Harmful bacteria may be lurking on freshly washed clothes
Published Sunday, October 13, 2013 12:32PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 13, 2013 1:48PM EDT
Washing clothes at a low temperature may be eco-friendly and energy efficient, but U.K.-based hygiene expert Lisa Ackerley says items that aren't cleaned in hot water may be teeming with harmful bacteria.
"What I think what's been going on is that we've been turning the dial down on the washing machine, so it's quite possible that we could be using 30 degrees, even 40 degrees (Celsius) for washing," said Ackerley, who appeared on Canada AM. "And the problem is bacteria actually thrive at those temperatures."
While germs on clothes may get diluted in the wash, with chemicals helping to release them from the garments, Ackerley said harmful bacteria may just be swishing around in the machine and possibly making their way onto other articles.
"One of the reasons this was alerted to us was that food workers laundered their uniform at home, and if they put that in with the underwear, then they're going to get a mixture of bacteria actually going onto clothing which is then being used in a food room," Ackerley said.
In order to prevent cross-contamination, Ackerley said it's important to separate laundry according to how dirty it is, rather than sorting it based on colour.
Items like bedding, towels and dish towels need to be washed at high temperatures, and should be separated from other articles of clothing like underwear, Ackerley said. "You wouldn't want to dry up your surfaces in the kitchen with your underwear, so why would you want to actually mix the bacteria from underwear to tea towels in the wash?"
Ackerley also recommends turning up the washing machine temperature at least once a month.
"If every month at least, for example, you put your bedding in at 90 degrees if it can withstand those temperatures, then you're really doing your washing machine a favour -- you're getting rid of the residual bacteria that might be there," Ackerley said.
As for that occasional lingering odour coming from the washing machine?
"Often, that's because there's a buildup of bacteria in the drawer of the washing machine and a good hot temperature every month will just get rid of that," Ackerley said.
"You can also take the drawer out and give that a good clean because sometimes you'll find that that builds up a sort of slimy, smelly residue and you need to get rid of that right, otherwise it's just going to get onto your clothes," she added.