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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – With the spread of the coronavirus and flu, it’s important to keep the things we touch clean and sanitized, but what about our clothes and all the fabrics we touch? Did you know that the way you wash your clothes can actually make them dirtier?

Health expert, Karen Owoc, has some tips on keeping your clothes free of germs – and dirt.

Coronavirus Can Thrive on Clothes

Shed your clothes if you’ve been in a high contact area and WASH THEM right away.

If you’re coughing into your elbow, your clothes are a carrier of germs. The fabric on your elbow will contain an infectious virus for up to a week or more!

Anyone that touches your clothing and doesn’t wash their hands can pick up your germs.

The same goes for someone that coughs or sneezes into their hand and touches your clothes.

Tips to Sanitize Your Clothes

1. Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them

First, you don’t know who has tried on the clothes or if they were worn and returned.

Always wash new clothes before wearing them. New fabric finishes contain formaldehyde, fragranced starches, and insecticides.

Soak them in one cup or more of baking soda before washing them to neutralize these potentially allergenic chemicals.

2. Know How Detergents Work

Detergents work by loosening and binding to dirt, then lifting it up and out of clothes. Detergent and dirt become one unit.

If the detergent isn’t completely rinsed out, neither is the dirt. Too much detergent = dirty, irritating clothes!

3. Don’t Crowd

Be sure not to overload your washer. To clean, your detergent needs room to circulate through your clothes. Plus, you need plenty of water to carry the loosened dirt and oils away.

4. Don’t Add Too Much Detergent

For a full-sized load, use half the recommended amount of a favorite detergent. Detergent manufacturers often overestimate the amount that’s actually needed.

NOTE: Fragrance-free detergents are best as they don’t contain petrochemical perfumes which can aggravate allergies and irritate sensitive skin.


Wash a load of clothes as it’s normally done. Now run this load through another full cycle except DON’T add any detergent – just wash it again in water.

If suds are present, that means there’s the detergent residue remaining on your clothes – and your clothes are clinging to dirt and germs. These residues can contribute to skin dryness and itchiness.

5. Use Baking Soda and Vinegar

Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the detergent (less for smaller loads). The baking soda helps detergents work better by maintaining a neutral pH in your laundry water and deodorizes your clothes without synthetic fragrances that mask the odors.

To remove the detergent’s chemical alkaline residue, add 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar (which is acidic) to the final rinse cycle.

6. Consider Hard and Soft Water

Soft water cleans fabrics better than hard water. Minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, make water hard and can leave mineral deposits on your clothes causing them to also wear faster and fade.

Detergent requirements may vary based on the mineral content in the water – slightly more detergent may be necessary for very hard water and less for very soft water. You’ll have to experiment.

The Takeaway: Treat your clothes like your skin. Wash them frequently. They are a carrier of germs just like your body.