Careful! Machine washed clothes don't necessarily get disinfected!

24/06/2020

It is estimated that in each average load of dirty laundry, about thirty grams of feces may be present. This fecal matter may contain bacteria, parasites, and enteric viruses, which are the cause of diarrheal infections.

Beware! Washed clothes in the laundry machine don't necessarily get disinfected!
Beware! Washed clothes in the laundry machine don't necessarily get disinfected!

The accelerated pace at which we live sometimes prevents us from fully carrying out important household tasks, such as washing clothes.

It is well known that washing clothes is no fun at all; on the contrary, it can be heavy and exhausting because of the waiting time for each cycle; that is why we try, as far as possible, to avoid it.

The strategies that people use the most are to wear the same clothes several times, especially jeans, shirts and even, believe it or not, underwear. Also, in order to reduce the washing time, it is decided to mix the clothes of the people who live in the house.

However, these two practices can be risky, since the continuous use (without washing) of the clothes can generate that the microorganisms present there to reproduce and, when mixing the underwear and other uses, they can be transferred to clean clothes.

It is estimated that in each average load of dirty clothes, about thirty grams of feces may be present, which may contain bacteria (Salmonella and E. coli), parasites (Giardia and Amebas) and enteric viruses (Rotavirus and Hepatitis A), which are the cause of diarrheal infections.

These feces can be caused by the average wear and tear over the course of a day's use of underwear or also, for example, by soil that is collected during a football game.

Even work clothes (gowns of medical staff, laboratory staff, veterinarians, food preparation companies, and sewage treatment plants, among others) taken home to be washed can carry pathogens.

In a study conducted by a research group at the University of Arizona, it was shown that in clothes inoculated with Adenovirus, Rotavirus, and Hepatitis A, these microorganisms survived the washing process (washing, rinsing, and drying) and were transferred to the clean clothes that were mixed with it.

The study also showed that the use of chlorine significantly reduces the microbial load (99% reduction). In the case of clothes that cannot be in contact with chlorine, other disinfectant options should be sought.

In conclusion, it is advisable to avoid the practice of continuous use of clothes (especially underwear), to avoid mixing different types of clothes in the washing cycles and to use disinfectant agents properly to minimize the risk of the presence of microorganisms in the washing machine.

By Cristóbal Chaidez Quiroz, researcher at the Ciad.