How Long SARS-CoV-2 Persists on Clothing and Fabrics?

February 22, 2024

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As COVID-19 persists as an endemic threat, questions linger over potential fomite transmission – whether virus lingering on surfaces like clothing might pose infectious risks. Elucidating how long SARS-CoV-2 survives on fabrics provides public health insights guiding hygiene practices.

While clothes encounter contamination in daily life, the duration of virus viability in textiles offers reassurance. Factors like porous surfaces, variable temperature, and laundering accelerate decay. Still, proper handling procedures remain prudent over the short term.

The Case for Fomite Transmission Hazards

Respiratory viruses spread predominantly through inhaling infectious droplets or aerosols from an infected person. However, contact with contaminated surfaces called fomites provides another route of viral acquisition.

For SARS-CoV-2, early studies detected viable virus on various materials from hours up to days depending on conditions. This raised alarms over handling items like clothes or laundry from COVID-positive individuals.

However, important nuances determine actual risks – duration estimates in controlled lab settings represent maximal times rather than what occurs in real-world transmission. Factors like humidity, temperature variation, and UV exposure quickly reduce viability.

Nonetheless, proper precautions have merit where potential for high viral load fomite contamination exists – namely isolation areas and healthcare settings.

Factors Impacting SARS-CoV-2 Viability on Surfaces

In further investigating fomite duration, key environmental variables emerge in accelerating virus degradation:


  • Warm conditions above 30°C hasten decay


  • Maintaining humidity above 40% decreases persistence

UV Exposure

  • Direct sunlight rapidly neutralizes virus

Surface Material

  • Porous textiles carry virus less effectively than smooth glass/plastic

Thus in real-life conditions, SARS-CoV-2 likely survives days if not hours on fabrics. Still, uncertainties warrant safe handling protocols.

Mitigation Through Laundering Procedures

Where clothing contamination concerns exist, effective laundering serves as the primary virus inactivation mechanism aside from time.

As envelope viruses, lipid coatings make coronaviruses susceptible to:

  • Heat – Hot wash cycles ≥60°C efficiently destroy virus
  • Detergents – Disrupt viral membranes and proteins
  • Drying – Accelerate desiccation through evaporation

For known exposures, isolating possibly contaminated clothing/linens for 24 hrs before washing proves prudent. If mild symptoms manifest post-exposure, extending such isolation up to 72 hrs merits consideration given higher viral loads.

Assessing Infection Risks Through Fomites

Evaluating fomite transmission risks means weighing key variables:

  • Viral Durability – Persistence duration ranges on material
  • Viral Load – Quantity of contamination, higher in isolation settings
  • Transfer Efficiency – Surface and humidity impact transmission to mucosa
  • Infectious Dose – Minimum number of viable viruses establishing infection

For fabrics under ambient conditions, viral load typically falls below necessary infectious doses long before SARS-CoV-2 completely degrades. While possible in theory, fomite infections seem unlikely compared to regular interpersonal spread through close respiratory exposure.

Still, combination of durable viral strains, visibly contaminated laundry, and immediate contact with one’s eyes or nose merits caution pending laundering.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can SARS-CoV-2 persist on clothes left in isolation room?

Viable virus has been detected for up to 72 hours post-contamination on fabrics like cotton under optimal conditions. However, concentrations likely drop below typical infectious doses prior within 24 hours given variables accelerating decay.

What laundry guidelines help inactivate SARS-CoV-2?

Washing with hot water (60°C+) plus detergent for at least 25 minutes reliably eliminates virus. Lower temperatures around 40°C still reduce viral load when added with bleach or high wash cycle durations. Avoid direct handling prior.

Could wearing a COVID-positive person’s clothes transmit virus?

Low risk likely exists temporarily before laundering through skin contact then touching one’s face. But inhaled droplets pose far greater hazards sharing clothes. Any residual virus would localize to collar/sleeve regions directly contacting secretions.

Do certain clothing textures reduce viral persistence more?

Yes, rougher porous natural fabrics like cotton insulate less and absorb/desiccate viral moisture faster compared to smooth synthetic materials. But direct contamination should still warrant proper laundering.

What mistakes increase fomite transmission risks at home?

Casually handling/rewearing potentially contaminated laundry immediately without washing hands. Not segregating clothing from actively sick household members. Assuming sunlight or minimal time automatically decontaminates everything.

In summary, key ideas about SARS-CoV-2 on fabrics:

  • Viable virus detected on clothes for hours up to days in ideal lab conditions
  • Durations overestimate real-world viability on porous, variable fabrics
  • Laundering with heat, detergent and drying inactivate virus present
  • Fomite transmission less likely vs inhaled droplets except with direct contamination
  • Isolation clothing warrants precautions pending washing cycles

Proper understandings around viral persistence guide fomite precaution strategies balancing pragmatic risks. While unlikely to spark surges absent interpersonal spread, attention towards contaminated surfaces enables driving down COVID’s last traces.


  1. Kumar, A., Kasloff, S.B., Leung, A. et al. Stability of SARS-CoV-2 on critical personal protective equipment. Sci Rep 11, 23032 (2021).
  2. Grant, S. R., Rundle, C. W., Leigh, M. B., & Virtanen, J. A. (2021). Prolonged persistence of viable SARS-CoV-2 in bathroom sinks and fomites. Environment international, 150, 106403.
  3. Ong, S.W.X., Tan, Y.K., Chia, P.Y. et al. Air, surface environmental, and personal protective equipment contamination by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) from a symptomatic patient. JAMA 323, 1610–1612 (2020).
  4. Wang, Y., Tian, H., Zhang, L. et al. Reduction of secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in households by face mask use, disinfection and social distancing: a cohort study in Beijing, China. BMJ Global Health 5, e002794 (2020).
  5. Pastorino, B., Touret, F., Gilles, M. et al. Prolonged infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 in fomites. Emerg Infect Dis. 26, 2256–2259 (2020).
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