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How to Disinfect Laundry in Simple and Effective Ways

Jennifer L. Betts
Hands Washing Laundry In Bucket

When bacterial or viral infections hit, the first thing you might think of is getting your laundry washed. However, just putting the clothing in the wash isn't going to get rid of those germs. You have to disinfect laundry to get it truly clean. Learn how to disinfect your laundry using bleach, vinegar, peroxide, borax and even Pine-Sol.

How Do Germs Get on Clothes?

Germs are everywhere. Not only do you have them on their body, but germs are on most surfaces. Every time people cough, sneeze or shake a hand, they spread the germs on or in their body through sweat, spit and touch. When you brush those same surfaces, you now have those germs like staph, influenza and coronavirus on your clothes.

How to Disinfect Clothes

How do you kill germs in the laundry? When it comes to getting your clothes clean, it's all about what you're cleaning. You're going to take different measures for white clothes then you will for colored clothes. And always follow your clothing labels.

Disinfecting White Clothes

You might think that you can throw your clothes in the wash and germs are gone right? It might seem like all that agitating would kill them but that's just not true. You have to make sure that you wash your clothing in the right temperature and using the right materials. For white clothing, this means that you'll:

  1. Wash your clothing in hot water that is 140 degrees.
  2. Use laundry detergent and bleach.
  3. Place clothes in the dryer for at least 45 minutes.

How to Disinfect Colored Clothes

Hot water is best for disinfecting clothes. But when it comes to some clothing, you'll need to use cold water to wash delicate and bright, rich colors. Therefore, you have to think of alternative ways to kill germs that are living on your clothes. And bleach is not an option for colored clothing. When it comes to washing colored clothes, you'll:

  1. Use the warmest water allowed on your labels.
  2. Use laundry detergent with bleach alternative.
  3. Dry for at least 45 minutes.
Colorful Laundry In Water

Delicate and Speciality Fabrics

Certain materials can't be washed in the washer like wool, silk or dry clean only clothing. In this instance, you might try spot cleaning the fabric with a 2:1 mixture of water and isopropyl alcohol. Spray the mixture on a white cloth and gently brush down the clothing. However, for rich colored fabrics, you'll want to test this on a discrete area first. Fabrics like wool and silks should be hand washed and line dried in the sun to help remove germs. Specific items might also be steamed to remove viruses and bacteria.

How to Disinfect Laundry Without Bleach

When it comes to how to disinfect your laundry in cold water, bleach is a go-to. However, bleach can be a pretty harsh chemical. Those looking for a bleach alternative can find several out there.

Using Vinegar to Disinfect Laundry

Vinegar has acetic acid, which can kill viruses and bacteria. For a bit of added disinfectant and deodorizer in your clothes, you can add ½ cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Not only will this help to kill those pesky germs, but it also works as a fabric softener. This can work for whites and colored clothes.

Peroxide to Disinfect Laundry

You might only think of peroxide when you have a cut, but it works great for your laundry to kill germs.

  • Add a cup of peroxide to white clothes after the washer has filled and before the cycle starts.
  • For light or pastel-colored clothing, add 1 cup of peroxide to the bleach dispenser after the washer has filled to disinfect colored clothing.

Given the bleaching properties of peroxide, it's important to test the clothes before adding peroxide to your colored load. Additionally, never pour peroxide directly onto your colored clothing.

Borax to Disinfect Laundry

Does borax disinfect laundry? Yes, it does. To use borax to disinfect, you'll want to fill the washer with laundry and hot water. You'll then add ½ cup of borax to the washing cycle. You can also use a homemade detergent with borax. When it comes to the cleaning power of borax, it works best with hot water so make sure your clothing can be washed on hot.

Pine Oil Disinfectant

In a pinch, you can also use pine oil, like Pine-Sol, to disinfect laundry. This should not be used on specialty fabrics. To use pine oil in the laundry, you'll add one cup to the washer after it has filled. Make sure that it is 80% pine oil or it will be ineffective. Remember, a subtle smell will remain. It should also not be used for those that have sensitive skin or allergies.

How Do You Disinfect a Washing Machine?

It seems impossible, but your washing machine gets bacteria and germs in it too. So, it is important to clean your washing machine every once in a while to ensure that all those bacteria and viruses are blasted. To clean your washer:

  1. Add 2 cups of peroxide.
  2. Run it through a cycle using the hottest water.
  3. Add 1½ cups of baking soda.
  4. Run it through another cycle.
  5. Fill a spray bottle with straight vinegar.
  6. Spray the lid and wipe down the rubber areas.
  7. Wipe it out.

Disinfecting Your Laundry

When it comes to cold and flu season, it is important to disinfect your laundry to prevent the spread of diseases. It's also helpful in keeping those bacteria like staph and salmonella in check. Now that you know how to clean your laundry, it's time to hit the laundry room.

How to Disinfect Laundry in Simple and Effective Ways