Disinfection of textiles can be carried out thermally, chemically and chemo- thermally. Thermal disinfection is carried out at higher temperatures, the effect achieved depends on the temperature and time of action.

Chemical and chemo-thermally procedures include inorganic and organic disinfectants, peroxyacids, alkali, oxidants, halides, alcohols, organic and inorganic compounds with metal ions, phenols, aldehydes, quaternary ammonium compounds, etc. The combination of chemical and thermal disinfection procedure is the most desirable method for textiles which cannot be washed at higher temperatures.

In theory, domestic washing machines could disinfect textiles but in practice, this is difficult as the wash performance is not guaranteed. To kill or inactivate bacteria, yeasts, fungi and viruses the following actions should be taken: ■ Programming the temperature setting at 90C in order to achieve a real temperature of about 80C inside the washing drum

■ Achieving a sufficiently long holding time at high temperature (without falling below the holding temperature)

■ Correct concentration of detergents ■ Correct loading of textiles (kg) and water levels (ltr) in the washing machine and

■ Proper handling of the textiles after washing and drying

In a domestic setting, one or more of these conditions are often not fulfilled. Moreover, domestic washing machines vary greatly as does washing load to washing load, even with the same machine. Tolerance thresholds cannot be determined or are within a broad range, it is therefore impossible in practice to validate a washing procedure in a household washing machine. Professional laundries, on the other hand, implement validated disinfecting washing procedures and control management systems to ensure textile disinfection, using professional machines with validated settings. RKI listed processes are often referred to, where chemical disinfection processes based upon peracetic acid are compliant with EN 14476 for viricidal activity at temperatures usually between 40C and 70C. For example, Cool Chemistry by Christeyns is an RKI-listed disinfecting wash process validated at 60C.


LCN has been following the debate about washing healthcare uniforms in domestic washing machines. You may be interested to see these pieces from LCN: on-healthcare-uniforms-for-three-days-8541589/ uniforms-be-covid-19-carriers-8150939/ healthcare-uniforms-should-be-washed-at-home-7896675/ spotlight-6138277/


Household washing machines offer a pre- programmed choice of washing programs, often based on temperature and time. However, energy saving measures in modern washing machines mean that, the required 60°C is often not reached, nor maintained sufficiently long enough, which makes textile disinfection impossible. If a temperature of 60C is not actually reached inside the washing drum or varies, a safe disinfection is not possible.

The diagrams on the facing page show the temperature over time of two different 60C programs of two regular household washing machines as examples.

Professional laundries adhere to strict European and international parameters in relation to temperature, type and dosing of laundry detergents, the nature of the soiling and contamination and the composition of the material. Disinfection is mostly achieved chemo-thermally (for temperatures usually between 40C and 70C). This will ensure the optimum killing of bacteria and viruses.

Ecological aspect

It is also worth noting, that in addition to the high hygiene levels professional laundries offer, they also have high standards when it comes to environmentally friendly washing.

ETSA’s research has shown that when compared to washing at home, the sector saves 73% on water, 85% on laundry products and 52% on energy consumption. Professional laundries use about 4 litres per kg of linen on average when compared to the average of 15-20 litres per kg of household washing machines, where no type of water reuse or filtration is available.


[1] HSE blood-borne-viruses/personal-protective- equipment.htm

[2] Department of Health, Health Technical Memorandum 01-04 Decontamination of Linen for health and social care

[3] Bloomfield SF., Exner M., Nath KJ., Scott EA., Signorelli C.

The infection risks associated with clothing and household linens in home and everyday life settings, and the role of laundry.

International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (IFH), National electronic Library of Infection City eHealth Research Centre http:// IFH_Topic_Infection_Transmission?OpenForm, April 2011

[7] Consumer Behavior while washing workwear at home, GFK, 2012, P107.

[8] Bellante, S., Engel, A., Hatice, T., Neumann, A., Okyay, G., Peters, M., Vossebein, L.

Hygienische Aufbereitung von Textilien in Privathaushalten - eine Studie aus der Praxis

HygMed 2011; 36 [7/8]: 300–305 [9] Heintz M., Krämer J. und Vossebein L.

Risk Analysis and Biocontamination Control - Hygiene Measures in Commercial Laundries. Tenside Surf. Det. 2007 44 (5):274-280.

In conclusion

With the outbreak of Covid-19, the requirements for general and hygienic cleanliness have increased. Textiles used in the food industry as well as in other hygiene-sensitive environments now need to fulfil certain hygiene standards. National and international authorities and experts in many European countries are increasingly asking for professional processing of textiles and advise clearly against washing laundry at home. ■


June 2021 | LCN


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