The dryer does not kill all germs, so here's how to keep your clothes germ-free
dryerwill not kill all germssince many dryers don't get hot enough.
- You should always wash your
clotheswith detergent before putting them in the dryer.
- Some other things you can do to keep your clothes germ-free are avoiding contaminated surfaces and hang-drying your clothing on a sunny day if you do not have a dryer.
- This article was medically reviewed by Tania Elliott, MD, who specializes in infectious diseases related to allergies and immunology for internal medicine at NYU Langone Health.
- Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.
Pathogens, like infectious
Many dryers do not reach this temperature and only get up to about 135° Fahrenheit. But every dryer is different. Therefore, you should not rely on your dryer, alone, to disinfect your clothes. Here's how to best clean your clothes and reduce the risk of infection.
How the dryer affects germs
Germs like bacteria and viruses can live on clothing for longer than you may think. For example, the flu virus can survive 8-12 hours on fabric. However, this will vary, and different viruses live for different amounts of time depending on the type of fabric.
Since you likely don't know what germs you've come in contact with and how long they could be living on your clothes, it's best to regularly wash and then dry them, says Daniel M. Pastula, MD, MHS, Neuro-infectious disease expert at University of Colorado
That's because some bacteria and viruses thrive in moist environments. So when you thoroughly dry your laundry, you'll be reducing the risk of bacterial or viral growth on your clothes. Pastula also stresses that washing and drying will not kill 100% of the germs on your clothes.
The main point is to reduce the number of harmful microbes to a tiny amount that's unlikely to cause infection. Both Pastula and Sinclair advise against just throwing clothing in the dryer without washing it first in hopes of sanitizing it. Wash your clothes first, and then dry them.
How to further decrease the number of germs on your clothes
You can also take measures to ensure you're removing as many germs as possible.
Wash your clothes with detergent on the highest heat setting possible.
Along with using a hot water washing cycle (which usually will get up to 140° Fahrenheit), you should use a detergent that contains
Check if your washer has a "sanitize" cycle.
Some more modern washing machines have even higher heat capability. If yours has a built-in water heater, the temperature can surpass 140°. Additionally, the washing machine might have a cycle called "sanitize," which will be the highest heat possible for your machine.
If you don't have a dryer, then hang your clothes outside on a sunny day.
If you're dealing with clothing that can't be dried on high heat, Sinclair recommends hang-drying them outside in the sun, since UV rays can act as a disinfectant. But remember, hang drying won't kill off all viruses or bacteria.
Avoid germ-contaminated surfaces when in public.
Get in the habit of not leaning on counters and other surfaces and keep your distance from others, says Sinclair. After all, viruses like the flu virus can live for hours and even days on common surfaces like steel handrails and money.
The bottom line
More important than worrying about your clothes carrying germs is avoiding touching your face and practicing good hand hygiene. Also, keep the surfaces on your home clean. These habits will help you stay healthy and make it less likely for you to get an infection, whether they're on your clothes or another surface.
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