How to Sanitize Laundry

I think it’s safe to say that most of us reading this blog post wash our clothing. (Unless you are Pig-Pen from the Peanuts comic strip (a.k.a. Charlie Brown), or, perhaps, a Pig-Pen stan — in which case, I am very worried about you and please DM me so I can get you psychological help and some change for the nearest laundromat.)

Okay. Whew. So glad I could use this platform to bring awareness to a very important topic, i.e. “Get Pig-Pen to a Laundromat.”

In any case, while most of us think about washing our clothes, we don’t typically think about sanitizing them — or maybe we just think they’re one and the same.

Why should you sanitize clothing and laundry periodically?


While washing/cleaning our clothes often is a necessity, it’s important that we disinfect them from time to time, too. If you’re wondering what the difference is, Medical News Today explained it brilliantly: 

Cleaning and disinfecting are different processes.

Cleaning involves removing dirt and germs from surfaces. While cleaning may lower the risk of spreading infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria, it does not kill them. 

Disinfection requires the use of chemicals that kill germs.

Unfortunately, laundry detergent alone isn’t always enough to kill stubborn germs — so disinfecting your clothing periodically is a must!

How to Sanitize Clothing

Pants and a shirt

Thankfully, sanitizing clothing isn’t very difficult, and there are even several ways to do it using items that you probably have on hand.

First, though, let’s talk about an important rule of thumb: Before you sanitize any article of clothing, make sure to read its label — you don’t want to ruin your favorite shirt! (Or your ONLY shirt. Again, Pig-Pen, I am here for you.)

Here are a few things you can do to sanitize your clothing:

Wash in Hot Water

Here’s a fact that will probably not surprise you: When it comes to disinfecting ANYTHING, hot water works much better than cold. The Worldwide Health Organization (WHO) recommends water between the temperatures of 60 – 90° C (140 – 194° F). When it comes to your laundry, use the hottest setting that will not cause damage (i.e. shrinkage) to your clothing. Read the label carefully!

Use Bleach

First of all, when using bleach, make sure to use chlorine bleach — oxygen-based bleaches like Clorox 2 and Oxiclean don’t contain disinfecting properties. Secondly, the bleach needs to have a concentration between 5.25% and 6.15% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) to be effective, so again, read the label thoroughly. Most supermarkets will carry the kind of bleach you need, including examples like Clorox and generic brands.

Once you have your chlorine bleach, simply follow the guidelines on the bottle to sanitize your clothing. (And pro-tip: Dilute it with water before adding it to the designated spot in your washing machine. You should never pour it directly onto your laundry.) Chlorine bleach isn’t meant to be used on certain fabrics (i.e. silk, wool, spandex, etc.) and should only be used on whites.

Use Phenolic Disinfectants

Phenol is one of the oldest disinfecting agents around, and phenolic compounds are used to sanitize various things, including clothing. There are various phenolic disinfectants on the market that you can use to sanitize your clothing, including Lysol’s Laundry Sanitizer.

Safe Ways to Sanitize Your Children’s Clothing

Laundry detergent and dryer balls

If you’ve got kiddos in the house and/or don’t love having harsh chemicals around (we can’t blame you!) there are other, safer alternatives for sanitizing your clothing. Here are a few options:

White Vinegar

White vinegar is an amazing disinfectant for just about anything, and the laundry is no exception. It contains acetic acid, which kills viruses and bacteria; plus, white vinegar works as a disinfectant and a deodorizer. Just use 1 half cup in your laundry (this works on both whites and colors) and you’ll have disinfected, softer laundry free of any lingering stinky smells in no time!

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a common household item that contains bleaching properties — so only use this on whites! Once your washer is filled, just add 1 cup of the peroxide to the water. Easy-peasy!

Essential Oils

Did you know that both tea tree oil and lavender oil have disinfecting properties? (I didn’t!) Before you go to town using tea tree oil on your clothing, though, make sure that you’re using a pure blend, not a mixture. Now to use them in the laundry, add about 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil and a few drops of lavender oil to your load. Voila! They’re disinfected and they smell awesome.

For additional sanitizing measures, you can also regularly wipe down your laundry basket and even wear gloves when doing your laundry. With winter around the corner and COVID-19 still a part of our daily lives, it’s imperative that we take time to not only wash our clothes, but sanitize them, too.

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