As schools across England and Wales open their gates for another school year, many parents have been left wondering how they can keep their children as safe as possible.
With research showing coronavirus can linger on fabrics for up to three days, it is more important than ever to establish a washing routine to protect families from the virus.
Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Deyan Dimitrov, UK-based laundry expert and CEO of Laundryheap, an on-demand laundry and dry cleaning service, shared his advice for keeping children’s uniform Covid-free in the new school year.
As families up and down the country prepare for the return to school, some parents may have been left feeling anxious about how they can ensure their children’s school uniforms are as clean as possible. Picture: Stock
CLEANING VS. DISINFECTING
When it comes to washing clothes, Deyan says the most important distinction to note is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting.
‘Cleaning involves the removal of dirt and germs from the surface of clothing. In some cases, this simply moves germs from one surface to another,’ he explained.
‘Disinfecting, on the other hand, involves the use of chemicals to avert the spread of viruses or bacteria: by killing a high percentage of the germs or by preventing their reproduction.’
To be as safe as possible, he suggests parents should ensure they are disinfecting their children’s clothes.
WASH AT A HIGH TEMPERATE WITH A BLEACH PRODUCT
To disinfect your clothes, Deyan says people should wash school uniforms at a high temperature, preferably at 60°C to kill any germs.
‘Wear gloves to carry your washing and use any bleach-based detergent: powder, liquid or tablet,’ he said.
‘This will mean opting for non-biological products however, so be careful where you know children to have sensitive skin.
‘The heat of the water will work to deactivate bacteria and improve the effectiveness of the detergent.’
But, the laundry expert stresses parents should take note of the fabric-care instructions on all the garments, as delicate items may be damaged.
He also suggests parents should wash clothes daily and take care not to overfill the drum.
AVOID SHAKING LAUNDRY
Deyan advises parents not to shake out laundry as this can spread particles of the virus through the air and expose other items of clothing to the germs.
Instead, he says parents should ideally dry clothes using a tumble dryer to avoid spreading the virus.
UK-based laundry expert Deyan Dimitrov encourages parents to understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting clothes. Picture: Stock
‘Viruses and bacteria thrive in damp environments so it is vital to let all clothing dry completely,’ he explained.
Typically, blazers are washed less regularly than other items of school uniform, but during the coronavirus pandemic Deyan advises this may have to change.
Usually, as many are made from wool or polyester, blazers are only washed in a washing machine at cooler temperatures.
The laundry expert says while this may help remove stains and odours, it does not fully disinfect the clothing, and so he instead advises using a steam cleaner.
He added: ‘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.’
For those who do not own a steam cleaner, he suggests a steam-generating iron is a useful alternative.
Deyan also discourages parents from putting their children’s blazers in the tumble dryer as they may shrink or decolourise – especially if made from wool.
Furthermore, the blazer may shrink or decolourise when dried in a tumble drier, especially if made from wool.
While the government has told schools to avoid contact sports, teachers will be able to deliver socially-distanced PE lessons.
This means parents should take extra care when washing children’s PE kits to make sure they are Covid-free.
Deyan advises parents to stress to their children the importance of not sharing items from their pencilcases with other children. Pictured: Stock
‘Sportswear is more exposed to germs than the regular school uniform and so students should avoid wearing their PE kits more than once between washes,’ explained Deyan.
He says the majority of the kit can be washed with the same products and settings as the rest of the uniform and suggests avoiding ‘sports’ settings on washing machines, which typically use lower temperatures.
As well as coming into contact with dirt on the ground, shoes are also at risk of picking up germs.
‘You can put trainers through the washing machine inside a pillowcase, which will protect them and your machine from taking too much of a hit,’ the expert explained.
‘Leave them stuffed with newspaper inside an airing cupboard to dry out. But make sure to do this in advance as it could take a couple of days before they’re bone dry.
On the whole, Deyan suggests the risk of contracting coronavirus from school uniform is low, provided that children stick to social distancing and regularly wash their hands.
He says it is not necessary to wash clothing after every use, unless it’s a PE kit but he recommends changing into spare uniforms throughout the week.
For a more routine quick fix, he suggests wiping down leather trainers with disinfectant wipes – remembering to wear gloves when doing so.
And shoelaces can be removed from the trainers and added to any other load without any trouble.
School bags are exposed to a range of different surfaces throughout the day and they are touched regularly.
As bags are washed less often than clothing, school bags could carry, and spread, viruses and bacteria and may contain contaminated items inside.
‘How to clean a school bag will depend on the material of the bag,’ said Deyan. ‘Fabric bags can be placed inside the washing machine alongside the rest of your laundry and disinfected in the same way. Just heat to a high temperature and use a bleach-based detergent.
‘Bags made from leather, or other delicate materials, can be washed using disinfectant spray or wipes.’
Bags should be left to dry fully, and to be on the safe side, parents should tell children to keep bags on their laps if taking public transport to school.
As with bags, pencil cases are regularly touched by children throughout the day and could harbour nasty germs.
They can be disinfected in the washing machine if made from fabric or non-delicate materials.
But Deyan suggests the most important thing parents should drum into their children is not to share items from their pencil case with other classmates.
‘As long as students adhere to these measures, pencil cases can be washed easily using just disinfectant spray or wipes,’ he added.