Which Washing Machine Temperature Kills Bacteria?

Washing laundry that’s full of germs and bacteria can result in the washing machine becoming a breeding ground. Up until a few years ago, the only way to be sure that bacteria was completely eradicated from the laundry and the washing machine was to use a very hot (90 degrees C) wash cycle.

Otherwise, the bacteria could not only survive the cooler wash temperature but also thrive and breed. This could lead to physically clean clothes harbouring more germs and bacteria than they had when they went into the washing machine.

But since 2013, when the government made it law that all new washing machines include a 20 degree C wash cycle, new detergents have been developed to clean clothes at lower temperatures.

To combat germs and bacteria there have also been advances in laundry sanitisers. These can even make a 20 degree wash bacteria free.

What Do The Experts Say Is The Best Temperature To Kill Bacteria In The Wash?

The NHS health experts all agree that a 60 degree wash cycle is sufficient to kill bacteria in the washing machine. With many doctors saying that washing clothes at 40 degrees C only removes around 14% of the bacteria present in the wash load.

This means that if all you are going to do is wash clothes at 40 degrees C using just a detergent, they might look clean, but they will be full of germs and bacteria.

The problem is that many fabrics cannot withstand a 60 degree wash cycle. Materials shrink or tear and many colours run at 60 degrees. Plus there are still some germs and bacteria that can survive a 60 degrees C wash cycle.

Washing Machine

How Can You Be Sure That All Bacteria Is Removed From Your Laundry?

The first habit you need to form is to run a 90 degree C service wash once a month to ensure your machine is clean and bacteria free. 

Always running cool wash cycles allows detergent, mould and mildew spores as well as germs and bacteria to build up in the drum, detergent dispenser drawer and piping of your washing machine.

On some machines there is a maintenance or service wash programme. Others will just have to be run on a 90 degree wash cycle, but they all do the same thing.

To be certain that all of the germs and bacteria have been removed you will need to use a specialised cleaner. You should also remember to run this cycle with no laundry at all, just an empty drum.

You should also make sure the filter is clean and free from any obstructions at the same time. As well as cleaning the door, door seal and detergent dispenser drawer too.

Specialised Washing Machine Cleaners

There are several washing machine cleaners designed specifically to remove germs and bacteria from your washer. These include;

Dettol Antibacterial Washing Machine Cleaner

Dettol Washing Machine Cleaner 250ml, Laundry, Antibacterial, Deep Clean Washing Machine Removes Limescale, Odours & Dirt, Descales, Clean Washing Machine Drum, Seals, & Pipes, Original Fresh Scent
  • 5-in-1 PROTECTION: Bacteria, Odours, Limescale, Dirt, Freshness
  • KILLS 99.9 Percent OF BACTERIA: Dettol washing machine cleaner kills 99.9 Percent of bacteria

This product removes 99.9% of bacteria, limescale, dirt and odours. Leaving your machine smelling fresh and clean.

Dr.Beckmann Service-it Deep Clean Washing Machine Cleaner

Dr.Beckmann Service-it Deep Clean Washing Machine Cleaner, 1 Treatment
  • Removes 99.99% of bacteria, viruses and fungi which can lead to bad and unpleasant odours
  • Hygienically cleans deep inside your washing machine, leaving a fresh lemon fragrance

This product also removes 99.9% of all bacteria, germs, viruses and fungi. Leaving your machine clean and fresh and smelling great.

Calgon Hygiene Plus Washing Machine Water Softener

Calgon Hygiene Plus Washing Machine Cleaner & Limescale Remover, Water Softener Tablets, Helps to Maintain your Washing Machine, 65 Tablets, Pack of 1
  • Hygienically cleans your machine for a deeper clean
  • Unbeatable protection against limescale and residue and eliminates bad odours

This product can be used whilst washing your clothes. It removes germs, bacteria, limescale and detergent residue and leaves your machine smelling fresh.

Laundry Sanitisers

You should then get a laundry sanitiser, there are several available and they all do a similar job. That is to remove bacteria even at low temperatures. Adding a laundry sanitiser in with a good detergent designed to be used at low temperatures is a great way to ensure your laundry is bacteria free.

There are several laundry sanitisers available some of the more popular ones include;

Dettol Anti-Bacterial Laundry Cleanser

Dettol Anti-Bacterial Laundry Cleanser Fresh Cotton, 2.5 Litre (Pack of 2)
  • Dettol Anti Bacterial Laundry Cleanser Fresh Cotton 2 5 Litre Pack Of 2
  • Brand: Dettol

This product kills 99.9% of bacteria, germs and viruses even at 20 degrees C. As well as eliminating odours and is suitable for all laundry including childrens clothes and underwear.

Persil Antibacterial Laundry Sanitiser

Persil Antibacterial Laundry Sanitiser 1.2 L 12 Wash, (Pack of 1)
  • Persil Antibacterial laundry sanitiser kills 99.9 Percent of viruses* and bacteria
  • Our laundry sanitiser washes away the viruses and bacteria you cannot see, leaving your family's clothes fresh and hygienically clean

This product also kills 99.9% of germs, viruses and bacteria even at 20 degrees C.

BritishBasics Antibacterial Laundry Sanitiser

BritishBasics - Anti-Bacterial Laundry Sanitiser Cleanser Liquid Additive 1 Litre,Clear
  • British Basics Antibacterial Laundry Sanitiser / Cleanser
  • Eliminates germs from your laundry

This product is also effective against 99.9% of germs, bacteria and viruses even at 20 degrees C.

When Should You Use A 60 degree Wash Cycle?

60 Degree Wash Cycle

There are a few items that will benefit from being washed at 60 degrees C. These include;

  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Bedding
  • Towels

These items should be washed separately from other laundry to ensure there is no cross contamination. Plus you should always check the wash care label to ensure that these items are safe to be washed at 60 degrees.

How To Keep Bacteria Levels At A Minimum In The Washing Machine

There is absolutely no way to completely eradicate 100% of the germs and bacteria from your washing machine all of the time. You can however, minimise it by doing the following;

  • Always separate laundry items
    Never keep regular dirty clothes in with dirty underwear, bedding or towels. This helps prevent cross contamination of bacteria from one group to another.
  • Run a service wash regularly
    Running a service wash once a month helps to keep bacteria levels down in the machine.
  • Use a laundry sanitiser
    Using a laundry sanitiser like we suggested earlier even at 60 degrees helps ensure that bacteria is removed from your laundry and your washer.
  • Remove laundry from the drum as soon as possible
    Never leave wet laundry in the machine as this will start to breed bacteria almost immediately.
  • Scrape large areas of dirt/mud before loading the machine
    Give the washing machine cycle a chance to remove germs and bacteria by always ensuring large clumps of mud etc are removed from clothes before putting them in the washing machine.
  • Leave the washing machine door open when not in use
    Once all of the laundry has been removed from the machine, leave the door open to allow the machine to dry out. There are many germs, bacteria and mould spores that breed in damp conditions.

Is Detergent Enough To Remove Bacteria?

A person putting laundry detergent into a washing machine

Laundry detergent, even the new detergents designed for use at low temperatures is not sufficient to remove bacteria. You will need hot water and a decent laundry sanitiser to ensure the successful removal of bacteria.

Can A 20 Degree C Wash Remove Bacteria?

The 20 degree wash cycle is a great way to remove dust and light dirt from clothes. It will also save on energy usage and money. But even with a specially formulated low temperature detergent, some bacteria will remain.

To remove these bacteria you will need to use a laundry sanitiser as well as a good detergent.

Can A 60 Degree C Wash Remove Bacteria

According to the NHS a 60 degree wash cycle is necessary for the removal of germs and bacteria from the laundry. However, to be absolutely certain that all bacteria has been removed, you will still need to use a laundry sanitiser as well as your regular detergent.

SEE ALSO: What Temperature Is Best To Wash Newborn Clothes At?

Frequently Asked Questions

Does 60 degree wash kill bacteria?

Many experts, including the NHS, agree that a 60 degree wash using a decent detergent is perfectly adequate to kill many bacteria.

Does washing at 40 degrees kill bacteria?

Washing clothes at 40 degrees is not enough on its own to kill bacteria. In a recent experiment only 14% of bacteria were removed at 40 degrees. To successfully kill bacteria at 40 degrees you will need to use a laundry sanitiser.

Will 50 degree wash kill bacteria?

When washing clothes at anything below 60 degrees a significant amount of bacteria will remain. The 50 degree cycle is not hot enough to remove bacteria. Using a laundry sanitiser allows you to wash your laundry at temperatures as low as 20 degrees and still kill bacteria.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *