Questions & Answers
Smallpox - Questions and Answers for Household Members and Community Members
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Laundering Information

  1. I go home every night to my family. What do I need to do with my personal laundry?
    Wear clothing that is washable and launder your clothing separately with hot soapy water (with bleach, if desired). Keep your personal linens separate (e.g., towels) as well, from the rest of the family's.

  2. How much personal protective equipment do laundry workers need?
    If laundry workers wear gloves, this is sufficient protection.

  3. My spouse and I sleep in the same bed. How do I care for the bed linens (e.g., sheets, pillow cases)?
    Be sure to cover your vaccination site while you are in bed with your spouse. Sleeves (preferably long sleeves) and a Band-Aid will suffice. Wash your linen, along with personal towels and washcloths, separately in hot soapy water (with bleach, if possible).

  4. You've told us to wash our clothes and linens in hot water and bleach. The bleach will ruin my clothes and linens. Will using just detergent or color-safe bleach be effective?
    Color-safe bleach is not as powerful a disinfectant as regular bleach. Washing your clothes and linens with detergent in the hottest water possible is a good alternative to using bleach

  5. Hot water will ruin some of my clothes. Can I just use detergent and cold water?
    Cold water alone will not kill the virus if it is on the clothes. But the detergent will. You should try to wear clothing that is washable in hot water, if possible.

  6. Can I wear dry cleanable clothes?
    It is not known if the dry cleaning process will kill the vaccinia virus. Until such data is available, dry cleaning should not be assumed to properly disinfect material contaminated with vaccinia virus. Any cloth material contaminated with vaccinia virus should be laundered in hot water with detergent. Follow with a hot-air drying cycle. If you must wear "dry clean only" clothes, we recommend that you wear a washable shirt and/or a bandage under your "dry clean only" clothing to avoid contact between the clothing and the vaccination site.

  7. Are there any environmental effects from the wash water after washing clothes and linen that come into contact with the vaccination site?
    There are no additional environmental effects from the used water after washing your clothes. The vaccinia virus will be killed and harmless. Used water discharged by your washing machine from your house will be treated at a wastewater treatment plant.

  8. I just got a smallpox vaccination. How do I wash my clothes?
    Always keep your clothes and towels separate from those of your family and other people. Wear clothing that you can wash in the washing machine. Do not share clothes, towels, or toiletries with anyone. If clothes or towels touch your smallpox vaccination site, wash them in hot water with detergent and/or bleach to kill the virus. For more information about taking care of your vaccination site, go to the IHB website and read the Smallpox Tri-fold Brochure and the Smallpox Vaccine Household Contacts Brochure.