Thread Number: 77788  /  Tag: Modern Automatic Washers
Is it really necessary to sanitize towels every wash?
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Post# 1018233   12/16/2018 at 21:53 (181 days old) by niclonnic (Bonney Lake, WA)        

I have an interesting question to ask.

Whenever I wash towels in my LG WM2650HWA front-load steam washer, I have a tendency to wash them on the Sanitary cycle. Sometimes, I wash them on the Cotton/Normal cycle, but select the Steam option. Both cycles take about 2 hours to complete, which is why I tend to wash towels toward the end of the day.

But today was a little different. My dad's girlfriend washed the towels on the normal cycle, but with hot water. My dad told me that it takes an enormous amount of energy to do a 2-hour Sanitary wash. Then, his girlfriend stated that we should wash them on Sanitary only if there is blood or poop on them. So I decided that from now on, I'll use the Sanitary cycle only if it's absolutely necessary.

Do you agree with me on this?

Post# 1018242 , Reply# 1   12/17/2018 at 01:22 (181 days old) by RP2813 (Too many people know the way)        

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I agree that the average load of towels (assuming bath towels) doesn't require the "sanitary" cycle.   You should be fine using hot water and the "normal" cycle, which will deliver savings on time, energy, and towels.

Post# 1018244 , Reply# 2   12/17/2018 at 01:48 (181 days old) by DaveAMKrayoGuy (Oak Park, MI)        

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I do whatever it takes so my hands donít smell like I need to wash them again after I just dried them...

ó Dave

Post# 1018262 , Reply# 3   12/17/2018 at 10:05 (180 days old) by appnut (TX)        

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If you still wa t hot use you whites cycle and light or normal soil.

Post# 1018269 , Reply# 4   12/17/2018 at 11:41 (180 days old) by norgeway (mocksville n c )        
Hot water

And high heat in the dryer and they should be fine.

Post# 1018272 , Reply# 5   12/17/2018 at 12:00 (180 days old) by Iheartmaytag (Wichita, Kansas)        
I vote with the majority

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Hot water, good detergent, heat from the dryer will take care of most contamination.
Now your Dad's girlfriend is accurate, if someone has a contagious condition such as TB, C-Diff or MERSA. Then by all means Sanitize, Bleach and Dry hot.

Post# 1018302 , Reply# 6   12/17/2018 at 14:39 (180 days old) by moon1234 (Wisconsin)        

I am going to disagree with the above. We sanitize all of our towels. Towels and underwear are the two types of laundry that are most likely to be contaminated with fecal matter. There have been LOTS of studies that show that unless you use bleach the only effective way to eliminate ecoli and other bacteria/parasites is a sanitize wash/rinse.

If my parent had a "girlfriend", who was not my mother, I would be sanitizing anything that touch her vagina or rear end. I wouldn't know what (or whom) she did outside of the house or how well she cleans herself (do you shower with her? Didn't think so.)

In most studies where towels and underwear are checked AFTER a wash they find a gram or two of fecal matter. Add to that yeast infections, potential STDs, etc. and I am ALWAYS sanitizing these items.

We don't have live in girlfriends/boyfriends, but we DO have 11 kids. It is hard enough to get the boys to lift the seat UP when the pea and put it back down when their done. They miss sometimes and hit the floor. Ohhh, there is a towel over there by the shower. I'll grab that and wipe it up.

You get the picture. Most sanitize cycles in an 8kg machine will use 1.5-2kw hours of electricity. For MOST of us in the USA that translates to $.20-.30. A "normal" wash at 122F or 140F will use .75-1Kwh or $.10-.15. The amount of water used is about the same. Only thing different is how hot it got.

Is a dime worth it to you to make sure your aren't passing around "issues?". It sure is to me. It might save you less than $3 per month to switch from sanitize to hot/very warm, but if you get sick even ONCE in 10 years due to this, then the doctor bill alone will more than eat up any savings in energy.

We usually use the hottest water the fabrics can routinely withstand with all loads. Not only will detergent work better, but oil/grease stains will dissolve better. The only reason NOT to do this is your machine doesn't have the capability. I would much rather sanitize my wash than pump up the heat in the dryer. If you want to save money, hang your wash outside on the line to dry. Costs nothing other than your time and you will get a nice bleaching effect from the sun.

Post# 1018308 , Reply# 7   12/17/2018 at 15:28 (180 days old) by Iheartmaytag (Wichita, Kansas)        
I will acknowledge your decent

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However, I will remain with the majority decision; than unless there is some known contagion; a sanitize wash is usually not warranted for every load.

As for STDs, other than crabs, most are not transmitted by toilet seats, towels, or underwear. That's why they are known as sexually transmitted diseases.

But, hey, I'm OCD enough that I wash all my dishes on Sanitize, because I like having the feeling that I killed the little boogers. Just not sure my towels always deserve a boil wash, but I do also love LCB. Chlorine is your friend is what I always say.

Post# 1018311 , Reply# 8   12/17/2018 at 15:47 (180 days old) by IowaBear (Cedar Rapids, IA)        

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Millions of people don't wash in anything but cold water using the cheapest detergents money can buy.  If it was a real problem we'd know about it.


You are keeping your machine nice and clean with all those sanitize washes though.

Post# 1018314 , Reply# 9   12/17/2018 at 16:17 (180 days old) by jerrod6 (Philadelphia(center city), Pennsylvania)        

If you are using the normal cycle are you sure you have hot water in the tub? The normal cycle is used to measure energy efficiency, but sometimes it gets to be efficient because cool water is being used or spins between the rinses, or only one rinse is being used.

Post# 1018318 , Reply# 10   12/17/2018 at 16:58 (180 days old) by appnut (TX)        

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Jerrod is reinforcing what I'm about to say. I suggested Whites cycle because it has a hotter hot temperature than Normal. Normal is the energy star rated cycle. Select whites with the heaviest soil level to allow more time for water heating. also, use your Allergene cycle, that may be hotter than Whites. It is on my machine. But I also use Santize temperatures when dealing with cleaning rags, kitchen towels, kitchen dish cloths, and terry cloth napkins that have food residue on them.

I even wash my dark towels in hot water.

when I use my normal cycle, I always select hot because it uses so little water it doesn't maintain the hot temp for very long.

Post# 1018327 , Reply# 11   12/17/2018 at 18:21 (180 days old) by niclonnic (Bonney Lake, WA)        
I agree with most

Like I said, I think washing on the normal cycle with hot water will be fine for most towel washes, regardless of color. I just mix whites and colors, and they never bleed.

Jerrod6, my washer doesn't have a Whites cycle, but it does have an Allergiene cycle, which I generally use only for sheets and stuff that collect dust and allergens.

One thing I observed on the Normal cycle is that the hot water temperature slowly drops over time. This is especially noticeable on the heaviest soil level.

Post# 1018331 , Reply# 12   12/17/2018 at 18:48 (180 days old) by appnut (TX)        

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The temperature drops because the heater isn't being engaged to maintain water temperature. That's common with "normal" cycles. If you want water temperature to be maintained, you'll have to use the steam option to energize the heater. On my Normal/Casual, with steam, the hottest it gets is about 120. Without steam, Whites gets to 125-127. Allergene 131-133. Sanitize 153-155. All on heaviest soil level. Does your model have a Heavy Duty cycle? If so, see if hot water temperature is maintained.

This post was last edited 12/17/2018 at 19:10
Post# 1018352 , Reply# 13   12/17/2018 at 20:13 (180 days old) by jeb (Mansfield Ohiio)        
Sani Towels

In America most of our parents never heard of a washer with a heater built in and washed in whatever temp came from the tap-we are still here, our grand parents used wringer washers with the water being used multiple times and our parents made it, our great grandparents washed in wooden tub washers and our grandparents lived to produce our parents. Our great, great grandparents scrubbed the clothes on wooden boards in water that was cool enough to put your hands in and they conceived our great grandparents. Our great, great, great grandparents beat their clothes on rocks in cold streams and our great, great grandparents still came along. Germs have been around for centuries, as a person who was an infectious disease teacher I can say the problem is not germs but our phobia about them. Our bodies are having a harder time fighting off common germs that a generation ago would not have been a problem. Our bodies are not building antibodies so that stray germ on the shopping cart that didn't get hit by the germicidal wipe now causes us to get sick because we haven't let our body build up an imunity to it.

Post# 1018354 , Reply# 14   12/17/2018 at 20:28 (180 days old) by ea56 (Sonoma Co.,CA)        
Re: Reply #13

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Jeff, great job putting things in perspective with your words of wisdom. Unless there is an infectious disease outbreak in the home, washing in normal hot water as it comes from the tap with a good detergent should be adequete to clean towels.

I have to agree with you, there is an obsession with the iradication of germs in our country. And at the same time many people are careless with their general housekeeping, If you keep the dirt you can see in check, by regular house cleaning and doing your laundry, chances are you are good to go, and have little to worry about illness due to bacterial infection. And just as you wisely pointed out, you will also develop immunities to normally present germs and bacteria.


Post# 1018356 , Reply# 15   12/17/2018 at 20:31 (180 days old) by henene4 (Germany)        
Towel sanitation

I would make it dependent on how long you use the towels, how you store them while you use them, how store them after use until the wash, how long you store them after use and how you use them while you use them.

I use my towels for a week, my shower towels for 2.
I do store them hanging and let them dry before I throw them in the basket.
They stay there for up to 3 weeks and are usually quite heavily soiled, so I do wash them at 140įF. That is in a EU machine though.

So, my point is, if you wash all your towels weekly, they always air out after use and aren't contaminated to much, just a hot wash will do.

If you use them longer and only wash towels once you collected a full load over a few weeks, sanitizing them seems like a good idea.

Post# 1018371 , Reply# 16   12/17/2018 at 22:10 (180 days old) by norgeway (mocksville n c )        
A Funny story!

Until I was 7 or 8, My Grandmother boiled all the wash cloths, hand towels and dish cloths before she washed them in hot water and bleach,,,She was OBSESSED with cleanliness She scrubbed the finish off our sink and tub with Ajax cleanser!

Post# 1018372 , Reply# 17   12/17/2018 at 22:12 (180 days old) by norgeway (mocksville n c )        
When my Mother

Was a little girl, in the 30s and 40s, Grandmother boiled the clothes in a iron pot in the yard, and until 38 when they got electricity, washed on a board!

Post# 1018375 , Reply# 18   12/17/2018 at 22:34 (180 days old) by Moon1234 (Wisconsin)        

I think a lot of people forget it was common to boil clothes before automatic washers. Many of our grandparents didnít live to the same age we do now. Diseases such as typhus, TB even influenza were death sentences. Pasteurization (again heat) ended most sickness due to milk contamination.

Thinking all our ancestors where washing clothes in a stream is strange. Both of my great grandparents boiled their wash before scrubbing. They donít have bleach. They butchered their chickens for dinner. Milked cows and hauled manure. They were not washing in cold water. They knew that caused infections and stuff just did not come clean in cold water.

Itís a lot easier now to get heat for washing. Mieleís oldest washer was designed for boil washes.

Think how many people wash their hospital scrubs in ďhotĒ 120F water at home. One of the reasons Germs move around hospitals so quickly.

Post# 1018376 , Reply# 19   12/17/2018 at 22:48 (180 days old) by Kate1 (Idaho)        

I washed diapers in a standard washer with nothing more than hot water from the tap and Tide. Only occasionally did I add a little bleach to the load. I wash my towels the same way now. I was a nurseís aide at a hospital in the early years of my marriage and did NOT bring home my scrubs to wash in my machine, those were put in with hospital laundry. I absolutely agree that the serious, highly infectious pathogens that a healthcare worker is exposed to require high level disinfection. But with laundry washed at home, for your own family, and assuming no one has one of those serious infections that needs special consideration, high level disinfection is absolutely unnecessary. Thereís also a lot of evidence showing how much harm over-sanitizing our environment has done. People are suffering from life threatening allergies and debilitating autoimmune disorders like never before and thatís important to remember.

Post# 1018381 , Reply# 20   12/17/2018 at 23:15 (180 days old) by henene4 (Germany)        
Oversanitation vs. fungal growth

What a lot of people don't realise is that towels are usually a great spot for mold or mildew to settle in.

They are damp often and for long times, if not cleaned enough there can be residues which are perfect food for the spores and they have a large surface area.
Especially cleaning cloths can suffer from that.

So some stuff does make sense to sanitize from time to time.

Bedding, pillows, comforters.
Towels if (as in my case) not washed for a long time.
Cleaning cloths (you wouldn't want to clean a surface with a bacteria infested cloth).

But as most clothing is stored dry for a "long" time relativley, at least bacteria have a hard time surviving.

And most everything else gets largely inactivated above 120įF already, though for true denaturation of basicly any DNA of be it fungi, bacteria or viruses, temperatures above 150įF are required.
High pHs of bleach lower the temperatures required, and normal laundry detergent water mixtures somewhat drops that to.
A long high temp drying cycle that ensures all the load has surpassed 150įF or 160įF better would work too.

But for day to day washing, high temperatures are not required.

I can see not disinfecting cloth diapers verry thouroughly.
They only touch a babys bottom which most likely is not a way a baby could infect themselfes.
And after changing them you usually wash hands, so the contamination there isn't given either.

Boilwashing today and in the past decades was mostly used to activate older bleaching agents.
It's still true that the higher the temperature, the more intense the bleaching action is.
But todays bleaching supplys and contents work perfectly fine in plain hot tap water, most oxygen based ones even just in warm water with enough time.

Post# 1018382 , Reply# 21   12/18/2018 at 00:20 (180 days old) by tolivac (greenville nc)        

I have washed towels,socks,underwear together for YEARS in hot water---no problems with illness.Of course I am the only one using these.And I treat "tracks" with Shout.Since our bodies have immune systems-your own "stuff" shouldn't bother you-but for multiple users-yes-the sanitizing is a good idea to be on the safe side.

Post# 1018395 , Reply# 22   12/18/2018 at 03:53 by mrboilwash (Munich,Germany)        

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I think from a medical point of view only few serious diseases could be transmitted by insufficiently washed clothes. Still I would be wary if someone in the family suffered of athlet`s foot, yeast infections or had an infected open wound that touched the towels.
I absolutely agree that frequent disinfection in a household environment usually isn`t necessary and can do more harm than good because we need to keep our immune systems busy to stay healthy.
But who says my healthy daily intake of germs had to come from sour smelling clothes and towels ? There are countless of other ways of exposure that are more fun ;-)
Besides everyone is still entitled to live their very own level of clean to feel good. I feel especially good when I enjoy the luxury of a fresh boil washed towel.

Post# 1018406 , Reply# 23   12/18/2018 at 07:14 by Kate1 (Idaho)        

Well, if youíre having issues with clothing or towels smelling bad after being washed or towels immediately smelling musty or sour the first time theyíre used, they are not coming clean and something needs to be adjusted. Either with how youíre washing them, not using strong enough detergent, water thatís not hot enough, an insufficient wash cycle, or some bleach is needed or with how theyíre being stored after theyíre used before washing, such as leaving them damp in a pile somewhere for days and days. My wash rags and mop heads do actually get a cup of bleach in the load every time I wash them, those are things being used to clean all of the dirt and grime throughout my house and I do feel that they need to be as clean as possible. I also bleach things any time someone in the house is sick.

Post# 1018411 , Reply# 24   12/18/2018 at 08:42 by DADoES (TX,†U.S. of A.)        

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I use bath towels several times, washcloths not as many repeats.† Both are hung to dry over the shower door between uses.† My bathroom has a ceiling fan so there's plenty of ventilation.

I wipe off (and wring) with a washcloth before finishing with a towel.† A family friend brought that trick to attention years ago for getting more mileage out of a bath towel.† It helps a lot when there's (male) body hair involved.

Anyway ... I wash bath linens, kitchen linens, and (white ankle) socks together.† Always in tap-hot water (I don't [yet] have a washer with onboard heating), and with chlorine bleach more often than not.

Never have run into an odor.

Post# 1018433 , Reply# 25   12/18/2018 at 14:17 by kb0nes (Burnsville, MN)        

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Odd, I'm 54 and I have NEVER sanitized a towel ever... I wash and dry them as usual using warm/hot water, decent detergent and allow a 160 deg F dryer to do the rest. I too will even tempt fate and use a towel for several days, I just can't see needlessly wasting the resources. Never had odors or illness that I'd attribute to unsanitary towels.

Post# 1018438 , Reply# 26   12/18/2018 at 15:14 by RP2813 (Too many people know the way)        

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Agreed that if bath towels are being used to dry off a clean body, they can be used more than once between laundering.   I rotate Dave's towels more frequently because, while he's still able to bathe himself, he doesn't do the best job of it while seated on a shower chair.

Post# 1018441 , Reply# 27   12/18/2018 at 15:58 by ea56 (Sonoma Co.,CA)        

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I change our towels once a week, and we hang them to dry between uses. Since Iím retired I usually only shower every other day, and do a sponge bath at the bathroom sink, with a basin full of the hottest water on the off days, and I use a hand towel to dry off with, that is only used for that one time, then washed. We do however only use a wash cloth once, and then wash them with the weekly laundry.

I wash the towels, and just about everything else in tap hot water, with an adequate amount of a good detergent. And of course everything goes into the dryer, and I use high heat for everything. The towels never smell, and neither do I. And in 67+ years Iíve never gotten ill, as far as Iím aware from this routine.

And Iíve never, ever let the laundry go more than one week at a time before washing it. If you leave already soiled linens and clothing much beyond that time its going to start growing things that will be a problem, like mildew, mold and the like.

I agree with Phil, I canít see the necessity to waste resources needlessly by only using a towel once. After all, they are being used on an already clean body. Plus, if towels are washed after each use they are going to wear out and fade a lot faster.


Post# 1018448 , Reply# 28   12/18/2018 at 17:50 by appnut (TX)        

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I use a towel & wash cloth at most twice before it has it's final dry out to be put in the hamper until a load of towels accumulates. I also do this with the rest of my laundry that is highly sorted. I cannot see doing tiny loads.

Post# 1018468 , Reply# 29   12/19/2018 at 00:13 by askolover (South of Nash Vegas, TN)        

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Well, ever since I moved out on my own and entered the medical field, I have bought white towels and wash cloths for the express purpose of using Clorox on them.  Every time.  All white towels, dish towels, wash cloths, socks, underwear, handkerchiefs, etc get bleached in 150F water.  Occasionally I will skip the Clorox, use Tide with bleach powder and crank it up to 190F wash.  Just my 2 cents worth.  Overkill?  Probably.  But I don't have to worry.  My hospital scrubs get washed in 140F.  If I've had an isolation patient, I'll pour a little Lysol in the wash.  Been doing things this way for over 20 years and have had the same towels for at least 18 years.  I just gave a few to my mother and mother-in-law because I'm replacing them with larger bath sheets instead.  They were still in great shape.

Post# 1018533 , Reply# 30   12/19/2018 at 18:34 by lakewebsterkid (Dayton, Ohio)        

Our towels are washed in hot water every time. I use my towel for a week. It is always dried on a rack between uses. My brother plays hockey and always discards the towel after it sits in his hockey bag for obvious reasons. For a while I used about 1/4 C of bleach in each load, but now I am using 1C of ammonia with great success. Our towels have never smelled and are soft, fluffy, and absorbent. Mom had an issue with C. diff last year, and I ended up running her towels and sheets through a sanitize cycle in both the washer and dryer. No issues.

Post# 1018578 , Reply# 31   12/20/2018 at 00:39 by mrsalvo (New Braunfels Texas)        

Interesting discussion, esp. for everything we've been through in the last year or so. My elderly Dad was in TB treatments for many, many weeks last year for bladder cancer (he beat the cancer). For all those weeks we were in isolation, at Dr's orders. Dr. told me to be very careful in his bathroom, bedroom, and handling soiled laundry, but never instructed by him or his office as to "how" to be careful!!!! Our washer is T/L Speed Queen, no internal water heater, our hot water heater heats to 120-125 degrees. To make a long story short, because of the huge water usage of the washer, I threw all our towels and whites together (towards the end of treatments) in hot water using some chlorine bleach, then phasing that out in favor of a built-in bleach alternative (by that time he had developed a chemical reaction to the chlorine bleach). I dried everything on the clothesline outside in the sun and wind. We were fine, and though the towels and everything were stiff as cardboard, there is no doubt in my mind they were clean and sanitized. Had I not had the clothesline, I'd probably feel different though.

Today, I use my towels 3 or 4 times and wash cloths used 2 or 3 times or less. Kitchen towels I change often. I wash everything the same way I always have, and hang out.


Post# 1018587 , Reply# 32   12/20/2018 at 06:02 by mark_wpduet (Lexington KY)        
This is why

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when I wash colors and some underwear is color (not white), I use ammonia and detergent and the hottest water possible... But with whites, I don't have to use sanitize because I only buy WHITE towels/ wash clothes/hand towels and I bleach them...Some people refuse to use chlorine bleach but I could not live without it. Such a little bit goes a LONG way.....Never a sour smell or anything.

I know that smell you're talking about - drying your hands on a towel and it has mildewed. Growing up at my grandma's- she had no AC, and in the summer her hand towels would get that way..They weren't like that out of the wash....but it took no time for them to get that smell in the summer months and it was gross. It wasn't her laundry habits - they were good. It was just the ultra high summer humidity combined with NO AC. Thinking back on it, I'm not sure how the hell I grew up without AC... Without it now, I'd die!

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