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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Sanitizing Washing Machines

By Dr. Laundry June 22, 2010

Q. A friend of mine threw up all over a towel of mine and a small rug in the bathroom. In a state of panic, I threw it into the washer not even thinking about the disgusting germs. I have an LG washer with the sanitizing function. I wound up throwing away the rug and towel. I have already washed it 5 times with bleach and the sanitizer. I don’t want to use the washer again because it grossed me out so bad. Is the washer safe to use? Is there anything left to worry about in the washer with germs? Did it kill all bacteria and germs? I don’t want to wash any of my clothes in there.

A. It’s not a good idea to leave that kind of problem for another day. Actually, you were right in worrying about the potential germ transfer to the following load(s) and you did the right thing by subsequent liquid bleach washes. Unless you use disinfecting liquid bleach like our Clorox® Regular-Bleach, there will be residual germs in the washer. This is especially true in HE machines that don’t drain completely. This is what leads to the off-odors in HE washers and why the manufactures have added Cleanout cycles where they recommend adding liquid bleach. Your 5 times cleanout procedure probably was excessive, but it certainly would have killed whatever was leftover of the germs that were in the machine.