How to Kill Bacteria in the Washer

Washing machines are expected to get your clothes clean, but did you know that washing machines need to be cleaned as well? The inside of a washing machine is warm and damp, so it's the perfect place for bacteria to grow. To prevent it from growing in your clothes and bedding, it's vital to maintain your washing machine and keep it clean.

Items you will need

  • Bleach-based detergent
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Pine-oil disinfectant
Step 1

Launder your clothes in the hottest water possible. It's tempting to wash garments in lukewarm water to save on the electric bill, but that won't get them fully clean. Hot water may shrink some garments or cause their colors to run. Check an item's care tag before washing it.

Step 2

Run your washing machine's sanitize cycle, if it has one, to kill germs and bacteria. This cycle is ideal for cleaning bedding, such as comforters and sheets. Your machine might also have a boil or intensive cycle that's similar to the sanitize setting. If your machine doesn't have a sanitize option, run it once per month on the hottest cycle with a capful of bleach-based detergent.

Step 3

Use a washing machine that's equipped with a silver-sterilization system. These machines coat clothing with silver nano-particles that effectively kill bacteria. The inner tub is also coated with silver particles for an anti-bacterial boost. If your machine has a silver-sterilization cycle, you can reduce the temperature of the water used to launder garments. The machine rinses all particles away after each cycle.

Step 4

Add 1/2 cup of liquid chlorine bleach per cycle to front-loading machines. If you have a top-loading machine, use up to 1 cup of bleach. Chlorine bleach kills germs and you can use it on most color-fast items. Do not use bleach with wool, silk or spandex.

Step 5

Add a capful or two of pine-oil disinfectant to a load to kill bacteria in the machine. Only use disinfectants that have at least 80 percent real pine oil. Less than that won't kill germs.

Step 6

Remove your laundered items from the washing machine within 30 minutes after the cycle ends. If you wait longer, bacteria and mildew will develop. Start the cycle again if the clothes sit in the washer for more than one hour.

Step 7

Wash underwear in very hot water separately from other items, as they almost always contain bacteria. If you wash underwear with other garments, the bacteria will spread to those items. Also launder kitchen items, such as towels and cloth napkins, in their own cycle.

Step 8

Use your machine's air-wash cycle, if it has one, to sanitize clothes that normally require dry cleaning. This cycle cleans garments and kills bacteria with only air and uses no detergent or water.


  • If you have a baby, launder her garments in a separate load. Babies have immature immune systems, so they can't fend off bacteria and germs as can adults.

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