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-   -   How To Kill Germs in Colored Clothes? (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=377258)

Lissa 06-26-2006 08:07 AM

How To Kill Germs in Colored Clothes?
 
A while back, I read a thread in which I learned that soap does not actually kill bacteria. (It was about those mesh shower poufs. Apparently, they're chock full of bacteria and it doesn't matter that they are saturated with soap in every use.)

It got me thinking about underpants. White ones can be bleached, of course, killing all germs, but what about colored underpants? I'm a bit squicked by the notion that my unmentionables may be carrying all sorts of ickiness . . . there's no such thing as "clean" underwear, in other words.

The environment in which my husband works is very unsanitary, and on occasion, he comes in contact with substances which he'd rather not. I had just been innocently chucking those things in the wash, believing that all of the germs were washed away. (Honestly, it probably would have been better for my peace of mind not to know.)

So, what commonly available substances could I use to wash germy clothing without bleaching it? I thought of ammonia, but I've never heard that it was a germicide.

Any ideas?

So, what sort of

One And Only Wanderers 06-26-2006 08:08 AM

How hot a wash cycle would it take to kill bacteria? Or is this dependant upon the type of bacteria?

spingears 06-26-2006 08:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lissa
So, what commonly available substances could I use to wash germy clothing without bleaching it? I thought of ammonia, but I've never heard that it was a germicide. Any ideas? So, what sort of

Ever heard of "Chlorox" or sodium hypochloride.
Works like the chlorine used to disinfect public water supplies to make the water safe to drink.
READ and FOLLOW the directions for use to avoid bleaching out colors!

Avarie537 06-26-2006 08:24 AM

IIRC, a couple of tablespoons of bleach in a colored load won't affect the colors but is enough to kill germies when used in conjunction with a hot wash cycle.

Cheez_Whia 06-26-2006 08:41 AM

Lysol concentrate found at the bottom of the page.

CrankyAsAnOldMan 06-26-2006 08:49 AM

When I worked in the veterinary field, there was some kind of blue substance that we'd dilute. It smelled nice and was suppose to kill anything, but without bleach's damaging and lightening properties. Hell if I can recall the name.

I've heard good things about "Charlie's Soap" and just ordered some. I am not sure it kills anything, but apparently cleans the heck out of whatever fabric is holding the offending material & bacteria. I am not affiliated with this company in any way.

There is also product called Odo-Ban, findable at Sam's Club stores, which may also be an option. I seem to recall its label touting its numerous -icide properties.

DeVena 06-26-2006 09:00 AM

From Cornell University: Killing Bacterial/Viral Infections in the Laundry

ZipperJJ 06-26-2006 09:07 AM

I use Clorox for Colors in every load of colored cotton underwear, colored t-shirts and other stuff. Sometimes I throw it in with jeans or towels. Never had a problem and my colored clothing is bright as advertised.

yabob 06-26-2006 09:15 AM

Why should you not want to kill the germs that aren't in colored clothes, and how do you tell what the wee beasties are wearing in the first place?

wolf_meister 06-26-2006 09:18 AM

How To Kill Germs in Colored Clothes?

The one thing that has me wondering is which germs actually wear colored clothes? :D

DrDeth 06-26-2006 09:19 AM

Who said that detergent or soap doesn't kill germs? True, it's not anywhere near as effective as bleach, Pine-sol or Lysol, but it does kill a good % of the little bugger, esp combined with hot water.

wolf_meister 06-26-2006 09:20 AM

Darn you yabob - got your remark in 3 minutes before mine. :(

Szlater 06-26-2006 09:41 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by One And Only Wanderers
How hot a wash cycle would it take to kill bacteria? Or is this dependant upon the type of bacteria?

Considering you get thermophilic bacteria that hang around in hot springs and around the deep ocean thermal vents I'd say it's pretty dependant on the type of bacteria.

However, pathogenic bacteria generally thrive in a small temperature band that is similar to the human body (iirc, 35-40C). That's not to say they can't survive at higher or lower temps, just that they do best in that temp range.

As for the best way to rid clothes of bacteria, imo it's simple. Dry the clothes as thoroughly as possible, preferably outdoors where the sun's UV light will add to the effect.

vetbridge 06-26-2006 10:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lissa
It got me thinking about underpants.

Aaah, I loves the way you think.;)
I was teasing my gf recently about the teensy things she wears under her dress. Surely they are so tiny a microorganism hasn't a place to hide.

One answer to your question has to do with organic debris. Get rid of any organic debris and the microorganisms present have nothing to keep them well-fed.

Quote:

Originally Posted by CrankyAsAnOldMan
When I worked in the veterinary field, there was some kind of blue substance that we'd dilute.

A chlorhexadine product like Nolvassan?
A quaternary ammonia like Roccal-D?

Neither would be appropriate for Lissa's unmentionables, IMHO. (and yes, I feel strange having an opinion about Lissa's unmentionables);)

Smeghead 06-26-2006 12:36 PM

Just out of curiosity, how many people do you know who have picked up bacterial infections from their laundry?

Lissa 06-26-2006 12:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smeghead
Just out of curiosity, how many people do you know who have picked up bacterial infections from their laundry?

No one. I acknowledge that my concern is illogical and that I'm not going to catch anything or become ill from unkilled germs in my laundry. However, I have a nagging sense that it's gross and I'd like to find a way to sterilize my clothing simply for peace of mind. It's the same thing when it comes to touching bathroom doorknobs: I'm not going to get sick, most likely, but it seems gross to me, so I avoid touching them if at all possible.

As I said, my husband sometimes comes in contact with Very Nasty Things in his line of work and I'd like to make sure those germs are eradicated to the best of my abilities.

Finagle 06-26-2006 12:47 PM

As DeVena's link points out, you're going to be putting those unmentionables through the dryer, right? The dryer is way, way hotter than any hot water you're going to be using to wash the clothes and the clothes are exposed to it for quite a while. I dunno if they're sterile after coming out of the dryer, but they're pretty close.

Annie-Xmas 06-26-2006 02:06 PM

Borax and/or vinegar are both germ killers. Adding white vinegar to the rinse water will kill germs and soften fabrics!

Szlater 06-26-2006 05:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Finagle
I dunno if they're sterile after coming out of the dryer, but they're pretty close.

They won't be sterile, bacterial and fungal spores would most likely survive, and the instant you touch them you'll be inoculating them with whatever viruses, bacteria and fungi you have on your hands. However, along with air drying, it would probably be the closest you can get without dousing everything in a antimicrobial and vacuum packing them, all done in a clean room.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas
Borax and/or vinegar are both germ killers. Adding white vinegar to the rinse water will kill germs and soften fabrics!

At what concentration? Neat (or high concentration) vinegar may well be bacteriocidal but when it's dilute how effective is it?

**Just a quick thought** You could put the smaller items in a pressure cooker/autoclave for 20-30 minutes, and then dry them in a disinfected microwave. They would probably be as sterile as you could get in the home. I am not a laundress, but I would imagine that if your items could survive a boil wash then they should survive in the pressure cooker.

spingears 06-27-2006 09:41 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CrankyAsAnOldMan
When I worked in the veterinary field, there was some kind of blue substance that we'd dilute. It smelled nice and was suppose to kill anything, but without bleach's damaging and lightening properties. Hell if I can recall the name.

"Little Boy Blue" ??
That was used in times long past to make white clothes look whiter. Not an antiaeptic!

CalMeacham 06-27-2006 09:56 AM

Bleach will kill germs, no matter what color clothes they're wearing.






..

MsRobyn 06-27-2006 10:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas
Adding white vinegar to the rinse water will kill germs and soften fabrics!

Add a little oil and garlic, and your clothes will smell like salad dressing. Always an added bonus!

Robin

vetbridge 06-27-2006 10:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Szlater
**Just a quick thought** You could put the smaller items in a pressure cooker/autoclave for 20-30 minutes, and then dry them in a disinfected microwave. They would probably be as sterile as you could get in the home. I am not a laundress, but I would imagine that if your items could survive a boil wash then they should survive in the pressure cooker.

Actually, this would be rough on Lissa's undergarments. More appropriate would be gas sterilazation with a product like Anprolene (ethylene oxide gas). The initial cost would be high, however, and I believe she would need an inspection of her facilities prior to purchase.
http://www.anpro.com/

irishgirl 06-27-2006 11:44 AM

Why, exactly, is killing bacteria found on your clothing a priority?
The human body is covered in billions of bacteria, which only incredibly rarely cause us harm. Unless your husband has multiple open sores on his body or an immune deficiency, a few more germs are unlikley to hurt him.

Washing everything at between 40 and 60 centigrade degrees will kill most things, hanging them out to dry in the sun, or tumble-drying them in a hot machine will kill a lot of the rest, and a good ironing will do for the vast majority of the remainder.

If the clothes look clean and smell clean they're probably fine.

Worse than bacteria are parasites- my mother grew up in Africa, and all their clothing, including underwear, had to be ironed, in order to kill any eggs that had been laid in the clothing while it was drying. Jiggers burrow under the skin and are incredibly unpleasant.

Lissa 06-27-2006 04:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by irishgirl
Why, exactly, is killing bacteria found on your clothing a priority?
The human body is covered in billions of bacteria, which only incredibly rarely cause us harm. Unless your husband has multiple open sores on his body or an immune deficiency, a few more germs are unlikley to hurt him.

Well, as I said, his work enviornment is very unsanitary. He works in a prison, and on occasion comes in contact with blood, feces and other bodily fluids. Hepititis is a problem in the prison. He has been vaccinated-- I have not. While I know the chances for germs surviving a wash and leaping from his clothing to mine are slim-to-infantesmal, I still would prefer to be on the safe side, just for my peace of mind.

As for underpants, it's just an irational ick factor.

foolsguinea 06-27-2006 04:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lissa
No one. I acknowledge that my concern is illogical and that I'm not going to catch anything or become ill from unkilled germs in my laundry. However, I have a nagging sense that it's gross and I'd like to find a way to sterilize my clothing simply for peace of mind.

Well, you're not likely to catch anything from your own, but if you wash somebody else's unmentionables with yours, then look out.

Or if you're trying to kill off a fungus you used to have....

bbeaty 06-27-2006 05:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by irishgirl
Why, exactly, is killing bacteria found on your clothing a priority?
The human body is covered in billions of bacteria, which only incredibly rarely cause us harm. Unless your husband has multiple open sores on his body or an immune deficiency, a few more germs are unlikley to hurt him.

I've found two worthwhile uses for chlorox-sterilized clothing:

1. I can accidentally forget the wet wash for a few days, yet it doesn't reek like a rancid dishtowel.

2. Sterile shirts, when paired with bacteriacidal deodorant such as Michum(tm), completely eliminates strong male armpit stench (and keeps it away for about a week, even if I stop bathing. I've tried this several times. I mean the not bathing for a week! The rest of me reeks, but my unwashed armpits will only smell as bad as, say, my sweaty week-old kneecaps. Fairly amazing.)

After demonstrating #2, I conclude that the soapy laundry and hot dryer environment is a breeding ground for a certain stench-causing thermophile bacteria. FOrtunately it's easily sterilized with chlorine bleach.

HMS Irruncible 06-27-2006 08:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lissa
No one. I acknowledge that my concern is illogical and that I'm not going to catch anything or become ill from unkilled germs in my laundry. However, I have a nagging sense that it's gross and I'd like to find a way to sterilize my clothing simply for peace of mind. It's the same thing when it comes to touching bathroom doorknobs: I'm not going to get sick, most likely, but it seems gross to me, so I avoid touching them if at all possible.

As I said, my husband sometimes comes in contact with Very Nasty Things in his line of work and I'd like to make sure those germs are eradicated to the best of my abilities.

After reading through this and your previous thread, I have seriously considered using a "dirty" washing machine just for socks and undies (I have a spare machine and space for hookups). Not as good as sterilization with bleach and high-energy radiation, but probably good enough for all practical purposes.

Alice The Goon 06-27-2006 09:16 PM

I was probably the one that started the thread about the shower poufs. I work in a dermatology office, and the numbers of people we see with skin infections from something as innocuous as a shower poof is amazing to me. Of course, the humidity is very low here much of the time, and skin gets very dry, which makes it more susceptible to infection, so maybe we get more infections that less-dry parts of the country.

So many people think it's silly to worry about germs all that much, but I look at it like this: I call around 10 people every week to notify them that they have a bacterial infection of the skin. There are 7 other people in my office that also do this. We are only 1 office in 1 town. Maybe we do more bacterial cultures than other doctor's offices? I've worked in an urgent care and a primary doctors, and it was like this at those places, too.

There's lots of bacteria running amok out there! Sure, it probably won't kill you, but I've seen some very unpleasant non-fatal effects of pathogens. Going to the infectious disease specialist every day for several hours of IV antibiotics for 6 weeks or more would really cramp my lifestyle.

And don't even get me started on viruses, molds, yeasts, and fungi.


If my husband worked in a prison, which can be a hotbed of bacteria, I'd wash my clothes separately, before his, and disinfect the washer after his. His in hot water, and a hot dryer should be enough.

LowneWolfe 09-29-2015 11:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DrDeth (Post 7522170)
Who said that detergent or soap doesn't kill germs?...

scientists. Soap really only loosens oil and dirt that may cover germs so water can sloth them off. Some bacteria actually feed on anti-bacterial soap...no I didn't mistype that.


Quote:

Originally Posted by One And Only Wanderers (Post 7521964)
How hot a wash cycle would it take to kill bacteria? Or is this dependant upon the type of bacteria?

greater than 140 degrees F for more than 10 minutes is the requirement for food, your hot water heater most likely is only at 110-120, this will NOT kill anything. Humans actually cannot stand the temperature of water needed to kill germs on skin...but soap and hand washing don't actually kill germs, just removes them.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Szlater (Post 7522221)
...
As for the best way to rid clothes of bacteria, imo it's simple. Dry the clothes as thoroughly as possible, preferably outdoors where the sun's UV light will add to the effect.

UV radiation from the sun is the best way to disinfect clothing.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smeghead (Post 7522868)
Just out of curiosity, how many people do you know who have picked up bacterial infections from their laundry?

I work in the medical field and can be exposed without knowing to all sorts of nasty things, the risk is not worth it. Not everyone has to worry about this (you won't get sick from just washing your own clothes) but many people do (or should).

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alice The Goon (Post 7528436)
I was probably the one that started the thread about the shower poufs..

Shower heads have recently been linked to lung infections, especially plastic ones...have to replace them regularly, bleach won't get past the biofilm.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8254206.stm

Quote:

So many people think it's silly to worry about germs all that much, but I look at it like this
And they end up sick. ;)

Quote:

There's lots of bacteria running amok out there! Sure, it probably won't kill you, but I've seen some very unpleasant non-fatal effects of pathogens. Going to the infectious disease specialist every day for several hours of IV antibiotics for 6 weeks or more would really cramp my lifestyle.
Exactly, most people who DIE are very young, very old, or are immunocompromised...everyone else just gets hella sick...well I don't want to have either!

Quote:

And don't even get me started on viruses, molds, yeasts, and fungi.
Bleach won't kill mold/fungi/yeast as the chlorine won't penetrate the cell. BUT the water in bleach will so bleach actually FEEDS MOLD because of this...never use bleach on mold/fungi/yeast...have to use fungicide.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Finagle (Post 7522915)
As DeVena's link points out, you're going to be putting those unmentionables through the dryer, right? The dryer is way, way hotter than any hot water you're going to be using to wash the clothes and the clothes are exposed to it for quite a while. I dunno if they're sterile after coming out of the dryer, but they're pretty close.

You would think but the dryer doesn't do much for killing germs, mostly because they don't actually get that hot for long enough. The air is hot but the clothes aren't getting that hot, metal buttons may but the cloth doesn't.

BeeGee 09-29-2015 01:03 PM

Does bleach work on zombies?

iljitsch 09-30-2015 05:35 PM

In the past I've had clothes, towels and linens get smelly as soon as they got damp. I'm blaming this on bacteria that don't get killed by regular washing at 40 degrees C (104 F) so now I wash stuff like linens, towels, socks and underpants at 60 degrees (140 F) and the problem has gone away.

Senegoid 09-30-2015 08:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by iljitsch (Post 18731527)
In the past I've had clothes, towels and linens get smelly as soon as they got damp. I'm blaming this on bacteria that don't get killed by regular washing at 40 degrees C (104 F) so now I wash stuff like linens, towels, socks and underpants at 60 degrees (140 F) and the problem has gone away.

Washcloths and dishcloths in particular do this. How about boiling them in water? Would that accomplish anything useful? I'm thinking of boiling small items, like washcloths and dishcloths and underwear in the microwave oven. (And for how long?)

iljitsch 10-01-2015 03:32 AM

Why would you do that? You can wash them at 90 degrees (194 F) in the washing machine, which is pretty much the same as boiling in water. But 60 seems sufficient.

Of course lots of stuff wants to be washed at 40. 60 seems to be ok for cotton, but 90 is probably too much for most stuff. Also, some detergents may lose part of their effectiveness (enzymes) at high temperatures.

TruCelt 10-01-2015 10:11 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by LowneWolfe (Post 18727013)
scientists. Soap really only loosens oil and dirt that may cover germs so water can sloth them off. Some bacteria actually feed on anti-bacterial soap...no I didn't mistype that.

. . .

Bolding mine.

I'm pretty sure you meant "slough" here.

The dry cycle does most of the germ killing in modern clothes and dish-washing machines. The trouble with undies is killing the germs without ruining the elastic. It;s a difficult problem. Lysol works better than nothing, but the smell it leaves behind is unpleasant.

If you are worried about shrinking them, you can hang dry them first, and then put them through the dryer on high. That won't shrink fabrics (except wool, which shrinks if you look at it roughly) but it will melt some elastics.

You could soak his things in a bucket of denatured alcohol before washing. That stuff is fairly cheap at the hardware store. I would imagine methyl alcohol would work just as well if it's cheaper. I don't know what that might do to elastic though. I'm guessing latex might break down?

Anybody know?

What about triclosan? Can it be bought in bulk?

twhitt 10-01-2015 10:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Senegoid (Post 18732018)
Washcloths and dishcloths in particular do this. How about boiling them in water? Would that accomplish anything useful? I'm thinking of boiling small items, like washcloths and dishcloths and underwear in the microwave oven. (And for how long?)

Assuming you're just boiling dishcloths and the like, and the water genuinely reaches a full boil, it will have done most of the sterilizing work you can expect it to do in under one second. The amount of time is pretty much irrelevant.

EinsteinsHund 10-01-2015 11:35 AM

I read "How to kill Germans in colored clothes?". looks down: blue jeans, blue t-shirt, brown vest. I'm fucked...

Senegoid 10-01-2015 06:45 PM

I live in an apartment, and don't have my own washer or dryer. I use the coin-op machines in the laundry room of the apartment complex. I wash on "hot" setting, but the water is really only warm (and sometimes just barely).

So that why I wondered if I could boil the washcloths and dishcloths separately in the microwave to sterilize them. Currently, I hand wash them separately, which seems to get them cleaner than not doing so, but they still get an unpleasant odor to them, when they get damp. I'm going to try boiling some of them and see what happens.

Same with underwear. I could try a pair or two and see what that does to the elastic.

So I wondered if anyone knows how well this will work -- of if there's any compelling reason why I shouldn't try this?

JR Brown 10-02-2015 08:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Senegoid (Post 18735058)
So that why I wondered if I could boil the washcloths and dishcloths separately in the microwave to sterilize them.

There was a study once that suggested microwaving kitchen sponges for 2 minutes to (semi)-sterilize them, so I think it should be fine with cloth; I doubt you need to put them in an actual pot of water, just get them thoroughly wet and put them on a plate or something.

Victorian household manuals (which I collect) assumed as a matter of course that all the kitchen rags would be "scalded" (either pouring boiling water over them or briefly boiling) every day, to keep them from "souring". (The special rag for cleaning the chamber pots was scalded separately, along with the pots themselves.)

White cotton clothing (which would include underwear) was also boiled as part of normal laundering (usually in a cute copper pot), if you could manage it, although that was more for the bleaching effect.

CookingWithGas 10-05-2015 12:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by iljitsch (Post 18731527)
In the past I've had clothes, towels and linens get smelly as soon as they got damp. I'm blaming this on bacteria that don't get killed by regular washing at 40 degrees C (104 F) so now I wash stuff like linens, towels, socks and underpants at 60 degrees (140 F) and the problem has gone away.

This could be due to mold/mildew, not necessarily bacteria.


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