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What Temperature Kills Bacteria in Your Washing Machine?

Washing clothes at a cooler temperature can save time, money, and energy. But recent research has shown that soiled garments, particularly from babies, children, and the elderly, can harbour harmful pathogens that can spread potentially fatal bacteria.

Bacteria are microscopic living organisms that are found everywhere. They can be dangerous when they cause infection, so washing clothes thoroughly will eliminate any potential risk. What temperature kills bacteria in your washing machine? Find out more here…

Facts and Figures

Between 2012 and 2013 babies in the neonatal unit of a German hospital were exposed to deadly pathogens found breeding in the laundry room washing machine. The bacteria known as Klebsiella oxytoca was transmitted to 13 new-borns and one child through their knitted socks and hats.

This can cause infections such as urinary tract and pneumonia in those with weakened immune systems. All cases were treated successfully with antibiotics and none suffered from dangerous infections.

Traces of the bacteria were discovered in the rubber door seal and the detergent drawer of the washing machine and in two of the sink syphons. The washing machine was disposed of and no further bacteria colonies have been reported. Research continues to stress that laundry that comes into contact with infants and the elderly should be washed on a hot cycle.

Washing Machine Temperature Guidelines

  • 20 degrees Celsius –this temperature option helps save energy and drastically reduces running costs, and cleans clothes without stains satisfactorily.
  • 30 degrees Celsius – this is a recommended setting for delicate and coloured fibres with more general soiling being lifted.
  • 40 degrees Celsius – suitable for most everyday items including cotton, linens, and wool mixes, and is the most commonly chosen wash temperature.
  • 50 degrees Celsius – also suitable for polyester and cotton mixes, nylon, and viscose, but rarely selected over a 40-degree wash.
  • 60 degrees Celsius – an ideal temperature for towels and bedding and proven to kill bacteria when combined with specific detergents. Bear in mind that some bacterial spores and viruses are actually resistant to a 60-degree temperature, but it’s recommended that you use a bleach-based product combined with this washing programme as this is the key to killing germs, including the more resistant variety.
  • 90 degrees Celsius – this is the hottest wash programme and the majority of materials aren’t suitable for washing at this temperature as they can shrink or be damaged.

Can bacteria survive in the washing machine?

High-efficiency machines that wash clothes at lower temperatures means that more bacteria can survive the washing process. However, most are benign and resistant bacteria causing infection is remote.

Bacteria tend to lurk in the rubber seals, detergent drawer, and washing drum. To ensure your washing machine stays clear of bacteria it should be run on a regular cycle with bleach and water but without clothing. And you can wipe down the seals with a bleach solution.

Many modern washing machines will have a sanitise setting that selects a higher temperature. Leaving laundry to one side for 72 hours during the coronavirus pandemic is recommended as the virus should deactivate and die during this time. A 60 degree Celsius wash also follows guidelines that should eliminate the virus.

To get rid of any pathogens that may be picked up in the wash cycle clothes should be tumble-dried for 30 minutes or ironed. This heat is sufficient to free clothes of any bacteria residue. Or you can dry them outside on a washing line or rotary drier.

Washing Machine Temperature Issues

When you need a professional washing machine repair service in London to help with washing machine temperature problems experienced appliance repair engineers are ready. The cause will typically be related to the supply hoses, filter screens, or the heating element, and will quickly be diagnosed and fixed. And every repair will be delivered with a six-month quality guarantee.