How to Disinfect Clothes in the Washing Machine

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While a typical wash cycle and detergent will get your clothes clean, disinfecting clothes from germs involves some different steps to be effective. Learn how to disinfect clothes in the washing machine to kill viruses and fungus with the instructions below.

By correctly using both natural and commercial products and the right water temperatures you can ensure that your clothing is truly sanitized.

Best Ways to Disinfect Clothes in the Washing Machine

There are several methods and products that effectively disinfect clothes in the washing machine. The team at Tiger Mechanical created a simple step-by-step guide to disinfect clothes in washer so you have an arsenal of germ-fighting techniques. Meanwhile, knowing how to clean an HE washer can also help ensure that your washer stays germ-free.

How to Disinfect Clothes from Viruses

Using a hot water setting and longer drying times helps kill many germs. However, using bleach with these methods remains one of the most effective ways to disinfect from viruses. Though many avoid bleach out of fear they’ll damage clothes, all-fabric bleach is safe for colored clothing. Meanwhile, whites can be safely washed with traditional chlorine bleach. Here’s how to effectively disinfect clothes in the washing machine with bleach:

  1. Check your clothing labels to determine how hot the water temperature can be. Water should be over 80°F to kill viruses. While white clothing can withstand temperatures as hot as 140-194°F, colors generally require cooler temperatures between 80-104°F.
  2. Add the correct amount of detergent to the dispenser drawer. If your washer doesn’t have a dispenser, add detergent directly to the washer drum.
  3. Refer to the instructions on your bleach container for the correct amounts for your size wash load.
  4. Pour bleach into your washer’s bleach dispenser. If your washer doesn’t have a bleach dispenser, add bleach to the washer drum only after the water has started running.
  5. Add the laundry and complete the wash cycle.
  6. Dry items in accordance with their drying instructions. Items that can go in the dryer should complete a full dryer cycle.
disinfect laundry without bleach
Photo Credit: Purex

How to Disinfect Clothes from Fungus

Fungus is made up of millions of tiny spores that can survive in a washer without the proper techniques and water temperatures. Here’s how to successfully disinfect clothes from fungus in the washer:

  1. Keep items infected with fungus separate from other laundry items until washing
  2. Wash infected clothing with hot water (140°F) and your regular detergent, running a complete wash cycle
  3. Adding bleach to the washer can also help destroy fungus spores. Be sure to use all-fabric bleach for colored items
  4. For wool socks, use a warm water setting with a pine oil disinfectant or Lysol brand disinfectant added directly to the wash water
  5. Use the highest dryer temperature settings to further ensure that fungus spores are killed
disinfect clothes in the washing machine
Photo Credit: The Spruce

Laundry Detergent that Kills Germs

While there isn’t a single laundry detergent that kills bacteria, any detergent that contains a bleach compound can destroy many viruses. These detergents typically use an all-fabric bleach compound so they’re also safe for colored fabrics.

Natural Laundry Disinfectant

If you prefer to disinfect laundry without bleach you can still sanitize items with Borax. Does Borax disinfect laundry effectively? Yes, when combined with hydrogen peroxide and the following techniques:

  1. Mix a solution of 1 cup hydrogen peroxide and 4 cups Borax with your regular detergent amount
  2. Add the mixture to your detergent dispenser or directly to the washer tub once water is running.
natural laundry disinfectant
Photo Credit: Borax


Additionally, tea tree and lavender oil are each a natural laundry disinfectant that may have antibacterial qualities. To disinfect clothes in the washing machine, drop 2-3 drops of tea tree oil or 1-2 drops of lavender oil into your regular detergent. Then complete a regular wash and dry cycle. Since both of these oils have a distinct fragrance, they’re best combined with unscented detergent.


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