By now, everyone should know that health authorities have recommended that you stay at least six feet away from people you don’t live with. This can be difficult in the common laundry area in a building with many apartments.
Ideally, especially in this environment, you’d prefer to have the laundry room all to yourself. But we all know that can be difficult, if not impossible.
1. Pick a machine away from other people
Before you enter the room, make sure you’ll be able to use a washer and dryer while maintaining social distancing with anyone else in the room. If you can’t, it’s probably best to wait until you can. That can be annoying, but your health, and potentially the health of others, is at stake. It’s just not worth it to not be as safe as possible.
2. Visit the laundry area during off-peak times
Right now, everyone is working from home or home from school. If you go to the laundry area in the middle of the day, you have a good chance of seeing someone else.
Consider doing your laundry early in the morning or late at night. There will be fewer people there at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday compared to 3 p.m. on a Saturday.
3. Create a schedule
Hopefully, your building management has some kind of system in place for tenants to use the laundry room while safely practicing social distancing. Ideally, it would be a schedule that allows no more than one or two residents at a time to use the machines. If management hasn’t set a schedule, residents should consider creating one themselves.
4. Limit the time spent in laundry areas
Make an effort to spend as little time in this area as possible, both for your safety and the consideration of your neighbors who might be waiting to use the laundry facilities.
You should pre-sort your laundry in your apartment in order to reduce exposure to other people and to contaminated surfaces. If you can, do the largest load possible in order to minimize the number of times you need to use the washers and dryers. And once you’ve washed and dried your clothes, bring it back to your apartment to fold it.
5. Wear a mask and gloves
Even if you’re able to practice social distancing, you should probably wear a mask or a bandana as recently recommended by the federal government. It’s also a good idea to wear gloves since you’ll be touching a lot of surfaces that other people have touched.
Those surfaces include doorknobs and handles, the lid to the washer and the door to the dryer, the control knobs or panel, the box where you insert coins and perhaps a counter or a tabletop. If you don’t have gloves, you should use disinfecting wipes to clean common surfaces that you’ll be touching. And of course, wash your hands often.
6. Clean your laundry basket
Once you’ve put away your laundry, you should also clean and disinfect your hamper and laundry basket. If you use a laundry bag, you might want to have one for dirty clothes and one for clean clothes. Or, you can use disposable plastic bags.
What if a family member is sick?
If your household has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, you should follow CDC guidelines. Those include:
- Wear gloves when touching a sick person’s laundry. Gloves should be discarded after each use, while reusable gloves should not be used for purposes beyond disinfecting and cleaning surfaces of COVID-19.
- Avoid shaking out dirty laundry. This reduces the possibility of the virus traveling through the air.
- Use the warmest possible setting for washing clothes, towels and bedding. Dry them at the highest temperature possible. For the time being, don’t wear delicates or other clothes that can’t be washed in warm or hot water.
- While the CDC says you can wash a sick person’s laundry with other items, you might want to take the extra precaution of washing it separately. You should carry it to the laundry room in a plastic garbage bag and it can be placed directly in the washing machine.
If you’re feeling sick yourself, ask someone else in your unit to do your laundry.
Social distancing laundry tips in your apartment community
Above all else, exercise caution and always be aware of your surroundings and whether you’re getting too close to other people. And remember, keep your hands clean and don’t touch your face.
These are trying times, but we can get through this if we all work together.