Can coronavirus live on your clothes and shoes? Here's what we know right now

Should you leave your shoes outside and immediately wash your clothes when you get home? We answer these questions and more.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
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Katie Teague
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Studies show that the coronavirus can live on your shoe soles.

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There's no time like the present to brush up on best practices for helping to stay safewearing a face mask, and sanitizing your home, as the coronavirus continues to surge in over 20 US states and throughout the world. But how far should you take it -- do your shoes and clothes need to be sanitized? How long can the coronavirus survive on different surfaces that you come into contact with constantly?

Surfaces contaminated with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can infect a person who touches them and then touches their face. The coronavirus can also spread from person to person via respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough, and scientists are studying the possibility of the coronavirus being airborne, lingering in the air you breathe, especially when indoors.

The coronavirus has been found to live on some surfaces for longer than 9 days, and in one famous early case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found coronavirus RNA that had survived in the Diamond Princess cruise ship 17 days after the passengers departed the liner in February. The coronavirus can live on plastic and stainless steel for up to 3 days, according to a study reported in March by the National Institutes of Health

The likelihood of contracting the virus from your clothes is considered low -- and it appears that only one study so far has shown that the coronavirus can survive on shoes

"So far, evidence suggests that the virus does not survive as well on a soft surface (such as fabric) as it does on frequently touched hard surfaces," reported Johns Hopkins Medicine.

On the other hand, health care providers and others in high contact with people presumed to have acquired with the coronavirus may be advised to leave their work clothes and shoes outside until they can be sanitized.

"The likelihood of COVID-19 being spread on shoes and infecting individuals is very low," according to the WHO." The organization added that that people should consider leaving their shoes outside as a precautionary measure.

With that said, if you believe you may have come into contact with the virus, or you just want to be cautious, here's what you need to know. Note that this article provides information drawn from the CDC and offers an overview of what we currently know. Recommendations may change over time in light of new research and developments. This story updates often.


Wash your clothes on the warmest setting, if possible.

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Do I need to wash my clothes when I get home?

After you come home from the grocery store, you don't have to change out of your clothes -- especially if you kept a six-foot distance from others at the store. It is recommended that you wash your hands, though. However, if you work at a health care facility around COVID-19 patients or think you've been exposed to the virus, it's best to take additional precautions and launder your clothes when you get home.

The CDC recommends that you don't shake your dirty laundry, as this may cause the coronavirus to become airborne again, although it's not certain if it's infectious at that point. Researchers are currently studying whether the coronavirus can be cultivated from airborne RNA particles, the New York Times reports. Remember that the most likely form of transmission is known to be from person to person. So maybe don't plan that dinner party just yet.

Do I need to leave my shoes outside?

You may be wondering if it's safe to wear your shoes into your house after going to the grocery store or other public places. A new study conducted by the CDC at Wuhan hospitals suggests the virus can survive on shoe soles, however, it isn't clear if the droplets were still infectious. However, Johns Hopkins University has clarified that the surviving proportion of the virus is less than 0.1% of the initial amount of viral material.

The Cleveland Clinic says that while it's possible for the virus to live on your shoes, it's very unlikely for it to be transmitted to you unless you directly touch the infected area and then touch your face.

If you think you encountered someone or a surface that was infected with the  coronavirus , remove your shoes before walking into your home and then wash your hands immediately. You'll want to spray the shoes with a disinfectant before bringing them inside.


You can leave your shoes outside until they're disinfected.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

What if my clothing label says to use cold water or line dry only?

While the CDC suggests you should use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely, your clothing label may say otherwise. If the laundry instructions on your clothes say to wash in cold water or line dry only, you should. Since the coronavirus is surrounded by a layer of fatty membrane, your detergent alone should be able to kill the virus. If you're still worried about whether or not the virus survived the wash, however, you can put your clothes in a bag for several days to let the virus die naturally.

While the country may be reopening, we still need to understand what that means for us. Here are 16 practical ways to help stay safe when going out in public, what to do if you think you've contracted the coronavirus and what to know about wearing homemade face masks in public.

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.