The current health crisis that has been ravaging the world since the beginning of 2020 reminded us of the importance of proper hand and respiratory hygiene.
These protective measures are essential to contain the spread of not only this highly contagious disease in particular but of all viral and bacterial infections.
Moreover, it is also important to disinfect surfaces, objects, and dirty laundry. The latter is especially necessary when someone in your house (parent, wife, husband, or kid) is sick from a contagious bacterial or viral infection.
In these cases, having the utmost care is essential to avoid contamination of the other family members who share the same house. And even though experts consider that the risk of infection from touching these types of materials is relatively low, you should be cautious.
1. Laundry Cleaning Vs. Disinfecting
Despite what most people may think, these are very different concepts. The main goal of a regular laundry cleaning is to remove stains, dirt, grease, and sweat from the fabric.
Of course, this process will also end up removing the majority of the germs – but it does not kill them. On the other hand, adding specialized disinfecting products to the washing process will kill the germs (virus, bacteria, and fungus).
That’s why it is so important. However, effective disinfection presupposes a series of precautions throughout the entire procedure, from the moment you remove the clothes until you put them back in the wardrobe.
2. How To Disinfect Your Laundry?
First of all, you have to be careful when handling dirty laundry (clothes, towels, linens, and other fabrics) from a person who is sick. You should wear disposable gloves and throw them in the garbage bin immediately after.
It is important to note that, from the moment you put the gloves on, you must not touch any kind of surface to avoid cross-contamination. Here are other important tips:
- Put the sick’s person dirty laundry inside of a big plastic bag instead of a clothes hamper so you can carry them easily to the laundry room without contaminating the hamper. If you use a basket, you will have to disinfect it.
- Don’t shake the laundry! – Wash your hands after removing the gloves.
- Opt for white 100% cotton fabrics, if possible. They are much easier to disinfect without damaging since they resist washing at high temperatures.
- Keep the clothes away from your face.
3. Laundry Disinfectants
There are many different sanitizing products you can use. These are the four main categories: – Quaternary disinfectants: these are very powerful and effective disinfectant chemicals that are present in disinfectant sprays and wipes, for example. They are capable of killing germs regardless of water temperature.
Although some well-known brands have a few products that fit into this category, they are not very common, and you won’t find them available in many supermarkets.
- Pine oil disinfectants: you can use pine oil disinfectants on white and colored fabrics and with warm and hot water. Make sure you read the labels because, in order to disinfect your clothes properly, these disinfectants must contain 80% or more pine oil and be poured into the washing machine before the wash cycle.
- Phenolic disinfectants: like pine oil disinfectants, phenolic disinfectants can also be used on white and colored clothes and are equally effective in both warn and hot water. You can either add them to the wash or the rinse water (assuming that rinse water is at least warm, of course).
- Liquid chlorine disinfectants: people commonly use the term chlorine bleach to refer to this product. It is incredibly effective in hot, warm, or cold water.
The problem is that it can only be used on white fabrics. Once again, you will have to carefully read the product’s label because chlorine bleach is only useful if the concentration of sodium hypochlorite is between 5.25% and 6.15%.
These are all categories of products extensively tested and certified by the USDA Textile and Clothing Laboratory. No matter which one you use, you must always read and follow the instructions to make sure you are doing the right thing. That’s the only way you are going to disinfect your clothes effectively without damaging them.
4. How To Disinfect Your Washing Machine And Dryer
By using the disinfectant products mentioned above, you will be simultaneously disinfecting the clothes and the interior of the washing machine. So you won’t have to worry about that. Just make sure you disinfect the entire outside of the appliance correctly – as long as you do it right, any common household disinfectant will do the job.
If there’s a chance that contaminated laundry has been placed in a dryer, you will need to clean and disinfect it. Here’s how you should proceed: – Put on disposable gloves. – Remove any lint from the lint screen and throw it in the garbage.
- Mix ¼ cup of chlorine bleach with 1-quart water. This will be your cleaning solution – 1000+ ppm.
- Dip a cloth into the solution and wait a few seconds for it to get completely soaked. Use it to wipe the entire interior of the dryer, including the door. Be methodical, otherwise, you may miss some contaminated spots.
- Grab a clean cloth, dip it in plain water, and rinse the interior.
If you don’t have a washing machine in your house and you usually wash your clothes at a laundromat or in the communal laundry room in your building, the disinfecting process will be a lot more tricky.
But it can be done. You need to make sure that no one else is in the laundry room (you don’t want to contaminate a random person nor your neighbors), and you will have to disinfect the surfaces of the washer and the dryer.
To minimize the risk, fold clean laundry at home. As long as your careful enough and follow these tips, you won’t have any problems whatsoever.