They may small like “fresh rain” or a “morning breeze,” but they are clean and sanitary?
Laundry is a necessary evil, one of those chores that has to be done, yet no one particularly enjoys. As college students, we just let the laundry pile up until the next trip home when Mom will graciously launder our uniform of jeans and T-shirts.
But do we ever think about whether our clothes are truly clean? They may small like “fresh rain” or a “morning breeze,” but they are clean and sanitary?When we enter the working world, we get a little better at our laundry and only wait until the weekends to do it all. And then when we get married and have children, the washing machine seems to hum day and night.
There are five basic factors needed to produce clean laundry:
1. Time – Laundry detergent powders need time to dissolve and do their work in the laundry cycle.
2. Temperature – Unless specifically designed for cold water washing, laundry detergents usually require water temperatures above 140 degrees F. Removal of soils may be reduced at lower temperatures.
3. Mechanical Action – Water levels need to be adequate for the mechanical action of the washer to provide proper dispersal of the laundry detergent and provide proper rinsing. Flow is needed for ample rinsing and flushing, which is vital for removal of free-floating, water-soluble soils.
4. Laundry Procedures – Loading the proper amount of clothes in the washer and the amount of time elapsed between washing the clothes and drying them are important laundering procedures to take into consideration. (Translation: don’t stuff the washing machine with every clothing item you own and then let it sit for two days before tossing it all in the dryer.)
5. Laundry Detergents and Chemicals – Unless stated otherwise on the label, most powders require warm to hot water to dissolve properly. They will dissolve in cold water but not necessarily quickly enough to be effective. Liquid detergents do become active in a very short time regardless of water temperature. Read the label.
Dr. Charles Gerba, who authored a study on the cleanliness of laundry and washing machines themselves, believes laundry is actually becoming less clean. His reasons:
- Wash cycles and drying cycles have decreased (they now average 20 minutes and 28 minutes respectively).
- Fewer Americans wash clothes in hot water to save money and electricity, and even fewer use bleach because of the many types of fabrics being laundered in home washers today.
- Mechanical action and proper rinsing away of soil and microbes can be lost when machines are overloaded. Overloading also inhibits flow of water through fabrics for dispersal of detergent and rinsing. Even if not overloaded, however, the microbes from one wash load stay in the washer and can be transferred to the next load.
- Many people are unaware that their home laundry procedures should include disinfecting surfaces that come in contact with dirty laundry and wet laundry, including laundry hampers and your own hands. In addition, don’t leave your wet laundry in the washer after the washing cycle for too many hours; this is prime breeding ground for bacterial growth.
- Many people also do their wash in cold water regardless of the type of laundry detergent used. You should read the directions on your laundry detergent box and wash in the appropriate temperature recommended by the manufacturer. Bleach is highly corrosive and can damage your washing machine if used too aggressively, not to mention the damage it can do to your clothes if not used in a targeted manner.
- But won’t the heat of the dryer kill any microbes contaminating the laundry? In Dr. Gerba’s study, some microbes on the wet wash were found to survive even the heat of the permanent-press drying cycle – including Salmonella, Hepatitis A, rotavirus and adenovirus – so you can’t count on the dryer to kill the bacteria and viruses.
Information adapted from an article on The Housekeeping Channel written by Castle Keepers co-owner Janice Stewart.