I have some Canadian and British bank notes. The first issue is that I don't know if they're paper or plastic.

Second, I don't understand this answer. Why's it safe to iron paper bills? Won't the heat or pressure ruin the paper bill?

You can iron paper bills, like the American ones, on rather high heat. Just the same iron you use for your clothing, at the hottest setting, but no steam. It will kill all viruses.

Plastic bills can be hand washed, with the same soap you would use on your hand, you can dry them the same way you dry your hands, with a clean cloth or even the hot air dryer you use for your hands. Or you can let them air dry.
These bills can withstand some heat but I have heard not enough to iron them clean.

  • $\begingroup$ Ever hear of a book titled “Fahrenheit 451”? Paper money in the USA has to meet stringent requirements, by design, so a quick ironing, without steam, will not damage it. Of course, this is a testable matter: iron a one dollar bill. As for polymer currencies, I would not do that: too risky. But, again, this is testable. $\endgroup$ – Ed V Apr 4 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ @EdV Even this got an entry on wikipedia... $\endgroup$ – Buttonwood Apr 4 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ For the same reason that a laser printer doesn't ruin its printouts - paper can withstand the heat and pressure. Viruses can't $\endgroup$ – Caius Jard Apr 5 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ ps; the corona situation has people doing some crazy things.. but i suppose if one is sticking rolled up paper notes up one's nose for some reason, one would want them to be virus free, I'm sure! 😀 $\endgroup$ – Caius Jard Apr 5 at 9:20

In short: This is possible because «paper money» actually is not referring to the paper like paper from the office supply for (your) desktop printer or xerox, but to cotton paper.

Because of the cotton, if folded and forgotten in a pocket of your jeans close to $\pu{40 ^\circ{}C}$, they may physically survive a pass in the washing machine with a mild non-bleaching detergent (including the spinning). They obviously suffer from the dye if e.g., the jeans blead, or mechanically if you try to unfold them after if passing a dryer. Of course different to the ones made of polymers as (but not limited to) in Australia.

  • $\begingroup$ Among other things, USA paper money has to withstand submersion in 5% NaOH solution for 24 hours. $\endgroup$ – Ed V Apr 4 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ While I don't let my cloths this long in the tide (TM), it is good to know. $\endgroup$ – Buttonwood Apr 4 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ Honestly, "may physically survive a pass in the washing machine" seems like an understatement. Dollar bills go through the wash just fine. $\endgroup$ – GC_ Apr 5 at 14:26

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