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How to Disinfect Laundry Without Using Bleach

There could be many items in your dirty laundry that are not only harbouring bacteria, but spreading germs to other articles of fabric too. This may not seem like such a big deal to some people because they believe that the bacteria will vanish in the wash, however, the truth is that doing a regular load of laundry with your average laundry detergent isn’t enough to disinfect fabrics. Unfortunately, so many people are either unaware of how to disinfect laundry, or are simply under the impression that they are getting the job done without taking actual steps to effectively do so. 

From gym clothes and dirty socks to cushion covers and pillowcases; germs present on dirty laundry is often taken lightly when, in fact, they can be spreading viruses in your home. Particularly if someone in your household is sick with a contagious illness, learning how to disinfect your laundry safely is critically important. There are a few ways to do this effectively and, perhaps to your surprise, none of them involve using bleach which is often a go-to product when it comes to killing bacteria. For the experts at Maid For You, we advise steering clear of this chemical cleaner and opting for some safer alternatives instead. 

Why You Should Avoid Bleach

Some fabrics and dyes can handle a small amount of bleach while others are susceptible to fading and/or damage. Moreover, the amount of recommended bleach per load may be higher than usual when using the product to disinfect your laundry; this means it could potentially damage fabrics that can generally withstand the product.

Above this, bleach causes skin and eye irritation which is why it is advisable to use gloves and protective eyewear when handling the product. Additionally, the product should always be used in a well-ventilated room for safety reasons. 

While bleach or bleach-based laundry detergents are effective in killing bacteria and viruses present on clothes and linens, it is not the safest option, nor is it eco-friendly. Luckily, there are simple ways to effectively disinfect your laundry without bleach.

Bleach Alternatives to Disinfect Your Laundry

Whether you are trying to eliminate contagious germs from your clothes and linens, or kill bacteria that is contributing to the bad odour coming from your dirty laundry, these natural laundry disinfectants are excellent alternatives to those harmful bleaching agents. Read on to learn the right ways to use each of these products so that they are 100% effective in disinfecting your laundry.

White Vinegar

As you may already know, white vinegar is widely used for cleaning purposes which include neutralising odours and disinfecting surfaces. On the other hand, what many people aren’t aware of is that this household ingredient also has multiple benefits when used in a load of laundry. From killing bacteria and serving as a natural deodoriser to softening and brightening up fabrics; vinegar is the perfect alternative to bleach when it comes to disinfecting laundry. All you need to do is carry on with your regular laundry method until you get to the rinse cycle; at this point, add in a cup of white vinegar and proceed with the rinse. It helps to run two rinse cycles to ensure that there is no persistent vinegar odour.

NOTE: 1 cup of white vinegar is recommended for a full load of laundry. Use half a cup for a smaller load. 

Pine Oil

If you’ve heard about pine oil’s cleaning and disinfecting properties, you probably assumed that it was limited to surface cleaning in the household. Well, it isn’t! This natural ingredient does a very good job at disinfecting laundry when used in its true form; i.e. 80% pine oil and not a lower concentration or merely pine-scented products. For best results, load your washing machine with dirty laundry, allow it to fill up completely, and then add in 1 cup of pine oil. Run the cycle and set it for two back-to-back rinses to get rid of any lingering pine oil smell or residue. 

WARNING: Pine oil is not recommended for disinfecting wool and silk fabrics.

Hydrogen Peroxide

It is not uncommon for people to use hydrogen peroxide to wash their laundry as it is an eco-friendly product with multiple benefits which include brightening/whitening fabrics and killing bacteria. It should be noted, however, that excess usage of the product can fade some types of  fabrics; therefore, 3% hydrogen peroxide is typically advised for disinfecting laundry. Similar to pine oil, 1 cup of the product should be added to a full load of laundry after the tub has filled up with water. Thereafter, start the cycle and allow it to finish. There is no need for a second rinse unless you feel like there is some residue of the hydrogen peroxide left on your clothes. 

Hot Water Wash

This is by far the simplest way to successfully kill viruses and bacteria hiding in clothes and linens. The downside, however, is that the extra hot water temperature required for effective disinfection is not suitable for all types of fabrics. In fact, it can also cause shrinkage and fading in some fabrics. For these reasons, it is important to check the washing instructions mentioned on the care tags of each item before washing them in very hot water. Some washing machines come with a sanitise button or setting which generally uses a water temperature as high as 165°F. Viruses and pathogens don’t stand a chance to survive in these temperatures, making hot water one of the best methods to disinfect laundry. You can use a regular laundry detergent or one of the products mentioned earlier when sanitising your laundry in hot water.

It’s important to understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting when it comes to dirty laundry that likely contains contagious germs and bacteria that cause foul odours. With the information above in your back pocket, you can now take those simple extra measures to ensure that your laundry is being thoroughly cleaned AND disinfected with every wash!

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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