7 Tips for Avoiding Germs at the Laundromat

Laundromats can be safe if you take the proper precautions.
Laundromats can be safe if you take the proper precautions. / JANIFEST/iStock via Getty Images

Staying close to home during the coronavirus pandemic has left many trying to find innovative solutions for a number of tasks. Events like birthday parties are now virtual get-togethers, and there has been a resurgence of the milkman making deliveries as people avoid going to stores. But unless you have a washer and dryer, one chore still requires venturing out. You need to get your laundry done at the laundromat. If you’re concerned about the potential for exposure in a laundromat setting, take a look at some tips to help avoid problems.

1. Try doing laundry at off-peak times.

The guidance for remaining six feet away from others in public places should always be observed, but that might be tricky in a laundromat, where washers and dryers are close together, or in apartment laundry rooms which might not be very spacious at all. Try to limit your visits to off-peak times, when fewer people will be present. If you’re not sure when the off-peak hours would be, try calling the laundromat or asking an apartment manager.

2. Use a sanitizing wipe on washers and dryers.

Public places should be getting cleaned by staff on a regular basis, but if you’re unsure whether a laundromat is keeping up with current cleanliness standards, it wouldn’t hurt to wipe down the surfaces and handles of the appliances with a sanitizing wipe before using them.

3. Use hot water whenever you can.

Viruses and germs don’t like hot water. Try to avoid cold or warm water settings and use hot water settings whenever possible. In addition to killing whatever germs may be on your clothes, this will also minimize germs that may be left over from previous loads in the machine. Bleach will also help, but obviously you want to limit its use to white or light colors.

If you can’t use hot water, the temperature of the dryer should help kill off whatever viruses might remain, but you need to wash up, use hand sanitizer, or discard your gloves after transporting the wet load from one machine to another. And try to keep clothes in the dryer for a minimum of 45 minutes.

4. Don’t shake your dirty clothes.

Imagine the virus as baby powder on your clothing. Granted, it’s an imperfect comparison, but shaking a shirt or pants will likely send droplets airborne and into your face. Don’t wrap your arms around a pile of dirty clothing to transport it into a washer, either. You’re risking contamination.

5. Don’t fold your clothes at the laundromat.

Laundromats have lots of tabletop surfaces for people to lay their dry clothes flat and fold them, but that’s not a great idea at the moment, as you can’t be sure of surface contamination. Risk some wrinkling and fold them at home instead.

6. Use laundry services carefully.

If you really want to avoid the laundromat, a pick-up laundry service may be available in your area that will fetch your dirty threads and deliver them once they’ve been cleaned—but then the risk is passed to the delivery person, who has to handle your clothes. To make things safer, try to let laundry sit for a few days before having someone come to pick it up. According to experts, any surface contamination on clothing is believed to die out after a day or two, but there’s no harm in giving it a little more time. And do the same for the clean laundry that’s returned to you. Leave it in the bag for three days. Then you should be good to go.

7. Buy a portable washer.

Some people are opting for the full Howard Hughes experience during this time and avoiding all outside contact, and that’s OK. You can try buying a portable washer online which hooks up to standard kitchen faucets and an electric dryer, but they can be hard to find right now. Hand-crank washing machines are also out there.

Whatever you decide, you can always wear clothes for more than one day to help minimize how often you need to get laundry done. Just remember to change your underwear daily.

[h/t Wirecutter]