Washing Machines Harboring Microbes

Studies of common domestic areas have proven them to be veritable strongholds for bacterial growth and contamination. Noted microbiologist Charles Gerba, Ph.D. (University of Arizona) has found that even on appliances designed for cleansing, the residual presence of bacteria can be detected at particularly disturbing levels.

In washing machines detectable levels of fecal coliform bacteria, E. coli and other pathogenic microorganisms were found in at least 60 percent of the laundry appliances surveyed in a 1999 study. While it has not yet been determined whether public laundry facilities (such as the ones available in dormitories and Laundromats) carry a greater risk for contamination, one cannot ignore the higher frequency of use.

Bacteria, viruses, and other microbes are carried within every individual’s loads, particularly in the undergarments, and remain within the washing machine at the end of the cycle. This increases the risk of spreading a disease to the next user.

While a cycle in the dryer may kill E. coli, other germs may still persist. Chlorine bleach is recommended to kill prospective illness-causing contaminants.