As if pit stains and ring-around-the-collar weren’t horrifying enough, your dirty laundry carries a few threats that are invisible to the naked eye. Microorganisms love your dirty clothes and can make you sick if you don’t take a few simple precautions. Run through this quick checklist to make sure your clothes are clean and safe.
Check your detergent. Despite the allure of “mountain fresh” socks, think twice before you use scented detergents and dryer sheets. Federal laws don’t require manufacturers to list fragrance ingredients, so some brands use chemicals that are classified as hazardous and can cause health problems including skin allergies, headaches and breathing problems. If you live for that scented-laundry smell, stick with brands like Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyer’s that use natural oils instead of synthetic fragrances. Tip: For a quick, all natural odor removal fix, add ½ cup of vinegar at the beginning of the wash cycle.
Don’t overload. While cramming clothes into the washing machine to minimize loads may seem clever, the plan can backfire. Overcrowded washers can’t distribute detergent evenly, so bacteria and fungi stay in the mix. Two sterile loads are a safer bet than one with signs of life.
Let it breathe. When you wash your clothes, your laundry room can get seriously steamy. Unfortunately, both your washing machine and the entire laundry room are vulnerable to mold, which can flourish in a humid environment. When not in use, leave the washing machine lid open and crack a window to prevent spore-related allergies from plaguing your family.
Play hard ball with bedding. Your bed is likely seeing more action than you realize – millions of dust mites feast on your dead skin cells every night! And the fun doesn’t stop there: these microscopic pests are a leading cause of year-round allergy symptoms. Fight back by washing your bedding weekly in a hot water cycle. For added protection, we recommend a dust mite control pillowcase.
Separate your skivvies. Here’s a fun cocktail party icebreaker: 25 percent of washing machines contain traces of fecal bacteria. Discuss! Or, don’t. And simply consider the, ahem, exposure of that particular garment and wash it in a hot water cycle.
Keep things moving. When the wash cycle is complete, remove wet laundry within 30 minutes. Otherwise, the damp goods – confined to a small, dark space – will become a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. Note: This is especially crucial for loads washed in cold water!