Is It Okay To Use Your Washing Machine As A Dirty Laundry Bin

When it comes to shedding our dirty laundry, some of us have a habit of making our washing machine our go-to destination for dumping clothes or towels. After all, they’re going to get washed anyway – what does it matter? Well, unfortunately, we’re here to tell you that it does matter and that’s really not okay to use your washing machine as a dirty laundry basket.

Why? Well, it seems somebody ‘ratted out’ our time-saving strategies to everyone’s favourite microscopic, single-celled organism: bacterium. At Repair Aid, we fix, install and service washing machines and we often see machines that are the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. Here’s why it happens, why your clothes are contributing and what you can do about it.

Washing machines are teeming with bacteria

We often associate washing machines with cleanliness and freshness – so it might be strange to think of them as festering grounds for bacteria. However, when you think about it, it does make sense. As a site where cleaning happens, washing machines come into contact with a lot of bacteria. While we think that our washing machines will get rid of the bacteria, we have to remember just how stubborn and ubiquitous bacteria is on our lives.

Take underwear, for example. As faecal matter is full of bacteria, and it happens to be always present on our underwear, this makes it a breeding ground for the stuff. In just one load of underwear alone, there’s going to be roughly 100 million E. coli present in the water used in the load. That means that even if there’s only a tiny portion of that water left over, it’s going to be full of bacteria that can be passed onto your next load. Just to remind you, E. coli isn’t the only harmful germ you may find in underwear – it can also carry the hepatitis A virus, rotavirus, norovirus and salmonella.

So if you’re using your washing machine as a laundry basket, you’re unwittingly offering bacteria a chance to jump onto your clothes and, from there, find their way onto you. As you remove your ‘clean’ clothes from the laundry, that bacteria can get onto your skin. Detergents won’t kill the bacteria in your washing machine – only bleach or extremely hot water (60 degree Celsius) will do that. But, as many delicates indicate that we shouldn’t be washing them at that high of a temperature, how do we get around that problem?

How to deal with washing machine bacteria

Bleach is a bacteria killer but, of course, bleach isn’t always right – especially when washing colours and lingerie. However, one way to get around this is to dry as many clothes as possible in the sun. As UV radiation is a known germ killer, it can be just as effective to hang your washing out in the sun to dry.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of being able to do that – especially in a built-up city like London – so regular cleaning of your washing machine can be the next best thing. This can be as simple as putting some bleach into your machine and running an empty, hot water cycle.

If you are a bit fixated by the idea of germs and bacteria being on you or your clean clothes, the best way to minimise your contact with bacteria is just to regularly wash your hands and regularly wash your washing machine too. There’s no need to do it after every wash, but as it’s fairly easy for the washing machine to cleanse itself (with the addition of some bleach), it shouldn’t be too taxing to keep it clean on a regular basis.

But, on a wider note, we’re constantly living alongside bacteria and germs – both outside of us and within us. Public toilets, railings, ATMs, door handles and just about everything we see around us has come into contact with bacteria. As long as we keep ourselves clean, our hands clean and, of course, our washing machines regularly cleaned, we needn’t worry about the very small percentage of bacteria that can cause us harm.

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