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How To Sanitize Clothes in the Washer

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Sanitizing your clothes is more important than ever in today’s health-conscious world. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps and provide tips on how to effectively sanitize your clothes in the washer.


To sanitize clothes in the washer, use the sanitize cycle if your machine has one, or use the hottest water safe for your clothes. You can also add a laundry sanitizer product for extra disinfection. If suitable for your fabric, bleach can be used. Alternatively, white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide can be added to the wash. Essential oils like tea tree and lavender also have disinfecting properties. Always check the care label on your clothes before sanitizing them in the washer.

Understanding the Importance of Sanitizing Your Clothes

Sanitizing your clothes goes beyond just removing visible stains and dirt. It involves getting rid of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that can potentially cause harm to your health. This is particularly crucial in a time when we are dealing with global pandemics and a heightened need for cleanliness.

Step-by-step Guide to Sanitize Clothes

1. Use the Sanitize Cycle on Your Washing Machine

Many modern washing machines come with a sanitize cycle. This cycle uses hot water, typically heating up to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, to effectively kill germs. Some washers even extend the wash cycle, giving the hot water more time to work its magic. However, not all clothes are suitable for this cycle. Always check the care label before washing them on your washer’s sanitize cycle.

2. Use Hot Water

The World Health Organization recommends water temperatures between 60–90° C (140–194° F) for disinfecting. If your washing machine doesn’t have a sanitize cycle, use the warmest water temperature that is safe for the fabric.

3. Use Bleach

Chlorine bleach is highly effective at disinfecting clothes. Dilute it with water before adding it to your washing machine. However, chlorine bleach should only be used on whites and is not suitable for certain fabrics like silk, wool, and spandex.

4. Use a Laundry Sanitizer Product

If your items aren’t safe for a hot water cycle or you’d like an extra disinfecting boost, consider adding a laundry sanitizer product to the wash. These products can also be added to a sanitary cycle for an extra bacteria-fighting boost.

5. Use White Vinegar or Hydrogen Peroxide

White vinegar is an excellent disinfectant, and laundry is no exception. Just use half a cup in your laundry. Hydrogen peroxide has bleaching properties, so use only on whites! Add 1 cup of peroxide once your washer is filled.

6. Use Essential Oils

Tea tree oil and lavender oil have disinfecting properties. To use them in the laundry, add about 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil and a few drops of lavender oil to your load.

Mistakes to Avoid When Sanitizing Clothes in the Washer

When sanitizing clothes in the washer, it’s crucial to avoid common mistakes that could compromise the sanitization process or damage your clothes. These include not sorting your laundry, using an incorrect amount of laundry detergent, leaving garments un-zippered or buttoned, not cleaning your washing machine regularly, and not checking the garment’s care tag.


Sanitizing clothes in the washer is an effective way to ensure your clothes are not just clean, but also free from harmful bacteria and viruses. By following these steps and tips, you can ensure that your clothes are properly sanitized, keeping you and your family safe and healthy. Always remember to check the care label on your clothes before sanitizing them in the washer to prevent any potential damage.

Remember, not every load of laundry needs to be sanitized. Reserve this process for cleaning sheets and throws from a sickbed; pajamas worn while recovering; and other germy items, like cloth diapers or dog bedding.

With this guide, you have all the information you need to sanitize your clothes effectively in the washer. Here’s to cleaner, safer laundry!

Frequently Asked Questions

How much bleach should I use to sanitize my clothes?

The amount of bleach to use can depend on the size of your load and the type of bleach you’re using. However, for regular bleach, typically 1/2 cup is recommended for a full load. Make sure to dilute it with water before adding to your washing machine.

Can I mix bleach and vinegar to sanitize my clothes?

No, you should not mix bleach and vinegar. The combination can create toxic chlorine gas, which can cause respiratory problems and other health issues.

Can I sanitize my clothes if I don’t have a washing machine with a sanitize cycle?

Yes, you can still sanitize your clothes even if your washing machine doesn’t have a sanitize cycle. You can use hot water, bleach, laundry sanitizer products, white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or essential oils.

What are some laundry sanitizer products I can use?

There are various laundry sanitizer products available in the market, such as Lysol Laundry Sanitizer and Tide Antibacterial Fabric Spray. Always follow the instructions on the product label for the best results.

Can I use the sanitize cycle for all types of clothes?

Not all clothes are suitable for the sanitize cycle as it uses hot water. Always check the care label on your clothes before sanitizing them in the washer. Some fabrics, like silk, wool, and spandex, may get damaged in hot water.

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