Will normal laundry procedures kill hantavirus?

This is, in fact, a serious (albeit slightly paranoid) question.

Long story short: I used a bath towel to catch a mouse tonight (you’d think that with three cats in this house, I wouldn’t have that problem, but, alas). Mr. Mouse was released outside (where if the cats get him I don’t need to clean it up). Now I have a bath towel which has held a scared rodent, stuffed in a plastic bag in the laundry room. And I live in a part of the country where rodents are known to sometimes carry both the plague and hantavirus (yes, that plague). Infection with either disease is pretty low on my list of things to do this lifetime.

I have no particular reason to believe the perfectly healthy-looking mouse was carrying either disease, but when it comes to these things I’d just as well be paranoid. Right now the towel is sitting double-bagged in the laundry room.

Is it safe to just wash it as I normally would? Should I use hot water and bleach it? Be super paranoid and just toss it in the garbage as is?

So you’d rather type a nice long post instead of using Google to search for hantavirus and bleach? Good lord. In any event, here is the first result: CDC - Hantavirus

If it’s good enough for an infestation, it’s good enough for your towel.

Some people may not want to bleach their towels if they can help it. I’m just OCD enough that a slightly lighter towel would bug me every time I saw it.

Or if it’s, you know…not white. All of my towels are colored, so I sure as Hell wouldn’t use bleach on them.

let the towel stay in the bag for 3 days and the virus if there will no longer be viable. drying out for that long is hostile to the virus.

a run through the hot washer with or without bleach and hang in the sun is also likely to handle the small amount of virus that might be there.

Bleach is an amazingly effective disinfectant. I don’t know of any germ or microbe that it can’t kill (though there’s probably some exotic, bleach-resistant spore out there). When you work with bacterial cultures, the standard way to dispose of them is to bleach them for 10 minutes in 10% bleach, and then it’s safe to pour down the sink.

You can bleach a lot of colored towels without hurting them. Just be sure that the bleach is well diluted (either using the bleach dispenser in the machine, or filling with water & adding bleach before adding the laundry) and don’t drip any onto something colored.

I washed all my linens (towels & sheets) with bleach for years. That’s the way Mom taught me; I didn’t know there was another way!

Doing this regularly will fade the color, but I’ve done it on an occasional basis without having any problem. Well, maybe if you’re OCD and have a very good eye for color. :wink:

Of course, the only way to know if this will work for your towels is to give it a try.

Ah, should have been clearer: I’m also concerned (yes, I’m stupidly paranoid, let’s move on) that putting it in a washing machine to bleach, rather than soaking it first, might fling particles of nasty around the laundry room. Is this a valid concern?

redtail - Really? I always had it in my mind that bleach = no more proper colors.

Just be careful when you put it in the washing machine. If you want to, you can wipe down any nearby surfaces with some diluted bleach. Even then, the CDC page cited above states that the virus only survives on surfaces for two or three days at most. So if you’ve got kids that will be crawling around nearby, sure, be careful and wipe things down. Otherwise I wouldn’t worry about it.

Of course, if you’re willing to sacrifice that towel for some peace of mind, go ahead and bleach the hell out of it.

(but more bleach is not better! a 1 in 10 dilution is actually better at killing things than undiluted bleach)

Oh, and you may not even need to use bleach. Here’s another bit from that CDC website:

The CDC might mention line- or air-drying in the sun (and the OP may want to consider it, too) because the UV light in sunlight is extremely antimicrobial.

Well, okay, not as “extremely” antimicrobial as 10% bleach, but still …

However, I don’t see how virus particles could be “flung” around the laundry room, assuming you have a washing machine like mine, which comes with a LID. No flinging particles once the lid is closed!

Oh, and Lazybratsche, if you’re still out there? The eternally-curious part of me reallyreallyreally wants to know why a 1-10 dilution of bleach is better at killing germs than straight bleach. Like, on a bio-molecular level … go on, get technical with me. I can handle it. :wink:
(P.S. NinjaChick, I am totally forgiving you your paranoia in light of the fact that you caught and released the mouse unharmed. I’m not very charitable towards germophobes in general, but I’m less charitably inclined toward people who freak out about (and kill) rodents simply for the fact that they’re rodents. So you get a mental hug from me today. Now go wash your hands! :p)

Unless you used a $100 Abyss & Habidecor towel to catch the mouse, I’d just throw it out. It’s the quickest path to peace of mind, and if you feel obliged to replace it you can get one at Target or WalMart for a sawbuck.

Like I said, I won’t guarantee it for anyone’s towels but mine. But I washed all of my sheets & towels with 1 cup of bleach per load for …20?.. years before I found out that other people didn’t do that.

They do fade over time, I’m sure much faster than without bleaching, but not instantaneously. Unless you actually drip undiluted bleach on them - that will take out almost all of the color as soon as they’re washed. I’ve got the spotty towels to prove it.

Can I “me too” for the bleach 10% thing? I’ve been told this before, but no one could ever explain WHY. Is it something to do with the water giving better access to the critter’s innards? That’s the only thing I could ever think of.

ETA: I always thought the same thing (bleach = no more color) for everything except towels & sheets. I’ve no idea why those would be magically exempt, just one of those things you’ve known so long you never question it. FTR, I’ve never tried bleaching other stuff in general (except whites that have been stained).

Me too!

Ah, crap. Three of you are calling me out on this? I’ve got stuff to do this afternoon!

On a molecular level, bleach (specifically the hypocholorous acid that forms in solution) will basically oxidize any molecule it runs into. This will cross link sulfhydryl groups on some proteins, and rip apart the the amino acid backbone on other proteins. These, together, cause aggregation of random protein fragments. Bleach will also react with any double bond it can find, more or less. It reacts with unsaturated fatty acid chains, which will essentially rip apart cell membranes. Wikihas a very good article on the topic, with plenty of citations if you want the really gory details.

But I don’t have a clue why 10% is more effective than full concentration. I believe someone has demonstrated that at some point, but I’ve mostly heard that claim during lectures by the lab safety folks.

From the CDC:

So it appears it isn’t the mouse that’s the problem but the droppings and contaminated dust. Looks like you should be more worried about the house in general than the one particular towel

household bleach is about 5%.

chemicals can have a stronger action at higher dilutions (than the more concentrated form you buy) because there are more active ions in that case. it is these ions that dissociate that have the activity.

I do biodecon for a living and I believe this is basically the explanation. I do not recall the exact chemistry, but there are actually more free chlorine when you dilute it a bit. I think it has to do with the pH of the solution. The antimicrobial properties can be further enhanced by adding acetic acid (vinegar) to the mix to lower the pH.

household bleach mixed with acid can produce chlorine gas which is an extreme hazard to people.

Dude was running all over your stuff before you caught him, you know. Guess you have to burn the Velveteen Rabbit.

I edited my post a couple times and apparently failed to replace the “don’t try this at home” warning. A mix of “pH-amended” bleach is used in our labs here though and was used in a larger scale to clean up part of the anthrax incident in Danbury, CT in 2008.