How to Disinfect Laundry

While most of us think about washing our clothes, we don’t typically think about disinfecting them. Or maybe we think they’re one and the same.

While washing 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 isn’t always enough to kill stubborn germs, so disinfecting your clothing periodically is a must.

How to disinfect clothing

Pants and a shirt

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

First, let’s talk about an important rule of thumb: Before you disinfect any article of clothing, make sure to read its label. You don’t want to ruin your favorite shirt. 

Here are a few things you can do to disinfect your clothing.

Wash in hot water

Here’s a fact that will probably not surprise you: When it comes to disinfecting, 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 avoid damage (i.e. shrinkage) to your clothing. Read the label carefully.

Use bleach

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

Once you have your chlorine bleach, follow the guidelines on the bottle to disinfect your clothing. 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 (e.g., silk, wool, spandex, etc.) and should be used only on whites.

Use phenolic disinfectants

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

Safe ways to disinfect your children’s clothing

Laundry detergent and dryer balls

If you’ve got kiddos in the house or don’t love having harsh chemicals around, there are safer alternatives for disinfecting your clothing. 

White vinegar

White vinegar is an amazing disinfectant, and 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.

Hydrogen peroxide

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

Essential oils

Did you know that tea tree oil and lavender oil have disinfecting properties? Before you go to town using tea tree oil on your clothing, make sure that you’re using a pure blend, not a mixture. 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 smell awesome.

For additional disinfection measures, you can regularly wipe down your laundry basket and 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 wash and disinfect our clothes.

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