Laundry is the perennial chore that presents more challenges than probably any other household task. You might wonder if laundry sanitizer is worth the money since most leading brands promise to kill 99.9% of the germs found on soiled clothing. The short answer is no.
Hot water and a good detergent will eliminate most of the bacteria found in the laundry. One cup of white vinegar added to the rinse water will boost your detergent’s sanitizing properties and will leave clothes nice and soft.
Laundry sanitizer, by design, kills germs and bacteria in the washing machine. Consisting primarily of alcohol and salt, it should be poured into the washer’s fabric softener dispenser. Do not use added softener or any other laundry products besides detergent when using a sanitizer.
You might think your laundry needs sanitizer, but with an average cost of about $8 per bottle, it is rather expensive. White vinegar is a fraction of that and works just as well. In addition, with 5-10% acetic acid, vinegar rids even the worst loads of odor-causing bacteria and the germs associated with viruses and illnesses.
When is Laundry Sanitizer Used?
Sanitizer, also known as a disinfectant, is used when laundry comes in contact with germs and bacteria. For example, when someone in the family has a stomach bug, common cold, or another communicable ailment. It is vital for elderly and very young family members or anyone who is immuno-compromised or has a weakened immune system for other reasons.
Some professional occupations expose workers to pathogens and bacteria daily. Hospital workers, of course, but also nursing home employees, veterinarians, daycare workers, and even plumbers and housekeepers can come home with nasty, germy work clothes. Always wash your hands after handling soiled laundry and after transferring wet clothes to the dryer.
If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol will protect you from spreading the germs or getting sick yourself. It may be necessary to wipe the inside of the washing machine with a disinfecting wipe after washing bedding when someone in the family has been ill with a virus.
Pathogens that cause illness are the main target of laundry disinfectants and are the number one reason people use laundry sanitizers. Pathogens are microorganisms such as bacteria, germs, and viruses that spread illnesses and cause diseases.
There are five main types of pathogens:
1 Fungi can cause athlete’s foot, ringworm, fungal nail infections, and yeast infections.
2 Parasites are the origin of maladies like intestinal worms and body lice.
3 Bacteria is the source of Strep throat, urinary tract infections, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea.
4 Viruses spread ailments like colds, flu, meningitis, chickenpox, shingles, hepatitis, and measles.
5 Protozoa are microscopic organisms that cause African Sleeping sickness, dysentery, and malaria.
How to Use Laundry Sanitizer
Chlorine bleach has long been trusted to disinfect laundry and other hard surfaces, but its use is limited to whites and colorfast fabric. Laundry sanitizer can be used on whites and colors and in any temperature water from very hot to cold.
To one capful of detergent, add two capfuls of sanitizer to the fabric softener compartment of your washing machine or pour it right into the rinse water.
Avoid putting it directly on clothing. (If you are using a coin-operated laundry facility, add the sanitizer to the bleach dispenser.) Do not use bleach or added fabric softener with laundry sanitizer.
Disinfectants work in all temperatures, but hot is preferred if the clothing will tolerate it. Bath towels, bedding, sheets, and pillowcases can usually be washed in the hottest water your washer provides, about 165 degrees.
Don’t mix laundry sanitizer with any other product. Instead, according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, use the usual amount of detergent, and add sanitizer, usually in the fabric softener compartment or the bleach dispenser of coin-operated washers.
Dry your laundry on the hottest setting on your dryer that won’t adversely affect your clothing. (You wouldn’t want to shrink everything to achieve a germ-free load.)
Hotels and other commercial facilities rely on chlorine bleach for sterilizing linens and towels. You will find the majority of hospitals and hotels provide white blankets and bedding for just that reason; they can tolerate bleach and high dryer temperatures.
What to Use Instead of Laundry Sanitizer
Several products work as well as sanitizers to clean and disinfect even the grungiest loads. As a rule of thumb, wash your clothes in hot water, then dry them for 45 minutes. Next, add chlorine bleach for white loads and color-safe bleach or peroxide for colors.
The addition of bleach will eliminate germs, viruses, and bacteria. Finally, when you need a little more oomph, try these household products:
- Add one cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Be sure to use white vinegar, not cider or red wine vinegar, since these types may stain. Wash as usual in the hottest water possible. Avoid mixing bleach and vinegar.
- One cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide kills germs when added to the wash cycle. Check for colorfastness since some clothing may fade with the use of peroxide.
- If preferred, you can use Borax for sanitizing laundry; just add 1/2 cup to your regular detergent and wash as directed.
- Oxygen bleach can be used for colored clothes but doesn’t work as well as chlorine bleach.
- Pine-sol™ or pine oil can be used to kill germs in your laundry. Add ½ cup to the empty washer or poured in with your detergent sanitizes and removes odors. However, use caution if you are a pet owner because pine oil can be toxic to cats.
How to Make Your Own Natural Laundry Sanitizer
Consider for a moment that there are more viruses on earth than there are stars in the sky, and you will quickly understand the importance of disinfecting and sanitizing your laundry. Whether you use brand-name products or make your own, there are times when laundry needs proper decontamination.
Such as when someone in your household suffers from enteric infections, such as stomach ailments, vomiting, and diarrhea, or when family members have weakened immune systems, or in the case of work clothes that contain pathogens of human, animal, or agricultural origins.
Health experts recommend that you wear rubber gloves when handling clothing or bedding that is contaminated. Don’t shake the soiled laundry and try to sort on a hard floor, not carpeting.
Wash your hands after handling used bedding and other clothing that has come in contact with the ill person or work clothes such as hospital scrubs and lab coats. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after putting wet laundry in the dryer.
Here are some natural, environmentally friendly alternatives to commercial laundry sanitizers.
- White vinegar contains up to 10% Acetic Acid and 90% water. It is an effective deodorizer, degreaser, and disinfectant. Adding ½ cup to your wash, along with 1 cup of baking soda, removes most of the bacteria in the laundry and leaves your clothing soft and sweet-smelling.
- Ammonia is very effective in killing germs that can cause illnesses but is relatively strong. Use just ¼ cup added to wash water to boost disinfecting properties of your detergent.
- Pour ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide into the wash water, avoiding direct contact with the fabric.
- Borax, just ½ cup, added to the wash cycle, plus the hottest water you can use will take care of most odor-causing germs and bacteria.
- Detergent and hot water kill most bacteria but keep in mind that the dryer is the machine that kills most microorganisms that cause illness. Forty-five minutes in a hot dryer will kill anything that escaped your sanitizing efforts in the washer; if you have a clothesline, good for you! Hanging your laundry on a clothesline to dry is one of the best ways to whiten, brighten and sanitize your clothes. The bonus is the wonderful, clean smell. Environmentally conscious, it is a great way to save on your electric bill as well.
Sanitize your Washing Machine
After you have washed that last icky load of laundry, you might feel the need to decontaminate your washer, and that is an excellent idea and could not be simpler.
- First, pour two cups of hydrogen peroxide into the washer and run one complete cycle with the hottest water available.
- Next, measure in 1-½ cups of baking soda, and run another complete machine cycle with hot water.
- Finally, fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spray washer lid, top, and rubber areas. Wipe with a clean cloth.