At this point, we’re all well aware of the ways in which we can limit the spread of a harmful virus in public. Between social distancing guidelines, wearing facemasks, and washing hands, we’re all mini-experts when it comes to mitigating the spread of harmful bacteria in many areas of daily life. However, there’s another critical area that hasn’t been discussed as much: doing laundry. Every week, people clean their clothes to remove dirt, nasty smells, and germs. Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of what’s required to truly kill harmful bacteria in this process. Here, we’ll lay out some laundry tips for keeping harmful bacteria away.
The difference between cleaning and disinfecting
The words cleaning and disinfecting commonly get thrown around interchangeably. Although the differences are frivolous in many circumstances, the definitions are important when it comes to limiting the spread of harmful viruses through clothing.
Cleaning merely involves the removal of germs and dirt from articles of clothing, essentially what the average person does when doing a load of laundry. While this process might limit the risk of spreading bacteria and viruses, it doesn’t kill these infectious agents.
Disinfecting, on the other hand, involves the killing of these harmful germs which is more effective at reducing the potential spread of these infectious agents. In order to accomplish this, special chemicals are used that have the ability to kill bacteria either during or after the cleaning process.
Why is it important to disinfect your clothing
Nobody needs to be told why it’s important to clean your clothes, but the importance of disinfecting them has really been highlighted by the recent outbreak. Both the CDC and WHO have announced that the virus can spread from person to person via both direct and indirect contact with sneezes, coughs, and anything containing respiratory droplets that have the virus.
While safety protocols such as wearing a mask, maintaining physical distancing, and self-isolating can work to mitigate direct transmission, respiratory droplets that might contain undesirable bacteria or germs can still fall on surfaces such as clothing. If a person were to then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes, they might end up getting sick. That’s why disinfecting clothing is so important.
Tips for disinfecting your clothes
When people normally do laundry, they’re only cleaning their clothes. While this is sufficient when wanting to remove stains, dirt, and some germs, these techniques aren’t typically sufficient for killing harmful bacterial. Here, we’ll take a look at some tips for disinfecting your clothes when you’re doing laundry:
- Launder your clothes with household detergent or laundry soap. You could consider using some solutions that contain bleach, although you’ll need to be sure that you’re clothes won’t be ruined in the process. You should always check the directions of the detergent.
- You could consider soaking your clothing in a mixture with quaternary ammonium before placing them in the washing machine.
- Do your laundry on the warmest water setting available on the washing machine you’re using. The WHO suggests using water temperatures* ranging from 140–194° F. As with bleach, high water temperatures have the ability to damage clothing, so it’s important to read care labels carefully for washing instructions.
- When the washing process is complete, you’ll want to allow your clothes to dry completely.
- Since your clothes touch other surfaces on the way to the washer, you can disinfect your laundry basket with EPA-approved household disinfectants or with 0.1% sodium hypochlorite.
- You should consider putting on a pair of gloves while doing laundry to further prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. Immediately after taking off the gloves, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Don’t forget to avoid touching your face throughout this process.
If you’re interested in learning about more helpful laundry strategies to keep your clothes clean, smelling fresh, and bacteria-free, head over to the Coin Meter Company site. You’ll find insider tips and tricks to help make the most of this weekly chore.
*It is important to note that most water heats are not turned up to a 140° or higher, and doing so can be unsafe in a shared-use laundry room. Imagine the burn possibility of water 140° and up. It only takes 3 sec for severe burns at those temperatures. Relying on high-temperature water baths in a washing machine for virus prevention is not practical.