Dr Lisa Ackerley mulls over hygiene in the laundry
I’ve found some people think that no matter how dirty the laundry is, when you shove it in the washing machine, it will come out pristine! But it’s not that easy. Not wanting to be too graphic, but if there are poo or sick deposits on your clothes, nappies, towels or bedding, then where do you think they go?
Once someone I know put a dog blanket in the machine, full of bits of twigs and bones that the dog had been chewing, and was quite surprised when the bits were still there in the bottom of the machine. Equally after someone has been sick, I’ve seen all the bedding put in the machine, and of course, it comes out with diced carrot still on it.
Bacteria are even more tricky, because you can’t see them. But if you put something ridden with germs in the washing machine, unless you do something to kill the bacteria and viruses you will be simply swishing them all around, for example transferring bacteria such as E. coli from your poo and putting them on to your tea towels, which you then use to wipe the dishes!
So some simple laundry tips:
- Any deposits need to be put in the loo
- Soak really badly-soiled items in an anti-bacterial pre-soak solution such as those used for re-usable nappies.
- Wash at a temperature as high as you can – the higher the temperature the better the germ kill! 60°C or higher
- Use the best laundry powder you can afford
- Use a laundry additive to help kill bacteria and viruses
- Wash underpants, socks and knickers in a separate wash from cloths and tea-towels, especially if you are using a low-temperature wash
- Wash towels and bedding at temperatures above 60°C to till bacteria, viruses and dust mites
- Tumble drying on hot will help kill the bugs too
- Leave the washing machine door open to allow air to circulate
- From time to time clean the rubber seal and detergent drawer
- Don’t shake dirty clothes near food surfaces – you’ll only spread the bugs further
- Wash hands after handling dirty clothes
- By doing at least one wash a week at above 90°C you will be doing a spring clean on your machine and making sure it’s not a reservoir of infection, or my favourite term, bacterial soup!
The Hygiene Doctor talked to Anne Robinson on BBC’s Watchdog about the importance of keeping your washing machine, as well as your washing, clean