How Hygienic is Your Washing Machine?

Is your washing machine as clean as you think it is? Why shouldn't you wash your clothes with someone who's unwell? Find out about the dirty secret that everyday laundry holds!

How Hygienic is Your Washing Machine?.png
Dr Kyle C Grant

Tech & Science

How clean is your 'clean laundry'?

GERMS… VIRUSES… Most of us are sick of talking about them, especially the one that shall not be named... But not us! Dirty laundry is our metaphorical bread and butter (pardon the gross analogy). We are conditioned to think we’re safe from Covid-19 and other germs inside our home.  Unfortunately, our washing machines are not magic germ-annihilation machines. If you’re currently eating your breakfast, I would push it to the side for the next five minutes...  

You don’t need to stretch your imagination too far to imagine where most of these germs and viruses live. Yes, that’s right, your underwear. These small items are the biggest carrier in your laundry bin thanks to the presence of faecal matter (aka poo). Faeces can carry a lot of nasty germs, including norovirus, salmonella, the hepatitis A virus, rotavirus, and E. coli.

Professor Charles Gerba, at the University of Arizona, has produced considerable research* on the germs that congregate in our washing machines. He suggests that if you were to fill a wash with underwear alone, there would be about 100 million E. coli in the water. Needless to say they can latch on to the next wash.

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Mixing Laundry

I’m sure most of you now realise the role your washing machine plays in preventing you from getting sick. Kelly Reynolds, a germ researcher and professor of environmental health at the University of Arizona has done research around this. She suggests that a minuscule piece of fecal matter from someone unwell can contain millions of bacteria and viruses. It's proven that exposure to just a hundred of these bacteria can make you seriously ill.

If someone who is unwell includes their clothing in a wash with other people's items, it is likely that the viruses and bacteria will spread onto the uninfected items . One germ-filled item can spread to 90% of the other clothes in the wash according to Kelly Reynolds. She goes on to say that it doesn’t matter how hot you set your wash to, most of these viruses will survive the wash. *alarm bells ring*

What Can We Do About Germs?

There’s no need to panic yet.  Household detergents differ in effectiveness yet, it’s widely thought that using disinfectant such as Dettol will reduce the microorganism load by 99.9%. Detergents that state they are effective in a cold wash are typically more effective at disinfection with hot water. However, using hot water comes with a huge increase in energy consumption, clothing deterioration, and microfiber pollution. Effective alternatives to heat and chlorine based bleach (Sodium hypochlorite) now exist. These include biodegradable disinfection chemistries such as hydrogen peroxide, quaternary ammonium and Phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP).

At Oxwash we use biodegradable chemistry combination along with a secret weapon: Ozone.

Ozone is a reactive gas (O3) formed from oxygen that is passed through a corona (lightning storm in a tube). This ozone is either used before the laundry process in a cabinet or in the washing process itself much like bubbling air in an aquarium. Using our proprietary process we’re able to eliminate 99.99999% of microorganisms. This is 100x better than the NHS in the UK required for washing surgical scrubs for example. This isn’t viable for consumers and businesses to achieve at home which is why we exist to provide the service direct to our customers' doors. ‍

For those of you unable to access an Oxwash service just yet, the sun is a proven and effective germ killer. Its ultraviolet light has disinfecting properties which can be utilised by hanging your washing in direct sunlight! Good luck folks… It’s the microscopic wild west out there!

If you’d like to find out more about hygiene in laundry, check out our summary and process here.

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