How to keep everything from school uniforms to pencil cases Covid free Leave a comment


With schools now reopened for students across the UK for the first time this year, anxieties are understandably running high.

Masks, tests and social distancing are all necessary precautions to keep teachers and pupils safe. But since Covid-19 can live on fabrics for up to three days, parents can take simple steps to further help keep unwanted germs at bay.

Deyan Dimitrov, laundry expert and CEO of Laundryheap, shares his advice for keeping school uniforms, PE kits, face coverings and even pencil cases as clean and safe as possible.

Wash at a high temperature

To disinfect school uniforms and any other laundry, you’ll need to set your washing machine to a high temperature. Take note of fabric-care instructions to avoid damaging any delicate items. Otherwise, any programme which operates at 60°C is optimum to kill any germs.

Use gloves and avoid shaking

Make sure you wear gloves whilst handling washing loads which may have been exposed to harmful germs. You can take them off (and then wash your hands thoroughly) once all clothes are safely inside the machine. Just be sure that you avoid shaking your laundry in the process of loading, as this risks spreading virus particles through the air, and exposing other items to germs.

Use a bleach product

Add detergent as usual. Powder, liquid or tablet form is fine – as long as it is bleach-based you can be sure of disinfecting the items. Since this will mean opting for non-biological products, just be careful if the children in your household have sensitive skin.

The heat of the water will help to improve the effectiveness of the detergent and, combined, they will be able to kill a high percentage of any lingering germs by preventing their reproduction.

Wash frequently

Coronavirus can live on some fabrics for as long as 72 hours. But, on the whole, the risk of contracting coronavirus from school uniform is low provided that children stick to social distancing and regularly wash their hands. Because of this, it’s not necessary to wash clothing after every use (unless it’s a reusable face covering or PE kit – more on this below), although utilising spare uniforms throughout the week is recommended. When you do wash a load, just take care not to overfill the drum and follow these steps to be sure of banishing any germs each time.

Dry thoroughly

Viruses and bacteria thrive in damp environments, so it’s vital to let all clothing dry completely. Ideally, dry your clothes thoroughly using a tumble dryer. Otherwise you can use a clothes horse in a well aired, warm room until the season for outside washing lines and sunshine is upon us!

Take extra care with PE kit

Schools will be avoiding contact sports, with teachers delivering socially-distanced PE lessons. With sportswear being more exposed to sweat and dirt than regular school uniform, you should take extra care when washing PE kit to rid it of germs, and do so after every use.

The majority of kit can be washed with the same products and settings as the rest of your child’s uniform. Some washing machines offer ‘sports’ programmes at a lower temperature, which is intended to protect the more expensive materials used for adult sportswear. But since PE kits tend to be made from cheaper and more robust polyesters, this isn’t necessary. To be sure of banishing germs and sweat, set your machine to 60°C.

Don’t forget shoes!

Shoes don’t just come into contact with dirt on the ground, but are also at risk of picking up germs whilst being handled. This goes for everyday school shoes and trainers being used in sports lessons.

You can put those made from canvas through the washing machine inside a pillowcase, which will protect them and your machine from taking too much of a hit. Shoelaces can be removed and added separately to any other load without trouble. Leave the shoes stuffed with newspaper inside an airing cupboard to dry out, remembering that it could take a couple of days before they’re bone dry.

For a more routine quick fix, leather shoes can easily be wiped down using disinfectant wipes. Just make sure you’re wearing gloves as you do so.

How do you wash a reusable face covering?

Students will be expected to wear a face covering each day. This means more washing for you, as they’ll need to be washed at the end of each day! Otherwise, they may harbour germs and bacteria, which can cause blemishes or illness.

Make sure kids know not to use the same mask twice. They’ll need a good supply of reusable face masks, and a sealable plastic bag that they can be stored in until they’re washed. This will avoid face coverings transferring germs to other items in their school bags.

When you get round to washing face masks, they should be popped into a machine set at 60°C with a bleach-based detergent. If you don’t have the time for a machine wash, masks can be hand washed in a clean basin. Just fill it with water as hot as possible, add some detergent and wear washing up gloves to scrub the mask well for 5 minutes. They can then be rinsed with cold water and left to dry completely.

But what about the blazer?

Blazers are washed less regularly than other items of school uniform. Since many are made from wool or polyester, they’ll also need a much lower temperature setting if being washed in a machine, to avoid them shrinking or their colour fading. For the same reasons, it’s not advisable to tumble dry blazers either. Whilst a cooler wash may help to remove stains and odours, it will not fully disinfect the blazer. For this, you’ll need a steam cleaner.

If you own a steam cleaner, blast steam closely onto the surface of the blazer and hold it there for a few minutes. Ensure that you have covered the whole item and wash using a temperature over 60°C. It is easiest to do this when placing the blazer over a handrail or bannister. The same goes for any other delicate item of clothing.

If you don’t own a steam cleaner, a steam-generating iron is a useful alternative. However, to stay on the safe side, you may want to take the blazer to a laundrette or dry cleaners. Laundryheap is a great platform to use if you can’t make this journey. Simply arrange an online pick-up, and a driver will collect and return your laundry within 24 hours.

How about school bags?

School bags are exposed to a range of different surfaces throughout the day, handled regularly and may contain contaminated items inside. They’re also washed less frequently than clothing, which means that they could easily carry and spread bacteria.

The best method of cleaning school bags varies depending on its material. Canvas bags can be placed inside the washing machine alongside the rest of your laundry and disinfected in the same way. Just use a high temperature and bleach-based detergent. This will likely be a weekend job to give bags time to dry fully. For those made from leather, or other delicate materials, use disinfectant spray or wipes. And, just to be on the safe side, tell children to keep bags on their laps if taking public transport to school.

And finally… Pencil cases?

As with bags, pencil cases can be disinfected in the washing machine if they’re made from fabric or non-delicate materials. As long as children know not to share items from their pencil case with their classmates, pens and rulers can all then be cleaned quite easily using just disinfectant spray or wipes.





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