Clothing, linens, towels, cleaning rags, reusable diapers – laundry has a way of piling up. The often-dreaded chore is one of the ways we help maintain a clean and healthy household, but with the current COVID-19 pandemic and cold and flu season right around the corner, is a standard wash enough?
The soiled laundry in our hampers can be contaminated with all sorts of germs, from bodily fluids to food debris, all of which can be a source of pathogenic bacteria, fungi and viruses. Environmental microbiologists and public health researchers at the University of Arizona recently held a workshop with a panel of laundry cleaning and sanitization experts to review the current knowledge and science surrounding laundry best practices.
“We really wanted to approach it analytically, using a quantitative microbial risk management approach,” said Charles Gerba, an environmental microbiologist from the UArizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “What’s the process and what’s really important? There really hasn’t been a lot of scientific guidelines or best practices put together for how to safely tackle household laundry.”
“Most studies on how laundry practices kill germs are based on European wash conditions where higher water temperatures and longer wash cycles are common. Hot water washes, however, use a lot of energy and can damage many of today’s fabrics,” said Kelly Reynolds, professor and chair of the Community, Environment and Policy Department at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. “We were