As viruses swirl around us, experts weigh in on whether or not changing your clothes helps to keep us protected.
Do you need to take your “outside clothes” off as soon as you get home?
Some people are very particular about their cleanliness and insist on differentiating between their “inside clothes” and their “outside clothes” — even going so far as to avoid sitting down until they’ve made the switch.
Experts say clothes worn out in public should be cleaned often, but they aren’t a serious threat to your health if you continue to wear them indoors.
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“I generally recommend cleaning things you wear in public about once a week,” says Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona.
He noted that “people don’t tend to wash things like winter coats a lot.” He suggests giving yours an extra scrub, arguing that viruses and bacteria can build up.
“The exposure to germs is high” in enclosed public spaces like public transport,” the germ expert said.
Gerba recommends washing your clothes in the hottest water the fabric allows or skipping the wash altogether and just chucking the items in the dryer for 45 minutes.
If there’s not enough time for that, simply wipe your clothing down with sanitising wipes — and be sure to keep up with your hygiene.
“My rational brain says that the differential probability that I’m going to get sick from something if I don’t immediately change my clothes seems small,” Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told the Washington Post.
“I kind of feel the compunction to want to separate clean and dirty. And I’m the type of person [who thinks] the bed is a clean place,” he added. “So, I shower at night before going to bed.”
Experts note that washing your hands when you get home — rather than swapping clothes — is a more effective way to avoid getting sick.
Dr. Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, suggests avoiding dirty surfaces when you’re out in public.
He says he wears gloves or uses his elbows when possible.
“There are all sorts of bacteria and viruses that sit on surfaces,” he told the New York Times in 2017.
This advice is more important than ever as cold and flu season rages on.