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   Oct 08

Is there any point washing your clothes at 40c? Laundry done at this temperature has only 14% fewer germs, tests reveal

One in four items of clothing washed at 40 degrees contain faecal bacteria

Children’s cuddly toys and baby grows contain the most faecal bacteria and toddlers’ underwear contains the most bacteria overall

To reduce bacteria, wash clothes at 60 degrees or higher or use a laundry disinfectant

Washing your clothes at 40 degrees may be better for the environment but it does not kill the majority of bacteria, new research shows.

Laundry washed at 40 degrees contains only 14 per cent fewer germs than unwashed laundry, the study found.

Microbiologists also found that one in four items of laundry that have been washed at 40 degrees contain traces of bacteria linked to faeces.

Laundry washed at 40 degrees contains only 14 per cent fewer germs than unwashed laundry, a study found

Scientists swab-tested more than 100 items of children’s clothing and bedding donated by parents.

Half of the samples had been washed at 40 degrees while the other half were unwashed and had come straight from a family laundry basket.

The researchers found that washed cuddly toys contained the most bacteria linked to faeces and that toddlers’ underwear contained the most overall bacteria.

It also revealed that baby grows and children’s t-shirts harbour a lot of bacteria while pillow cases and toddlers’ trousers tend to be less bacteria-ridden.


1. Cuddly toy 66%
2. Baby grows 50%
3. Nursery t-shirts 46%
4. PE shorts 44%
5. Baby blankets and face flannels 33%
6. School jumpers 29%
7. Cot sheets 22%
8. Bibs 17%
9. Pillowcases 11%
10. Toddlers’ trousers 3.2%

(Percentage of bacteria linked to faecal matter found on lab-tested laundry after a 40°C wash)

They also discovered that washed laundry only harboured 14 per cent less bacteria than unwashed laundry.

Public health expert Dr Lisa Ackerley said: ‘I’m not at all surprised by these results – there have been several studies published in recent years suggesting that modern laundry practices can create an ideal breeding ground for germs.

‘People have this notion that simply putting their dirty clothes into a washing machine will kill all bacteria, but that’s simply not the case.

‘Just because it looks and smells clean doesn’t mean it’s hygienic.

‘Low temperature washing may be good for clothes and the environment but it may not necessarily be good for our health.’

GP Dr Pixie McKenna added: ‘Low temperature washing encourages a “bacterial soup” inside our washing machines with micro-organisms transferring between contaminated and uncontaminated items.

‘Bacteria and viruses such as influenza and E. coli can survive when you wash below 60 degrees, increasing the potential risk of infection.’

Dr McKenna added: ‘During the winter months, preventing the spread of common bugs is key.

‘We all remember the “catch it, bin it, kill it” campaign and now need to turn our attention to preventing the spread of potentially harmful bacteria at home in our washing.

GP Dr Pixie McKenna said: ‘Low temperature washing encourages a “bacterial soup” inside our washing machines’

‘Doctors recommend washing at 60 degrees or above to kill germs.

When washing at lower temperatures, add a laundry disinfectant such as Dettol to your wash to kill bacteria.’

Previous studies by Dr Ackerley have revealed that there are about 10,000 organisms related to faecal matter on every pair of ‘clean knickers’ that have been washed at low temperatures and that there are as many as one million bacteria in just two tablespoons of washing machine water.

This research also showed that bacteria can be harboured in washing machines meaning it is transferred between washes.

This means that even if people wash items like underwear separately from their dish cloths, the dish cloths can still be contaminated with bacteria from underwear.

It is recommended that to ensure washing is actually clean, people should put their washing machine on for at least one 90 degree cycle without any clothes each month.

They should also wash bedsheets and underwear separately from face flannels and tea towels.

People are also advised not to shut their washing machine door immediately after a wash to allow it to air as this reduces the growth of bacteria inside.

Regularly cleaning the machine’s door seals and detergent drawer can also help.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2448418/Laundry-washed-40c-14-fewer-germs.html#ixzz2h6zxNBoP

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