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How to kill germs in the laundry: Your laundry disinfectant questions answered

Does the washing machine kill germs on your clothes? We can’t see the germs on our clothing, so it’s vital to know how to kill germs in laundry routines effectively. From clever products that boost sanitation to the basic principles of sanitising clothes in the wash, get the know-how you need here.

How do germs get on clothes?

Washing your hands regularly is likely to be significantly more important than clothes washing at preventing most infections. However, germs can get on clothes and so it is important to keep them hygienically clean to prevent germs from spreading. Underwear, for example, may contain germs from traces of faeces (poo).

You can also pick up germs on your outer clothes, for example if you nurse someone with an illness or clean up vomit, or if are in a crowded environment with someone with an illness and you come into contact with their coughs, sneezes and bodily fluids. Germs can also get onto outer clothing if you handle contaminated food or brush against a soiled object. Most germs can survive on fabrics for some time. For more FAQs on cleaning clothes and disinfecting them, check out this article.

Can clothes and towels spread germs?

Yes, clothes and towels can spread germs. There are 3 main ways that germs are spread by clothes and towels:

(a) when towels or bedlinen are used by more than 1 person germs can spread between them

(b) when someone handles dirty laundry, they can spread germs onto their hands

(c) when clothes are washed, germs can spread between items in the process of being washed

What is laundry sanitiser?

Did you know, when you wash at temperatures below 60° with regular liquid detergent, bacteria and viruses can still survive on your clothes? Detergents alone don’t kill all viruses and bacteria and washing clothes at 60° can fade colours and damage fabrics. This is where a good laundry disinfectant or sanitiser such as Persil sanitiser is a real advantage. Not only does it kill 99.9% viruses* and bacteria, it works even at 20°C or a quick wash, so is effective without damaging your coloured clothes or fabrics.

Persil Antibacterial Laundry Sanitiser works in one easy step; simply add it to your fabric conditioner drawer and then use your regular laundry detergent to leave your clothes, towels and bedding hygienically clean every time.

Find out more about Persil Antibacterial Laundry Sanitiser, here.

How to kill germs in the laundry

Heat, detergent and good laundry hygiene habits all play a role in killing germs when you’re washing clothes, sheets and other linens.

  • If you are washing with detergent alone, wash at a higher temperature. For items that might need an extra hygienic clean, such as bedding, towels, or underwear, high temperatures such as 40-60°C are usually recommended to reduce the risk of germs that are lingering on the fabric.

However, remember that detergents alone don’t kill all viruses and bacteria and washing at high temperatures can damage fibres and colours in your clothes.  Including Persil Antibacterial Laundry Sanitiser means you can be assured that you are killing 99.9% viruses* and bacteria at temperatures as low as 20°C.

  • Use a good detergent. Washing with an effective detergent like Persil Bio is also important to make sure your clothes are properly clean.
  • Include Persil Antibacterial Laundry Sanitiser in the wash alongside your laundry detergent. If you want to ensure you effectively kill germs in laundry, Persil’s clothes sanitiser is a must-have. Our Persil Sanitiser has been specially developed to kill 99.9% viruses* and bacteria.  It can do this without the need for a hot washing cycle.
  • Separate your laundry. Bathroom towels will have different germs to kitchen towels, and soiled bedding or the clothes of someone who has been ill needs a different level of sanitation to everyday clothing. Avoid cross-contamination on your items and make sure they all get the washing treatment they need by using separate laundry baskets and separate washing loads.

Check out more tips for clothes disinfection at crucial moments, with our guide to washing clothes and linen after illness.

What actually kills germs?

So, how does heat kill germs on clothes, and does a dryer kill germs as well as a washing cycle does? We’ve answered some common questions below about how you should dry your clothes to reduce the risk of germs spreading:

  1. Does a cold wash kill germs in the laundry? When you wash at temperatures below 60 degrees with regular liquid detergent, bacteria and viruses can survive on your clothes. However, with Persil antibacterial laundry sanitiser a washing temperature as low as 20°C kills 99.9% viruses* and bacteria. 
  2. Does a Persil Liquid detergent kill germs? Detergents alone don’t kill all viruses and bacteria. Our Persil liquid washing detergents are designed to clean and freshen and not to kill germs. This is why we recommend adding a Persil sanitiser to your wash for hygienically clean laundry; our Persil Sanitiser must be placed in the fabric conditioner drawer has been specially developed to kill 99.9% viruses* and bacteria. It can do this without the need for a hot washing cycle as it works in a quick and a cold wash. 
  3. Does a dryer kill germs? Not drying your clothes properly can allow bacteria to grow and cause garments to smell. When your wash cycle is finished, remove your garments from the machine as soon as possible and dry thoroughly.  You can do this using a tumble dryer or by hanging them out to dry. Get them out and dried as soon as you can.

For the answers to more frequently asked questions about disinfecting laundry, check out our full guide.

To sanitise your clothes as thoroughly as possible, these methods work best when combined. Together, a good laundry detergent and clothes sanitiser, as well as good laundry hygiene habits will eliminate the most germs in the wash.

*Laboratory tested on Influenza H1N1, Vacciniavirus, murine coronavirus (EN14476, 10mins)

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