Can’t Use Bleach? Here’s How to Sanitize Your Laundry

woman, frowning, feeling her laundry not sanitized
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If you pour white towels and want to disinfect them, it's easy to add a little bleach. But for colored fabrics, synthetics and other bleach-free items, here's what you can do.

While there are many ways to deodorize and even sanitize laundry, we focus exclusively on methods that could be used before by a health inspector. This means that no oxygen bleach, no bleach safe for colors, no vinegar, no essential oil or any other product. Although items such as vinegar will kill some organisms, none of the above mentioned items, added to your laundry, can be considered a sanitizer or disinfectant.

The following practices are excessive for general washing (old water and detergents do a lot of work to clean everything on your clothes), but they are great for getting great odors in sportswear and guarantee infections such as other diseases are purged from your clothes.

Use the disinfection cycle

If your washing machine has a disinfection cycle, you can take advantage of it to reduce bacteria, fungi and other pathogens on your clothes.

The cycle increases the heat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit with the help of an integrated heating element. (Some washers also have a steam component that also helps to hurt microorganisms.)

If you are on the market for a new washer and this is a function you will use frequently, check the product literature for the washers you are looking at. New machines can have NSF certification that establishes the sanitation cycle of the washing machine kills 99.9% of the microorganisms present in the wash. (Older machines with sanitation cycles can do the same depending on the temperature they reach, but the company simply did not ask for certification.)

The only disadvantage of the sanitation cycle is that 165 degrees Fahrenheit is pretty hot with regard to linen, and its use will cause premature wear of your clothes.

Use a disinfectant for laundry

Most people are familiar with common laundry additives such as fabric softeners, but there is a new class of products on the market that you use as well as fabric softeners and sanitizers.

The most easily available option (it is not necessary to go shopping at a supplier) is Lysol laundry disinfectant. The active ingredients of the product are a handful of ammonium chlorides that banish the bacteria present in your laundry. Used as indicated – added to the rinse charge as a fabric softener and soaked for at least 16 minutes – it has the same 99.9% effectiveness of destroying bacteria as traditional Lysol disinfectants. The best part is that you do not need to use hot water for this to work. The ammonium chloride formulation is just as effective in cold water.

A killer of bacteria without bleach

Parents who struggle with very smelly sportswear, such as football and hockey gear, swear by things. You can get it in a variety of fragrances (and even an unscented version for sensitive skin). In our experience, odorous substances are so sweet that they are barely perceptible after the long rinse cycle required.

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