With concerns about the environment constantly increasing and the ever rising cost of electricity, many homeowners have reduced the temperature at which they wash clothes in a bid to save energy and money. But according to a recent report in the Daily Mail, washing clothes at low temperatures increases the amount of bacteria present and could even be dangerous to your family’s health.
At present some detergent companies are recommending that clothes be washed at temperatures as low as 15 degrees, but according to a German study detailed in the Daily Mail report, the only way to ensure that harmful viruses within washing can be completely eradicated is by washing at 60 degrees, particularly if there’s a risk of faecal bugs in the laundry, for example underwear or nappies.
Environmental Hygiene Consultant Dr Lisa Ackerley explained that mixing clothes that may contain food waste with underwear and other dirty laundry could lead to washing becoming infected with salmonella or even E. coli. Although most people are resilient to attacks from this type of infection, at-risk groups such as babies and the elderly could be exposed by wearing clothes infected with bacteria.
If you’re worried about bacteria in your washing machine then take a look at these top tips that will ensure your washing is really as clean as it looks!
How to Kill Bacteria in your Laundry
1. Wash underwear and nappies in a separate load from the rest of your washing and avoid mixing food waste with clothes, for example by washing kitchen cloths or tea towels with clothing. When washing underwear or items like cloths that could contain a lot of bacteria, use the hottest possible wash and a detergent that contains bleach.
2. Once a load of washing has finished, empty it as quickly as possible and do not leave damp clothes in the machine as this creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
3. If you keep your underwear separate from other clothing items you can wash it at the hottest possible temperature but wash other items on a lower heat. However, if you want to ensure that the majority of bacteria within your washing are eliminated, don’t choose a temperature lower than 40 degrees.
4. To keep your machine clean between loads, add half a gallon of bleach and allow the machine to run through a cycle on the hottest temperature. Do this every three or four loads or after you wash soiled nappies or underwear.
5. Wash sheets and towels separately from clothing and avoid washing towels with tea towels, underwear or nappies to prevent the spread of bacteria.
6. Don’t overload your washing machine as it can stop your machine from working properly which in turn can lead to greater risk of clothes becoming contaminated with bacteria or viruses.
Although it may be tempting to wash your laundry at a low temperature in order to save money, if you want to ensure that your clothes are really as clean as they look, the Hygiene Council recommends a temperature of 60 degrees.
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Jenny Austen is a hygiene enthusiast and regularly blogs on behalf of industrial laundry company GW Commercial.