Can Coronavirus Live on Clothes and Shoes?

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDDecember 15th, 2020
woman grocery shopping with mask

In a world where a trip to the supermarket requires a face covering, 6-foot social distancing, and a post-shop deep clean, it’s easy to assume that coronavirus (COVID-19) can live on any and every surface, including clothes and shoes. This begs the questions: Should you be throwing your clothes into the wash after an expedition into the public? Can your shoes track coronavirus into your home? To what extent should people be disinfecting themselves during the pandemic?

Experts, medical professionals, and researchers still have a lot to learn about COVID-19. Currently, these experts believe that in most public situations—where social distancing and CDC guidelines for face coverings are being practiced—it’s unlikely for any coronavirus particles to land on clothing. That being said, the potential for viral particles to live on surfaces is still a threat. So, how worried should you be about contaminated clothing and shoes during the pandemic? We’re helping you navigate this topic by answering some frequently asked questions:

How Long Can Coronavirus Survive on Clothes and Shoes?

Specific research is still ongoing to understand how long the SARS-CoV-2 strain can live on various materials. What experts currently know is that COVID-19 can be detected on plastics, stainless steel, copper, paper, glass, cardboard, and wood if the surfaces come in direct contact with viral particles from an infected person. The viability of the virus on these surfaces, due to environmental and other conditions, were not determined in these studies. That’s why it’s so important to frequently clean commonly touched surfaces around the house.

Researchers and medical experts also know that viruses can deposit on clothing and then be shaken loose into the air with movement. For this to be concerning, however, you would need to be in close contact with a lot of viable viral droplets. For example, a healthcare professional working with active COVID-19 cases or a family member who’s caring for an infected individual would want to be proactive and carefully contain the virus by changing out of clothing and disinfecting themselves before returning home. If coronavirus droplets are on the bottom of your shoes and you touch that surface, then directly touch your face, you could put yourself at risk for infection. So, while cleaning your shoes/clothes won’t hurt, the best prevention guideline is to regularly sanitize your hands and home.

Should You Change and Shower After Being in Public?

Most of the world is practicing or requiring social distancing and face coverings in public settings. If you are someone who is closely following these guidelines and being cautious in public, experts agree that it’s not always necessary to change clothes or take a shower when you return home. Instead, you should prioritize washing your hands immediately after being in public, after being in contact with a stranger, or after touching a foregin surface.

While viral droplets from a sneeze or cough can float in the air, they are unlikely to collide with your clothes due to aerodynamics and the microscopic size of sprayed droplets. Humans move relatively slowly, where a body in motion can actually push air out of the way along with any floating droplets. Therefore, in order for your clothes to become infected, someone with COVID-19 would have to spray large droplets—most likely the spit talker—in a very close proximity to you.

The Takeaways

Be aware of your surroundings! If you’re out in public and someone without a mask sneezes onto your person, then you’ll probably want to change out of your clothes and take a shower. For now, experts still believe that COVID-19 is primarily spread from person-to-person via airborne droplets sprayed directly out of an infected individual’s mouth when coughing, sneezing, or talking. These droplets can be stopped with a face covering and social distancing guidelines; without which, they can land on other people, surfaces, or the floor. In order for someone to contract the virus from these potentially contaminated surfaces, they would have to make direct contact with the infected surface and transfer the droplets from their hands to their bodies by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. To protect yourself and others, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, wear a face covering, and practice social distancing in public.

Safe, Same-Day Care Delivered to Your Doorstep

Avoiding busy, germ-infested public spaces is one of the best ways to protect yourself from making contact with COVID-19. For many at-risk individuals, that means avoiding the ER. That’s where DispatchHealth can help. As an on-demand, healthcare response team, we provide acute care, treatment, and testing to people in the comfort of their homes or place of need. This personalized, in-home service has helped many benefit from care for their acute healthcare needs. And, during COVID-19, our service has been an invaluable resource for anyone at high-risk of developing coronavirus-related complications.


In addition to testing for COVID-19, our teams can provide treatment and support to infected patients in the comfort of their homes. To learn more about how DispatchHealth is responding to COVID-19 click here. Requesting care is as easy as contacting us via phone, mobile app, or website.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

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The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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