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How to Disinfect Your Pillow

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If you've recently been sick, or want to clean your bedroom, people have asked us how to disinfect their pillows.


Wash your hands, wipe the doorknobs — that's common advice for keeping germs at bay when the flu virus hits, or at least helping contain a breakout. But surfaces aren't the only place flu can exist. Bed linens and infected pillows can carry the virus as well.


Experts agree that disinfecting pillows can help prevent the spread of the flu. Here's how to do it right.


Step 1: Change Pillowcases Often

The flu virus is believed to spread via droplets expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes. For a flu sufferer lying in bed, that means a pillowcase may catch the brunt of that hacking and a-chooing, and possibly cover the pillow too. To help contain the spread in general, Carolyn Forte, director of the Good Housekeeping Home Appliances & Cleaning Products Lab, tells the Washington Post that if you have the flu at home, change and wash the pillowcases every few days, at least.


Step 2: Stay at Arm's Length

If the flu spread hits a pillow, there's a chance (however small, but still a chance) close proximity to the pillows and bed linens could spread the disease. Make sure not to hug the laundry to you. Hold it an arm's length away from your face, and take care not to touch your face or rub your eyes after.


Step 3: Use Bleach

Some illnesses, like norovirus, are powerful enough to sustain multiple bleach cleanings and still survive. Fortunately, the flu virus is relatively weak, especially outside of a human host. Throwing a capful of bleach into the wash can help sanitize any fabrics, notes Readers Digest. This includes color-safe bleach, like OxiClean.


Step 4: Dry on High

The best disinfectant may not be the wash, but the drying process. Tumble-drying laundry, including pillows, on high heat for at least 30 minutes is sufficient for killing most influenza germs. Don't hesitate to tumble dry for longer, however. Germs thrive in wet places, so pillows should be thoroughly dry to the touch before putting them back on the bed.


Step 5: Wash Your Machines

Wash your hands and the washer, too. Say you pick up the dirty pillowcase, open the washer door, push the buttons. You may have spread germs from the pillow to the machine, and then touched the machine. While the risk of transition is slim, you may want to wipe down the machine and wash your hands, so you don't chance spreading anything when you go to switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. The standard advice for hand washing with the goal of removing pathogens is to wash with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds.


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