheating. And every six months to a year, you should take the time to "vacuum around the lint filter area to remove stray clumps of lint that may have gotten past the filter," Ahoni says.

6. Zip your zippers.

And button your buttons, too. Zippers and buttons can rub against fabrics, leading to damage or breakage, Ahoni says. The end result? "Over time fiber damage can cause pilling, garment stretching, and additional fading," she adds.

7. Treat stains ASAP.

So, you spilled red wine on your favorite blouse or dropped a splash of oily salad dressing on your jeans — try to treat it as soon as possible. While you won't always be able to get to a stain right away, the longer it sets in, the harder it will be to remove.

And when you do treat a stain, Ahoni says you'll want to do it with a liquid so that the formulation can soak into the stain (as opposed to a powder). After letting the treatment soak in, you should rinse the stain with the warmest water possible while following the care label instructions.

"Repeat until you’ve removed as much of the stain as possible," Ahoni explains, adding that you will then throw the treated garment into the wash to run through a regular cleaning cycle.

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