Essential business: Laundromats provide public health service

A women rolls her laundry to Emerald City Laundromat n Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — During the COVID-19 pandemic, local laundromats are available for families looking to find a safe place to wash and dry their clothes.

Laundromats were declared an essential business in Gov. John Carney’s state of emergency order. It was vital to many families who do not have a washer and dryer in their home or apartment unit.

“These facilities provide a basic public health service by serving millions of families with a safe place to wash and dry their clothes each and every week,” said the Coin Laundry Association in a press release. “In alignment with Centers for Disease Control recommendations, American families should continue to observe the best levels of cleanliness and hygiene possible, including regular clothes washing, during the pandemic. Access to services is particularly important for laundromat customers who are often among low-income families with few alternatives to the neighborhood laundromat for clothes washing.”

While they’re still open for business, there is a long list of recommendations for patrons to follow in order to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

Customers are encouraged to wash their hands before and after a trip to the laundromat. And like any other places during the pandemic, the CDC recommends not touching your face while at the laundromat.

According to WebMd, customers need to observe social distancing practices and stand six feet away from others while at the machines. It suggests bringing hand sanitizer and wipes to the laundromat to wipe down any machine or basket while also sorting and folding laundry at home to minimize the time spent inside.

It is recommended not to shake dirty laundry before putting it in the washer. This lessens the virus’ chances of moving through the air says the CLA.

If a customer has their own cart they are encouraged to use it. A communal cart should not infect the clothes, but touching the cart itself could possibly spread the virus if the cart is not wiped down.

Evidence suggests it’s harder to catch the virus from a soft surface, such as fabric, than it is from frequently touched hard surfaces like elevator buttons or door handles according to research by Johns Hopkins.

WebMd says it is best to wait at home or in the car for laundry to be done to once again limit the time spent inside a public place.

Laundromats are following all sanitizing and cleaning protocols recommended by the CDC.

“For decades, the laundry community has delivered the essential service of clean clothes for millions of families each and every week,” said the CLA’s statement. “Now, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help our communities launder their clothes in the best possible environment for cleanliness and hygiene. Clean clothes are a vital part of supporting the neighborhoods we serve and we’ve never been better at delivering that service.”

The CLA advises customers use the warmest water temperature when possible to achieve the best germ-killing results. Drying on high heat is also suggested.

“The commercial-grade washers found in laundromats provide rigorous mechanical action which combined with hot water and proper detergent use effectively flush contaminants from clothing in a manner that far exceeds the capabilities of residential machines,” according to the CLA. “Furthermore, commercial gas-fired dryers operate at higher temperatures sufficient to enhance the cleaning process.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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