Although laundering should mainly remove stains and dirt from used and worn textiles, elimination of microbial contamination is also an important aim of the laundry process.
While industrial and institutional laundering employs standardized processes using high temperatures (i.e. 60°C and above) and bleaching agents to ensure a sufficient hygienic reconditioning of textiles, domestic laundering processes are less defined and not always led by purposeful aims. The strive to achieve greater energy efficiency of household appliances and increase sustainability of domestic laundering has resulted in a decrease in washing temperatures in Europe during the last decades. At the same time, a desire for convenience has led to an increased use of liquid detergents that do not contain bleach which in turn impacts the antimicrobial efficacy of domestic laundering.
This review considers the different factors that influence the input and removal of microorganisms in the laundering process and discusses the possible adverse effects of microbial contaminants in the washing machine and on the textiles as well as suitable counteractions.
This review Laundry – How to get more than clean. Dirk P Bockmuhl is now published online in the Journal of Applied Microbiology at doi: 10.1111/jam.13402