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The gentle washing techniques that we apply nowadays churn out visibly ‘clean’ laundry but it is actually full of germs, allergens, and infectious bacteria. Read on to find out if your laundry cycle can make you sick.

Bacteria in your laundry ‘clean’ clothes

Most of us wash our clothes at low temperatures and with mild detergents. We also like to believe that if our clothes smell nice, they are clean. However, this might not be true.

We all think that using milder detergents and low temperature cycles will preserve our clothes and they will last longer.

The low temperature cycle and mild detergents might be gentle on the fabrics but we could be bargaining with our health in return.

Recent studies have shown that harmful bacteria do not get killed when we use low temperature washing cycles. This also makes the average spin cycle a breeding ground for infectious bacteria and germs.

A leading health hygiene expert, Dr. Lisa Ackerley feels that awareness needs to be raised about the ‘sick laundry cycle’ and how thousands of infectious bacteria and microorganisms thrive on our supposedly ‘clean’ clothes. Dr. Ackerley advocates that the average laundry cycles produce visibly clean clothes but they are not hygienically clean. She says that the trend of reducing temperature and water volumes coupled with the use of milder detergents reduces the efficacy of the laundering process.

Dr. Ackerley believes that we need to re-evaluate our laundry hygiene. As per a study, the laundry clean clothes when thoroughly examined for microbes were found to have an average of 0.1 grams of fecal matter on each pair of clean knickers.

The sick laundry cycle does not only refer to the inadequate removal of bacteria from laundry clean clothes. It also refers to the cross contamination arising from mixing different types of clothes in the laundry. Mixing bacteria-infested clothes with other laundry items involves swishing the germs around and this in turn creates a bacterial soup. When different laundry items are mixed together in a cycle, there is a high risk of transferring bacteria from soiled underwear onto items such as tea towels that are used for wiping dishes.

Laundry items that are prone to getting contaminated by pathogens are the ones that come in direct contact with our body.

These include facecloths, towels, underwear, nappies, and bed linen. Bacteria do not just come from infected clothes in the laundry cycle. Many times, the interiors of the washing machine also act as a breeding ground for bacteria. There is a gradual build-up of bacteria in the interiors of the washing machine. These bacteria are transferred to the water and clothes in subsequent wash cycles.

A study has found that there are close to one million bacteria in just about two table spoons of wash water from the washing machine. These bacteria find optimum conditions for thriving when low temperature cycles are run. The favorite thriving places for these infectious bacteria are hideaways such as the door seals and detergent drawers of the washing machine.

The sick laundry cycle is even worse if someone is unwell in the house.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Hygiene issues in the home”, by Elizabeth Scott. Published in the December 1999 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, accessed on September 15, 2013
  • “The correlation between sustainable development and home hygiene” by M.J. Terpstra. Published in the August 2001 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, accessed on September 15, 2013.
  • Photo courtesy of timlewisnm by Flickr :
  • Photo courtesy of Kelly by Flickr :