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How to Kill Flu Germs and Disinfect Laundry

During cold and flu season, it’s important to kill germs in the laundry and prevent the spread of illness. Disinfecting your laundry kills viruses that cause the common cold and the flu, and even COVID.

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By Mary Gagliardi

Sneezing and coughing. Runny noses. During cold and flu season, germs are everywhere, including the laundry. Depending on the virus and different environmental factors, laundry can be infectious for up to 3 days following exposure. 

When you want to kill cold and flu viruses, disinfect your laundry with a Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach pre-soak. You can also use the bleach pre-soak to kill other viruses such as norovirus, measles, rotavirus, rhinovirus and SARS-CoV-2, as well as bacteria such as MRSA, salmonella, E. coli and staph.

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First, make sure your laundry is bleach-safe

As long as the clothing, bedding, and towels you want to disinfect can be safely washed with bleach, you can use the laundry disinfection pre-soak. Start by checking care labels to see the fiber content; always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather and spandex. Cotton, polyester, nylon and acrylic are generally safe for bleach when used as directed. For items with color, confirm that they are colorfast to bleach before presoaking. 

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What you need

Steps to disinfect laundry

  1. 1

    Prepare a bleach pre-soak solution

    Add 1/3 cup Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach to 1 gallon of water in the plastic dishpan. 


    For a large amount of laundry, you can use a top loading washer instead of the dishpan and add more bleach as needed to maintain the 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water ratio.

    bleach pouring from bottle
  2. 2

    Confirm the bleach concentration

    Use a chlorine test strip to confirm the bleach pre-soak solution has a concentration of 1500 parts per million (ppm).


    If the bleach concentration is too low, add more bleach and then test again.

    chlorine test strips
  3. 3

    Add the laundry to the bleach pre-soak

    Fully submerge the laundry in the bleach and water solution and let it soak for 6 minutes. Use the spoon to make sure the items are fully submerged. 


    The laundry must remain in the pre-soak solution for 6 minutes to disinfect.

  4. 4

    Drain and rinse

    Pour off the soaking solution and then rinse thoroughly. Or, if using a clothes washer, advance the dial to “drain” to empty the washer. Advance the dial again to select a rinse cycle, or you can also just machine wash the laundry following the care label instructions.

  5. 5

    Tumble dry

    If available, machine dry the laundry. Note that disinfected laundry can also be line dried.

    washing machine knob

Frequently asked questions

What if my laundry is not bleach-safe?

If the clothing is not safe because bleach will fade or discolor the dyes, but is made of fabric that is bleach-safe, you can decide whether or not disinfecting is more important than preserving the color. If you do want to try to preserve the color, washing in hot water and tumble drying on high heat for an extended period of time will help reduce germ counts, even if not to the level of disinfection (although possibly also with some fading, too).