The parcels and the mail involved in the transmission of the Omicron variant? In any case, this is the hypothesis adopted by the Chinese government after a resident tested positive for this variant of the coronavirus. His contamination is indeed attributed to a letter he received from Canada: traces of the virus were discovered on it. China takes the threat very seriously and immediately ordered postal service employees to disinfect “as soon as possible” letters and parcels from abroad. Employees in contact with these objects are also invited to receive a booster dose of anti-Covid vaccine.
Disinfecting parcels but also shopping or undressing on the doorstep before returning home, these reflexes were common, even in France, at the very start of the epidemic in March 2020, before being gradually abandoned. .
However, the epidemic is more present than ever: with more than 460,000 people infected on Tuesday, France recorded a new contamination record in 24 hours. Vigilance is more than ever required to limit transmissions between contaminants and contaminated, precautions that also apply to our laundry.
Prefer disposable masks but wash them
Let’s go back to the basics of virus transmission: an infected person touches a surface or a textile, another uninfected person goes behind, touches the surface or the textile in question with their hands, later they bring their hands to their face and find themselves in turn contaminated.
To break this chain of transmission, an object has imposed itself in our daily lives: the mask. His role ? Protect us but also and above all others. An asymptomatic person thus inhibits their chances of infecting others if they wear the mask correctly.
Closer to our mouths and noses, masks also become carriers of the virus. A study conducted in March 2021 by scientists at Public Health England, the British equivalent of Santé Publique France, shows that the virus has a lifespan of 124 hours on a surgical mask, or more than 5 days. They should therefore be handled with care: there is no question of leaving a used mask lying around on the kitchen table or on the desk.
Should they be thrown away as soon as they have been worn? Not necessarily : a french study, published in October 2021 in the scientific journal Chemosphere, reveals that the filtration capacities of surgical masks are still superior to those of cloth masks, even after ten washes.
Washing at 60°C or at 30°C?
In addition, if washing at 60°C was initially recommended, the National Academy of Medicine relaxed these instructions in September 2021. This temperature was not “more justified for washing masks than for washing hands. »
30°C is therefore sufficient provided that sufficient washing time is respected to inactivate the viral load present on the mask. How long exactly? Unfortunately, we don’t know, but for comparison, 30 minutes at 56°C and 5 minutes at 70°C are necessary, according to a study published in The Lancet Microbe in April 2020. So go your way on fast programs at low temperature: they will not guarantee complete inhibition of the virus.
And the clothes?
What about the clothes we wear all day? If the Public Health England study showed that the coronavirus survives for 5 days on a surgical mask, its lifespan is on the other hand very short on clothing: 2h30 for a polyester shirt for example.
Many clothes are nevertheless made of plastic or metal elements, materials on which the virus can survive from a few hours to several days, underlines theUnicef.
If in doubt, if you are in contact or have visited a high-risk place, the first thing to do is to change your clothes. Next, do not shake your laundry as this will allow the virus particles to disperse into the air. Transport it to your washing machine without intermediate removal and avoiding contact with the skin, you can place the suspect laundry in a garbage bag for this or if you use a laundry bin, do not forget to disinfect the latter thereafter.
These precautions apply particularly if someone has Covid-19 in your home. It is the same for the household linen, the sheets where the sick person sleeps in particular.
Last but not least recommendation: wash your hands immediately after handling the contaminated laundry.