Disinfect clothing when a family member has been sick.

How to Disinfect Clothing

by S.R. Becker

Whether you're washing diapers, clothing worn by a sick family member a thrift store find, it's a good idea to disinfect your clothes from time to time. Machine washing in hot water with liquid laundry detergent is the best way to remove germs from your clothing. Bleach and other laundry additives boost the disinfecting power of detergent.

Fill the washing machine with water between 135 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Set the dial for the regular cycle. If using a front-loading machine, set the machine for hot water and the gentle cycle.

Add laundry detergent to the washer as you normally would.

Add 1 cup of chlorine bleach to a load of white clothing. Add one scoop of oxygen bleach and 1 cup of white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to a load of colored clothing. If using a top-loading machine, add these as the washer fills. In a front-loading machine, add them to the bleach dispenser.

Add the clothes to the washer after it fills in a top-loading machine. Add the clothes to the washer before filling if using a front-loading machine.

Hang clothing in bright sunlight to dry. The UV rays will further help disinfect the clothing.

Place the laundry in the dryer if you want to soften it or the weather does not allow you to dry it in the sun. For added disinfecting, apply five drops of tea tree oil or pine oil to a rag and add it to the dryer instead of fabric softener.

Items you will need

  • Laundry detergent
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Oxygen bleach
  • White vinegar or hydrogen peroxide
  • Clean rag
  • Tea tree or pine oil, optional


  • Warm and cold water don't disinfect clothing as well as hot. They also don't break down powder detergent as efficiently. When using powder detergent in cooler temperatures, mix it with hot water first to dissolve it.

About the Author

S.R. Becker is a certified yoga teacher based in Queens, N.Y. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Becker often writes for "Yoga in Astoria," a newsletter about studios throughout New York City.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images