Thread Number: 80655  /  Tag: Modern Automatic Washers
Cool water washes lead to bacteria in washer
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Post# 1046282   9/29/2019 at 13:05 (356 days old) by jerrod6 (Southeastern Pennsylvania)        

I read this article dealing with cool washes and bacteria. My washer suggests using a 140F wash or clean machine run if you repeatedly use cool water washes, although on washday I usually wash between 104F and 122F, with one load at 140F.

I know most here use warm to hot washes so I guess you were correct to worry about using cold washes.

Post# 1046286 , Reply# 1   9/29/2019 at 13:49 (355 days old) by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

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A story on the same incident was posted on CNN a couple of days ago. My washer is literally six inches from the water heater, which is set to 150 degrees. When I select a warm wash, it's about 110 degrees. Hot is 150-155 degrees.

I did wash everything in temp-controlled cold water for about a year when Tide ColdWater (powder) was first introduced, but got bored with that and returned to multi-temp washes.

I use liquid chlorine bleach fairly often, as well. The Speed Queen dryer runs so hot it probably kills everything, anyway.

Not aware of any big outbreaks from washing in cold in domestic settings, but I'd definitely not do so in a hospital, which is home to nearly every bacteria and virus known to man. long before a manufacturer comes up with some whiz-bang way to sanitize the wash that doesn't use hot water or chlorine/quats? A return of the tiny ultraviolet lamp featured in Kenmore washers and dryers back in the late 1950s, LOL?

Post# 1046303 , Reply# 2   9/29/2019 at 17:17 (355 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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" long before a manufacturer comes up with some whiz-bang way to sanitize the wash that doesn't use hot water or chlorine/quats? "

I've told ya; peracetic acid (hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid) as in TAED activated oxygen bleach, or the liquid itself. Commercial laundries in Europe have gone this route for a decade or longer, and North American laundries are beginning to do so as well.

In Europe one can also find various "disinfecting" laundry detergents or bleaches (oxygen) for domestic use as well.

Low temperature washing per se isn't the issue, but fact many have switched to liquid laundry detergents (which don't contain bleaches), and or do not add same for various reasons is more of an issue.

Both oxygen and chlorine bleaches will contribute germ/mould killing to laundry. But thanks to changes domestic wardrobes over past few decades (more darks, colours, man made fibers harmed by high temps and or bleaches), people have reduced and or eliminated use.

Peracetic acid is a very powerful disinfectant, slightly more so than "chlorine" bleach. It is used in brewing industry to clean/disenfect bottles and other equipment instead of sodium hypochlorite.

Difference between these certified "disinfecting" laundry products and plain old Tide, Ariel, Persil or whatever with oxygen bleach (activated or no), is a higher ratio of oxygen bleach to activator thus producing greater amount of peracetic acid in wash bath.

Industrial/commercial laundries can get peracetic acid supplied as liquid for direct injection to washers. The stuff is *VERY* dangerous so manual dispensing normally isn't recommended.

Post# 1046308 , Reply# 3   9/29/2019 at 18:10 (355 days old) by henene4 (Germany)        
This is ment as a comment on that article, just FYI...

I mean, come on, that is such an edge case and just complete and utter stupidness of staff.

If it is processed in the hospital, IMO it has to be desinfected. Period.

No "energy efficent" washing machine should be allowed anywhere near any hospital clothing LET ALONE that used in ICU units LET ALONE the infant ICU.
RKI speced desinfection is the norm for a reason...

Like, how, why, what?
You can't even get into most ICUs as visitor without lots and lots regulations.

Just baffeling to me that they blame the washing machine...

And yeah, of course hot washes and chemical treatments do work.

There is a reason that there is a RKI specified chemo-thermal desinfection cycle for laundry running at 40C for 20min.
That btw is avaible on almost all Miele Professional machines...

But outside of the hospital?
Sure I wash my bedding and my towels at at least 140F 60C because I sweat like a beast...

The rest? Why bother?

As long as you have a somewhat existent immune system you should be abled to deal with almost anything that can survive in dry clothing for any amount of time, plain and simple.

Sure it's the machines fault smh

Post# 1046330 , Reply# 4   9/29/2019 at 19:48 (355 days old) by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

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Launderess— Boy howdy you were not kidding about peracetic acid being very dangerous. Wikipedia says that .17 ppm causes reversible physical ailments and that 1.3 ppm causes life-threatening illness and death.

I’ll take my chances with warm-to-hot water, a thorough, high-heat drying, and Clorox on appropriate fabrics.

Post# 1046348 , Reply# 5   9/29/2019 at 21:25 (355 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
For most average concentrations found in domestic/industrial

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Uses of PAA won't cause harm, long as proper precautions and so forth are taken.

Stuff is an acid (if relatively weak) so thus deserves respect.

What can get at some people is the strong vinegar whiff of PAA (it is made from acetic acid, which is what makes up vinegar), but this would have a whiff far stronger than vinegar one uses for salad dressing.

Probably remotely comparable in scent power would be this:

Post# 1046364 , Reply# 6   9/30/2019 at 02:23 (355 days old) by Logixx (Germany)        

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Claro, former maker of Miele tabs, sell a Hygiene tab that releases 180 ppm of PPA into one liter of wash water.


Post# 1046367 , Reply# 7   9/30/2019 at 02:36 (355 days old) by Logixx (Germany)        

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What'd you say, Frig?


Post# 1046380 , Reply# 8   9/30/2019 at 06:51 (355 days old) by turbokinetic (Northport, Alabama USA)        
Yet another reason....

....  to stick to vintage machines and nice, piping hot water!

Post# 1046418 , Reply# 9   9/30/2019 at 10:27 (355 days old) by JohnBee (USA, NY)        
Cold Water

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I've never ever used the cold or cool water setting.
I wash darks (tshirt jeans etc) on Warm , underwear socks dark towels on HOT and cotton whites on Sanitize cycle which is something around 170F

And don't tell me about wearing off fabrics.. Most of my tshirts are 8 years old and they look like new.

Post# 1046419 , Reply# 10   9/30/2019 at 10:28 (355 days old) by golittlesport (California)        
good reason have a washer that will heat the water to a temperature to kill those critters and disinfect the machine.

Post# 1046447 , Reply# 11   9/30/2019 at 15:05 (354 days old) by mark_wpduet (Lexington KY)        
Have any of you

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ever gotten brave and used LCB with colors? I know that's a no no but there have been a couple of times I did because the clothing was so nasty......granted, just a little bit of LCB in the dispenser.....and it totally didn't cause any damage to the clothing.....and yet, once I washed blue sheets and it RUINED them.....But I credit hot washes and LCB for my machine staying perfectly clean all these years.

Post# 1046457 , Reply# 12   9/30/2019 at 17:31 (354 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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Would depend upon colorfastness of dye to chlorine bleach, and or amount used I should't wonder.

Most tap water contains various levels of chlorine. That can be enough over time to cause coloured and dark items to fade with repeated laundering. Many detergents for such things contain ingredients and or substances to mitigate. As have stated often Cheer's "colourguard" was nothing more than borax or small amounts of oxygen bleach added to neutralize effects of chlorine.

Thing is if using chlorine bleach to sanitize or disinfect anything the solution must be of a specific strength. Adding 1/4 cup of very weak chlorine bleach (something without an EPA registration) to a wash tub that holds say 18 gallons of water probably won't reach full germ,mold,or whatever killing ability. But it may be enough to fade and or otherwise harm textiles that say "do not bleach".

Post# 1046481 , Reply# 13   9/30/2019 at 22:17 (354 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Finally got round to reading linked OP article

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A few comments.

Many hospitals/healthcare systems now send out their laundry for various reasons. The commercial laundry industry including those that service healthcare are rapidly moving over to batch/tunnel laundry systems.


Small items such as items for infants, children, etc... cannot go into such washers. Indeed even if a laundry uses traditional h-axis washer small items have always needed to go into mesh bags or something. Otherwise they risk slipping between tubs and either getting caught there, or down into the drains (maybe pump if there is one).

This is likely reason why that German NICU has a small washing machine on premises. If hospital had its own laundry then such a machine would likely be located there, indeed commercial laundries often will have a "small" capacity washer just for those sorts of things.

Take away points are that even though infection control nursing and medicine staff picked up on infected washing; no infants were harmed. Thus yes, as we've been saying just because something is contaminated does not translate into spread of disease.

Gist of article seems to be come call of return back to washing machines that can do "boil washes" or whatever. This even though it has been scientifically proven many "germs" can easily withstand wash temps of > 160F, especially those that generate and or are caused by spores.

Commercial laundries that do high temperature washes normally have two or three short wash baths (at 160F) then a one or more rinses at even higher temps (180F). That is more than enough to kill off and or reduce pathogens, but for added measure some sort of sanitizing agent or disinfectant is uses (chlorine bleach, peracetic acid, etc..). For added measure final rinse bath may contain some sort of antimicrobial agent as well.

Suffice to say that sort of laundering done on routine basis is hard on textiles. Very little made today for domestic consumers is designed to withstand routine high temperature washing. That includes things such as bed and bath linen once routinely subjected to such treatment.

One design improvement is go to with what commercial h-axis washers and some domestic have for ages; get rid of rubber boot. Doing away with a pump can help also as it removes source of standing water when washer is left idle for long periods.

Post# 1046597 , Reply# 14   10/2/2019 at 07:21 (353 days old) by askolover (South of Nash Vegas, TN)        

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I can speak for the big four hospitals in Nashville.  They all send their laundry out to be cleaned.  I certainly hope they use LCB and very hot water because I know what's been on those towels!

Post# 1046600 , Reply# 15   10/2/2019 at 08:01 (353 days old) by Helicaldrive (St. Louis)        
Yes, LCB on colored towels

Yes Mark! Once I had a big load of old blue/gray bath sheets that I had used to clean up a muddy garage floor. They were FILTHY! I didn’t care if the LCB removed the color; I just wanted to get them clean. So I rinsed out any sand or grit in the stationary tub, then put them in the FL with a pre-wash, hot water, plenty of Persil, and 1/4 cup LCB in the main wash.

I was stunned: they came out perfectly clean and with no color loss!

Also I once had almond colored towels, and after they faded, I started putting in LBC, but it didn’t bleach them white even though I wanted it to.

It only makes sense that colored towels would be LCB safe. After all, towels do need to be disinfected - which is why I only buy white ones now.

Also, FWIW, I only use Clorox with laundry. The cheaper LCBs are fine for cleaning but in my experience they can turn white laundry slightly yellow, whereas Clorox never does.

I’ve never done it but there is a diluted in water/eye dropper bleach test to see if a colored item can be bleached.

Post# 1046623 , Reply# 16   10/2/2019 at 11:00 (353 days old) by mark_wpduet (Lexington KY)        

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Almond color with LCB seems to turn into this really UGLY color. I have an almond bath mat for the second bathroom and I use a little LCB on it when I wash it, and it turned it into this weird color I can't even explain....but I don't care. I strictly buy white towels though because I don't trust how colors and towels will come out with it. It's amazing how little of it you need too. LCB expires so I buy the small bottles which last me a long time as well. If I buy a gallon, it long before I can use it all.

I feel like ammonia with detergent is best for colors. I know ammonia doesn't disinfect but it gets them cleaner.

Have you ever been to someone's house (like an overnight stay or something) and the next day you take a shower, grab one of their clean towels and put it to your face and it's like this mutant funk, and yet you have no choice but to use it to dry with? I'm not being dramatic either. It's like it was a super dirty and was washed in cold water in an overloaded washer and smothered with fabric softener then baked dry......when you put one of my towels to your face, all you smell is that super clean smell.

Post# 1046624 , Reply# 17   10/2/2019 at 11:08 (353 days old) by kb0nes (Burnsville, MN)        

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Aren't tumble dryers awesome?

Post# 1046636 , Reply# 18   10/2/2019 at 12:46 (353 days old) by turbokinetic (Northport, Alabama USA)        

Reply #16...


Yes, I hate it when towels stink!  Been on a work site (where you stay on site). The towels stink like a combination of stale urine, sour milk, and sweaty feet.  It is truly horrible.  My clothes come back smelling like this as well. I have had words with the laundry person but was told that "people complain about the smell of 'strong detergent' on their clothes."

I wrote up a safety observation card on the issue.




Post# 1046662 , Reply# 19   10/2/2019 at 19:37 (352 days old) by Helicaldrive (St. Louis)        
Yes, Mark I love ammonia too!

Especially with sheets.

And I don’t do funky towels. In fact I only use a towel and washcloth once. Re-used towels are full of bacteria and they smell bad. Why wipe odor and bacteria all over yourself after showering? Makes no sense.

Post# 1046664 , Reply# 20   10/2/2019 at 20:10 (352 days old) by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

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Although I wear all black frequently, I am a big fan of white for everything else: All bedding, bath linens, kitchen linens, undergarments and short socks (for around the house) are white, white, white. All can be washed in hot water and all get some LCB love as needed.

Ammonia: Just as Launderess can’t stand the smell of chlorine bleach, I make a hasty exit at the very sight of a bottle of ammonia. We had a cleaning lady when I was a tyke who used ammonia for cleaning almost everything. She (and our house) reeked of the stuff whenever she was on duty.

Helicaldrive: Until about eight months ago, I also used bath/hand towels only once. Then one day I decided to try using a towel 3 times and so far so good. It was weird at first, but so far no bacterial plagues or mildew-scented towels. I wash them in 150+ degree water with a couple of scoops of Rosalie’s Zero Suds (and some LCB when warranted), then give them a very thorough drying with the Speed Queen set at ‘Surface Of The Sun.’

Post# 1046667 , Reply# 21   10/2/2019 at 20:55 (352 days old) by IowaBear (Cedar Rapids, IA)        

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I think nothing of using a towel for five days.  For all other clothing this GQ article is more or less what I do.




Post# 1046683 , Reply# 22   10/3/2019 at 03:07 (352 days old) by toploader55 (Massachusetts Sand Bar, Cape Cod)        

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OMG. Exactly when I go to my Dad's house. His wife is the Cold Water queen. I was just there on a spur of the moment trip. (Dad is getting real old). I always bring my own sheets and towels. I just tell her I sweat a lot. ( Which I do not,) I just cannot sleep in between sheets that smell like Milder, Tutti Frutti and Bounce Sheets.
Plus washing Kitchen Towels with Handkerchiefs and Underwear is just nasty. I look at it as a trip to strengthen my immune system.

Spot on with the towels. Nice and clean out of the shower only to bury your face in a towel that smells like mildew and Bounce. Gawd how I hate that. I know I will be making another trip soon so I may as well pack the truck in advance so I don't forget next time.

And oddly enough, the machine doesn't really stink. I remember 4 years ago she went away for 4 days and I ran the machine (One of the first non Neptune Maytag FL) on a Hot wash twice before washing my own clothes. I think that was the only time it was ever on hot.

She buys what ever is on sale for detergent. YUCK !!!

Post# 1046694 , Reply# 23   10/3/2019 at 05:00 (352 days old) by DADoES (TX, U.S. of A.)        

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I reuse bath towels for long as two weeks.  They do not have or develop an odor.  I "squeege-off" first with the wash cloth, wringing repeatedly into the drain as needed, then finish with the towel, hang it over the shower stall, then squeege (with a rubber-scraper dealie) the shower walls & floor.  Master bath has a ceiling fan, which runs to dissipate/dry the residual moisture.

I routinely use chlorine bleach on whites/towels/kitchen linens.  My trigger for washing that load (always on Hot) is when I'm near-out of socks.

Post# 1046919 , Reply# 24   10/5/2019 at 19:12 (349 days old) by dylanmitchell (Southern California)        
Viruses and bacteria are more common in healthcare settings

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Viruses and bacteria are more common in healthcare settings like hospitals. Many hospitals have a laundering service for scrubs and you don't want to be washing those in your home laundry.

I use cold water for most loads but use warm or hot water with Biz and a soak cycle for bedding, towels, rags, etc. Our hot water is set to 125 degrees just above the minimum of 120 degrees required by the dishwasher and about the level that limits Legionella growth but not hot enough to kill it. We're on city water that has residual chlorine that keeps bacteria levels low too. I think our water heater maxes out at 140 or 150-degrees and below the 158 to the 176-degree range for disinfection. It's a compromise between energy savings, safety, and hygiene. Above 125 to 130 degrees the scalding risk increases and none of our faucets have anti-scald protection beyond common sense.

I do clean my SQ TL washing machine by running an empty load with Vinegar. I think Vinegar kills most of the bacteria but I'm sure if it kills viruses. SQ says Vinegar is your best friend and to clean your washing machine, pour a cup of vinegar in once a month, then run a normal cycle without clothing. Vinegar is not a friend to rubber or plastic parts so I usually run an extra rinse through if I'm not doing a load after the cleaning cycle. Before the SQ I'd run a cleaning cycle with affresh or bleach (not together!). At the laundromat where I take bulky bedding, I'll run an empty load with vinegar and hot water before I put my load in. It's amazing how much crud mostly built-up soap washes out. Costs me a few extra dollars and some time but avoids making laundry worse than when it started out.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO dylanmitchell's LINK

Post# 1046921 , Reply# 25   10/5/2019 at 19:58 (349 days old) by DADoES (TX, U.S. of A.)        

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What amount of typical 5% vinegar diluted in gallons of water in a SQ toploader is sufficient concentration to have an effect?

Post# 1047019 , Reply# 26   10/6/2019 at 18:39 (348 days old) by dylanmitchell (Southern California)        
Not sure SQ says 1 cup others say 2 cups

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Not sure SQ says 1 cup others say 2 cups which is well below ratio recommended for cleaning use (bucket of water and mop or rag type cleaning). I use one cup of 5% Acidity Vinegar. FYI Vinegar won't kill bacteria like staphylococcus, streptococcus, E. coli, and salmonella or viruses like the flu and the common cold. I'd imagine a cup or two of bleach would kill those.

I've also found Vinegar works well for mineral build-up on faucets and showerheads and cleaning the dishwasher. It's a mild acid and not great for rubber or plastic so I only use it when there's a lot of build-up and rinse things thoroughly after using it.

Post# 1047023 , Reply# 27   10/6/2019 at 19:08 (348 days old) by lakewebsterkid (Dayton, Ohio)        

Nothing cleans our shower stall better. Raw vinegar in a spray bottle heated up is unbelievable. Smell is horrible but worth the results.

Post# 1051914 , Reply# 28   11/22/2019 at 08:50 (302 days old) by turbowash (USA)        

I use vinegar on my gym clothes, underware, gym, kitchen and bath towels ( hot wash for clothes, sanitize for towels and sheets) no softener . Never had smell problems since using vinegar.
Warm wash for darks + softener.
Warm for jeans + softener.

Before I began using viner, my towels would smell after 1-2 uses. Now they don't smell after 4-5 uses, but I wash them anyway.
My gym clothes used to smell like mildew in 10- 15 minutes of workout. After using vinegar no mildew smell during the workout.

Vinegar saved my laundry and washer. There is no more black mold growing on the door seal.

Post# 1051974 , Reply# 29   11/22/2019 at 16:42 (301 days old) by Yogitunes (New Jersey)        

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never understood people who wash in COLD, to prevent shrinking, and then toss the items into a 180 degree dryer

hotter than most water heater settings.....

Post# 1084872 , Reply# 30   8/12/2020 at 18:44 by GELaundry4ever (Killeen tx USA)        
the only time I use cold water

is when I wash any dark colors or blues or reds. Everything else gets a warm or hot wash with bleach if they're light colors or whites. I want my whites perfectly white! And I do use a reasonable amount of laundry detergent, bleach and fabric softener. I use pods.

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