It’s often a forgotten area of household hygiene because, by its very nature, laundry areas can be perceived as clean. But studies have shown that the transfer of microbes between contaminated and uncontaminated clothing can occur during washing and that microbial transfer is only partially removed during the rinse cycles.

What You Need to Know

Fabrics that are soiled with body fluids (e.g. vomit and faeces), cleaning cloths, underclothes, towels and items used around food, can carry lots of germs. The germs can easily transfer to your hands and to surfaces around your home. If you don’t launder these items properly, any germs that are left behind can multiply quickly, especially if the laundry remains damp for a while. The germs may spread to other items in the wash, from the washing machine to the fabrics in the next load, and to the hands of those who handle the damp laundry.

WHY is laundry hygiene important?

  • Microbial transfer can occur between infected and non-infected clothing.
  • Low temperature washing may not destroy all the germs.

WHEN should it be done?

  • Whenever clothes are washed (hand wash or machine wash).

Did you know? An average washing machine load can contain 100 million E.coli at any one time

Effective Laundering

It is really important to launder effectively to destroy all the germs and then dry your laundry promptly. Washing fabrics at high temperature (60ºC or above) will usually destroy most germs. However, if the fabric is heavily soiled, or you prefer not to wash it at a high temperature, you will need to add a suitable laundry disinfectant.

Risk Fabric Effective laundering method*
  • Fabrics heavily contaminated with germs (e.g. clothing soiled with blood or body fluids, and cleaning cloths)
  • Fabrics used by a person with an infection (e.g. diarrhoea)
Machine-wash with laundry detergent at 90ºC, or at 60ºC using a laundry disinfectant. Use the pre-wash cycle. Launder heavily soiled items as a separate load.
  • Underwear
  • Towels and washcloths
  • Bed linen
  • Tea-towels and tablecloths
Machine-wash with laundry detergent at 60ºC (or above), or at 40-60ºC using a suitable laundry disinfectant. Launder fabrics used around food as a separate load.
  • Other fabrics (e.g. clothing other than heavily soiled items and underwear)
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If a low temperature (below 40ºC) is necessary, consider using a laundry disinfectant to help destroy any germs and odours.

* Always check the manufacturer’s washing instructions. You may have to discard soiled items that cannot withstand a hot wash.

Laundry Hygiene Tips


  • Run a hot wash (at least 60ºC) once a week to stop germs and odours building up in the washing machine.
  • Keep dirty laundry away from food preparation surfaces.
  • Wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.
  • Dry your laundry promptly to help prevent any residual germs multiplying.


  • Hand-rinse heavily soiled items as this may contaminate sinks and taps. Remove solid waste (e.g. vomit and faeces) into the toilet then machine-wash.
  • Overload the washing machine.

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