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How to Disinfect Laundry


How to Disinfect Laundry

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In a report from Cornell University's Cooperative Extension Yates Association, comes research and information about how to kill bacterial and viral infections in your home laundry.

Research shows that it is rare to become infected from handling biologically infected garments. However, until this clothing is washed or dry cleaned, we encourage you to wear disposable rubber gloves and discard the gloves after use. Laundering is the preferred method of cleaning because of the many flushes used in the laundering process.

Disinfecting your home laundry can be done inexpensively, easily and without damage to the fabric. Microbiologists at U.S.D.A.’s Textile and Clothing laboratory have identified 4 categories of products which are effective, safe for fabrics and are available in local stores. Use the amount of disinfectant listed on the product's label.

  • Pine oil disinfectants, which are effective in hot and warm water. Some brands include Pine Sol, Real Pine, Spic-n-Span Pine and Lysol Pine Action. They should be added at the beginning of the wash cycle. To be effective, the product must contain 80 percent pine oil.
  • Phenolic disinfectants are also effective in hot and warm water. Lysol brand disinfectant is available in most areas. Phenolic disinfectants may be added to the wash or rinse water, if the rinse water is warm.
  • Liquid chlorine disinfectants may be used in hot, warm or cold water temperatures. Chlorine bleach should always be diluted with water before adding it to the washer, and should never be poured directly on clothing. It also is not suitable for use on wool, silk, spandex or certain dyed and finished fabrics. Be sure to read the care labels on all items to be washed. Examples of liquid chlorine bleaches include Clorox and all supermarket house brands.
  • The last category, quartenary disinfectants, is extremely effective in all water temperatures, but is less available than the other products. The Amway company manufactures Pursue, which is specifically formulated for laundry. Label directions should be followed. Many household cleaners contain the effective disinfecting ingredients, but are not recommended for laundry purposes.

Chicken Pox, Measles, Mumps, Hepatitis A and B, Herpes, AIDS, Legionaire’s Disease and Meningitis are all bacterial or viral infections. They can be transmitted from person to person contact or contact with body fluids. However, transmission of any of these diseases from inanimate objects such as clothing, is believed to be extremely rare, if not impossible.

Normal laundry procedures using a hot water, a normal bleach concentration and followed by machine drying kills any virus in question, even the AIDS virus. Again, it is unlikely that the virus is still thriving in the garment in the first place.

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac are a different story and clothing can be contaminated with the plant sap. Many times individuals re-expose themselves by wearing contaminated clothing again without laundering or dry cleaning. This is mostly true of outer-wear, such as jackets, hats and gloves that normally do not need cleaning after each use. If you or a family member has been exposed to one of these plant poisons, then launder or dry clean outer-wear.

Specific questions? Just ask here.

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