Is The Laundromat Safe In A Pandemic? An MD On What To Do When You Run Out Of Leggings

For many Americans, going out has been significantly curtailed in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. With a broad swath of people now working from home, that’s a whole lot of leggings and PJ bottoms. And at a certain point, it’s going to be a whole lot of laundry. If you’re lucky enough to have a laundry machine in your home, whether that’s in your building or (gasp!) in your actual house, you can scroll on by. If you live in a city where having a washer or dryer in your home is not common, though, is it safe to go to the laundromat during the coronavirus pandemic?

In a social-distancing situation, “The idea is to limit your movement outside with other people to what’s truly essential,” Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH, WebMD’s Senior Medical Director, previously told Bustle. Is doing your laundry essential? There you go.

“You should try to avoid unnecessary trips in public,” Dr. Edo Paz, MD, VP Medical at telehealth app K Health, tells Bustle. “However, good hygiene is extremely important, so if you are out of clean clothes, you can go to the laundromat.”

The New York Post reports that, in a potential shelter-in-place scenario akin to the measures underway in California’s Bay Area, New York City laundromats would “perhaps” remain open. In San Francisco, laundromats and other laundry services are allowed to remain open, per the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s a necessity for people to be able to have clean clothes,” according to guidance one laundromat owner reportedly received from the county health department, per CBS affiliate 5KPIX.

How To Protect Yourself From Coronavirus At The Laundromat

If you’re going to the laundromat while practicing social distancing, you’ll want to take precautions to ensure that you don’t get sick. “The laundromat is a place where many people congregate and where virus particles can remain on the many common surfaces, such as machines, tables, chairs, carts, door handles, etc.,” Paz says.

The coronavirus can live on hard surfaces for up to three days, according to new research from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, so you might consider using an alcohol-based wipe to sanitize the door handle, the soap dispenser, and any settings knobs you might come in contact with. Avoid touching your face until you’ve been able to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and try to stay at least six feet away from other people, per the CDC’s social-distancing guidance.

How To Clean Your Clothes When You’re Quarantined Or Isolated

Practicing social distancing, however, is different from quarantine or isolation, where you’re waiting to see if you develop symptoms or are already sick. In either of those cases, you will want to avoid leaving your house for any reason except to seek medical care. “You can try things like reusing clothing (shirts, pants, dresses, skirts) whenever possible to reduce the need for laundry,” Paz says. “You can also ask a friend to do your laundry.” The CDC has explicit guidelines for washing a sick person’s clothes to kill coronavirus germs, which include using disposable gloves or hamper liners as much as possible.

Experts cited:

Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH, WebMD’s Senior Medical Director

Dr. Edo Paz, MD, VP Medical at telehealth app K Health

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