How To Wash Underwear To Kill Bacteria: Say Goodbye To Germ-ridden Undies

Have you ever wondered if you have really taken your washing work into consideration, especially those little undies? We wash our underwear every single day – that’s for sure, but it may come as a surprise to most of us that the question of how to wash underwear to kill bacteria is often too obvious to be neglected. Dumping a pile of laundry and going full automatic? Experts have found out that this is not enough to kill off bacteria. Turns out, there is a handful of tips when it comes to cleaning your undergarments.

For the record, the groin area is a “breeding paradise” for all kinds of, mostly harmful, germs and bacteria due to its natural biological position (near your genitals and anus) and this is where a great deal of heat and sweat is trapped, so a plain cold wash is not enough to wipe out these perps. Fortunately, you only need to put a bit extra care to your panties to keep them fresh and clean.

In this article,I will walk you through some tips you need to know in order to give your underwear a good wash, and also maintain the durability of your significant piece of clothing. Here are some main points:

  • General reminders of some significant factors before, while and after washing your underwear
  • When you need to wash your underwear by hand and a thorough step-by-step instruction
  • What types of undies can you wash by the washing machine and a thorough step-by-step instruction
  • Complete guide on how to disinfect your washing machines 
  • Some frequently asked questions

General reminders

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria

So before we move into specific step-by-step instructions on how to eliminate bacteria from your underwear, I just want to remind you some quick notice as to keep your garments, not only germ-free, but also as durable and long-lasting as possible, since the disinfecting process can be somewhat harsh and vigorous if we decide to leave these notes out of the way.

In this section, I will focus on the steps you should take throughout the washing process: what you need to know about the quality of your underwear, what you need to do before dumping a pile of laundry into the washing machine, which choices of treatment factors you can consider, what you should notice in the drying process and some other disinfecting practices to keep the level of germ to the lowest possible. 

 Check for the material

Since undergarments come in a diverse range of cloth and fabric, it’s a good idea to have a look at the product tag that is attached to or printed on that piece of garment. Each type of fabric will require specific sets of chemical or heat treatment to ensure the best longevity of the garment

These tags can provide you with a lot of information about how to treat your underwear properly, regarding whether you should let the washing machine do its job or you should do it by hand, or which kind of heat-treatment you should adopt.

Cotton and microfiber

This is the most prevalent type of fabric used in underwears thanks to its significant durability. Generally, underwears made of cotton, stretch cotton (containing 90% cotton and 10% spandex) or microfiber (nylon, polyamide, spandex) can withstand standard cycles of the washing machine.

However, you should keep in mind to not wash any of your underwear with rough and heavy types of cloth like jeans, because the friction will severely damage the smooth texture of your underwear.

Natural fibers

Underwears made of natural fibers are well-known for their super soft touch, as the fibers come from modal or bamboo. But as a downside, these materials possess less durability compared to cotton, thus a harsh cycle can cause lints pills to appear. 

So if you need to wash these types of underwear with your washing machine, it is best to put them in a mesh laundry bag, which lowers the impact of the spinning cycles on the material while maintaining the composition of the fabric.

If possible, you should do the washing by hand completely. This way, you will have more control over the process and prevent the fabric from being scratched and torn.

Sheer or mesh fabrics

Try to avoid using the washing machine for these delicate types of fabrics, or at least if you must use the washing machine, you shouldn’t wash them with rough fabrics like towels and jeans. Ideally, let your delicate hands deal with these delicate garments.

Separating laundry

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria

Colored undergarments

Needless to say, you sure don’t want to dump a bunch of colorful underwear and clothes into the washing drum. This will cause the colors to fade and it may leave an disturbingly unremovable smear of colour on the surface of bright-colored cloth.

Underwears of sick members

Are any of your family members or roommates suffering from diseases, especially infectious ones, such as influenza or athlete’s foot? If so, always remember to separate the batch into different piles and treat them later. It helps prevent cross contamination and you will save your living environment from turning into a germ-ridden den.

Similarly, if you or your partner work in a highly-infected area like the hospital, chances are that their clothes have already made contact with bodily fluids like vomit, blood, urine,…so keep these outfits for a separate treat.

Treatment factors

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria

Fabric softener

Don’t let the name fool you. While it remains true that fabric softener can create a pleasant feeling on your overwear, fabric softener can actually do more harm than good if you use it on your underwear, especially those that are made of nylon and polyester, because the softening substances and fragrance can damage the knit. Cotton, on the other hand, is fairly more tolerant, but you should consider using it if you really need to.

Laundry spray

In order to maximise the cleansing effects, you may want to spray a bit of antibacterial laundry spray on your underwear before putting it in the washing machine. By doing this, you help pave the way for deeper cleaning later, as manual treatment at this stage will help eliminate visible dirt plaque and allow the current to penetrate better into the fabric; hence, results in more thorough cleaning

Bleach and detergent

Commonly, bleach and detergent are not recommended when you wash your underwear on a regular basis, since the highly-activated disinfecting factors will undermine the quality of the fabric over time. The key here is to choose the appropriate type of liquid treatment according to their intensity of bleaching, also the frequency with which you apply this treatment to your underwear.

When it comes to cleaning underwear, I suggest using only mild bleach every now and then, and try to avoid using fragrant detergent as the added substances allow yeast to thrive. Moreover, it is suggestible not to overuse bleach on dark-colored underwear.

Drying

How you dry your freshly-washed underwear also has a significant impact on its durability and also the effectiveness of killing bacteria. 

A tumble dryer is a brilliant choice to dry your wet garments if you want to speed up the drying process. A thirty-minute dry on low heat has been proven to be effective against the bacteria lingering after the wash. One thing to remember is that you shouldn’t set the temperature too high for tumbling the underwear, because the quality of the fabric, even cotton, will degenerate quickly if exposed to intense heat. Check out Top 13 Best Commercial Washer and Dryer if you are still pondering over which machines work best for your needs.

When it comes to drying, sunlight is the best contender. However, It’s sometimes a misconception that you should expose your laundry to direct sunlight in open space, the more sunlight, the better. While it is true that the ultraviolet rays from the sun is capable of wipe out almost any germs lingering on your underwear, you should, in fact, leave them in fresh air in open space and avoid long-term direct sunlight exposure; that way you can prevent the degradation of the fabric while still let the sunlight do its work. 

Replacing your underwear

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria

Even with the most delicate treatment, “clean” underwear still holds up to various types of living microorganism, and it’s practically impossible to get rid of all of it completely. So consider having a fresh change, ideally every year, to your drawer after you have been using your underpants for a quite a while.  

While it is not the most environmentally-friendly option to do, renewing your underwear every year or so will help you avoid contracting viral and fungal diseases. And when going for a piece of garment for your privates, don’t let the economical mindset get the better of you, you can base your choice on your brand new underpants through our picks here if you plan to renew your drawer. Choose whatever you feel most pleasant and comfortable with, 

Cleaning your washing machine 

Another source of spreading the germs to not only your underwear, but your entire drawer is the washing machine and the tumble dryer. Well, after all their job is to do the washing, so it’s understandable that bacteria and germs are lurking in the corners of these gadgets.

On that account, I suggest that the cleanser also needs cleansing. After several uses, you should let these machines go on an empty cycle with detergent and disinfecting chemicals to eliminate the bacteria left. The same goes for the tumble dryer. Run an empty and high-temperature cycle and you are good to go for the next time you use it. We will walk you through a thorough step-by-step process in just a few moments.

Disinfecting your laundry site

In addition to cleaning your machines, you should also take into account everything that comes in contact with the laundry: the basket, the racket, tha hanger, the floor , you name it. A lot of people have the habit of building up their laundry and wait until laundry day to wash their clothes to save energy and effort, and, frankly, it doesn’t sound very hygienic. 

Even after a short period of time you leave your dirty laundry sit, the germs and bacteria have already produced an army in the surroundings. So it’s best not only to clean the washing machine alone but also its environment. After all, it feels so unsettling putting a fresh batch of laundry down a dirty floor, doesn’t it? 

Step-by-step instruction on how to wash underwear to kill bacteria

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria

How to wash underwear in the sink

It is advisable to wash your underwear not relying on the preset automatic cycle of your washing machine if your underwear is made of delicate material, like lace or silk, or decorated with complicated patterns. 

Furthermore, washing your underwear by hand is a great way to save energy and prevent excessive use of water. It also gives you a better command on your force with which you use to wash your delicate underwear. 

Step 1: Put delicate underwear into a separate basket

You should know how delicate your underwear is just simply by looking at it and feeling the texture of the fabric. 

  • If you are not sure, make sure to check the product tag that comes with the underwear, it either illustrates a hand dipping into a bucket of water, or simply quotes “hand-wash only”.
  • If you can’t find the tag anywhere, it might be useful to check the fabric in the light to see if it’s delicate, and if it’s see-through, then you should treat it by hand.

Step 2: Fill the basin with laundering mixture

Step 3: Treat your underwear

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria
  • If your underwear have solid dirt or plaque, rinse the spot with cold water first to get rid of these unwanted pieces.
  • If your underwear is stained (blood, fluid,…) you should use some laundry spray on the stain and rinse it with cold water to prevent the stain from setting, before following the next step
  • If your underwear is stain-free, then soak the garment in the mixture and let it sit in 5-10 minutes
  • Gently swirling your underwear in the mixture to lose any dirt, avoid scrubbing or stretching the fabric too hard.
  • Gently rubbing the stained area with your finger dipped in the mixture to carefully remove the stain
how to wash underwear to kill bacteria

Step 4: Rinse 

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria
  • Drain the used laundering mixture
  • Rinse the garments with cool running water thoroughly until you no longer see soapy liquid coming out of the garments

Step 5: Dry

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria
  • Avoid trying to squeeze or wring out residual water from the garments
  • Wrap a dry and clean white towel around the garments and pat it gently to absorb the excess water
  • Use clip hangers to hang up your underwear at an open space separately from other clothes, avoid direct contact with sunlight

How to wash underwear with washing machine

For the most part, regular underwear that constitute cotton are capable of withstanding the rough tossing cycles of the washing machine. 

Step 1: Separate the underwear if necessary

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria
  • If possible, you should leave your underwear landry to a different basket and wash them altogether in one cycle, separately from other clothes
  • If not, you should use a mesh laundry bag to contain all of your underwear to prevent them from the heavy impact of the tossing process
  • Avoid washing your underwear with zipline, rough cloth like denim

Step 2: Prepare the detergent solution

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria
  • Use an appropriate amount of mild laundry detergent according to the volume of the batch, you can infer from the instruction on the detergent.
  • Add a small amount of bleach if you need to clean your underwear, but only do so with white-colored ones
  • For an even better disinfecting result, apart from conventional recognized detergents on the market, you may want to have a look at some milder solutions such as white vinegar (¼ to ½ cup for a regular wash) or Borax (½ cup for a hot wash cycle).

Step 3: Prepare the setting

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria
  • Turn the dial or put the setting of your washing machine cycle into “Gentle”
  • Set the temperature of water to 80 degrees of Fahrenheit or higher, make sure to read the sewn or printed label on your underwear for the right treatment.

Step 4: Treat your underwear

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria
  • Eliminate any solid dirt or soil on the piece of garment by rinsing them off under cold running water to allow deeper cleaning.
  • If your underwear is stained, it’s best to give them a pre-treatment by spraying antibacterial laundry spray and rinse with cold water to eliminate stain
  • Bring the laundry into the bin and press “Start” to engage the washing cycle

Step 5: Dry

The best way to effectively dry your underwear is to let them air dry, that way it can kill bacteria but at the same time retain the quality and lengthen the durability of your underwear.

  • Choose an open space without direct exposure to the sun
  • Use clip hangers to hang up your underwear separately from other clothes

In addition, a tumble dryer is a secondary choice if you want time efficiency. Generally, you should check the label carefully before setting the desired temperature on the tumble dryer, because underwear will gradually become less durable after high-temperature treatment over time.

How to wash bras

Unlike panties, you can wear your bras for a little few more times before taking it to the laundry site. You can choose either to wash them using washing machines or by hand, but the general reminders stay the same: try to avoid using intense bleach and detergent; even better, try white vinegar for the equally effective result.

Given the specific function of the bras, and with it, their construction, it’s usually best to deal with them by hand since you have more control over the process. But the choice is up to you, try whatever makes you feel okay with.

How to wash bras by hand

Step 1: Remove visible stains
  • Apply laundry spray or mild bleach (only for white colored bras) onto the stain
  • Let sit for a few minutes, then rinse with cold water to prevent the stain from setting
Step 2: Soak the bras in the solution
  • Add lukewarm water with half a squirt of mild detergent
  • Soak the bras in the mixture for 4-5 minutes
  • Gently swishing and wiggling your hand to create the spinning movement of the washing cycle
  • Gently apply pressure scrub on highly-infected areas such as the rings, the area near the armpits
how to wash underwear to kill bacteria
Step 3: Rinse
  • Remove the laundry solution
  • Rinse the garments with running cool water until there is no soapy liquid visible on the bras
Step 4: Dry
  • Avoid wringing and squeezing the bras, as you will cause deformation of the bras
  • Hand up the bras or spread it flat on a towel to let dry
  • Avoid using the tumble dryer since this will damage the shape of your bras

How to wash your bras by washing machine

Step 1: Prepare the solution
  • Add mild detergent to the water dispenser
  • Avoid using fragrant detergent or heavy-duty bleach directly
Step 2: Treat the bras
  • Remove any stains by applying laundry spray ot mild detergent onto the stains, let sit for a few minutes and then rinse with cool water
  • Place your bras into a mesh laundry bag to prevent the underwire from getting stuck and damaging the delicate surface of other garments
Step 3: Setting up the cycle
  • Go for a gentle level cycle of washing, avoid vicious spinning cycle
  • Avoid washing with other rough material like denim, since the friction can result in tears and damage the quality and complex patterns on the bras.
Step 4: Dry
  • Hang up your bras or let it lie flat in an open space, avoid direct contact with the sun

How to disinfect your machines

As I’ve said before, the machines themselves also need cleansing from doing all the dirty work, literally. Ideally, the washing machines should be washed after every underwear wash, but that doesn’t prove to be eco-friendly. Instead, you can do this between once a month and once a week.

Step 1: Washing the laundry drum

  • Use a cup of bleach or vinegar
  • Go for an empty cycle with, preferably hot, water to prevent the germs from lingering in the drum

Step 2: Expose the drum

Keep the lid open at all times to let air circulate, this will prevent any molds and spores from developing and help release the disturbing smell of bleach.

Step 3: Scrub the drum

  • Use a scrub or clean cloth that is covered with antibacterial cleaner
  • Scrub every corner inside and outside of the washing machine
  • Remember to run an empty cycle with water only to purge the laundry drum of any antibacterial disinfectant left, before you move on to a new clean washing cycle.
how to wash underwear to kill bacteria

Step 4: Clean the lint filter

  • Empty the little finely-meshed net attached to the wall of the laundry drum once every week
  • Replace with a new one if there are holes and scratches on the surface of the part

FAQ

how to wash underwear to kill bacteria

Which fabric is best for an underwear?

There are tons of fabric and cloth to make underwear out there, and it largely depends on personal preferences regarding which type of fabric fits them best. But in general, I would recommend that cotton stands out as a perfect material for your undergarment.

You sure want something gentle and soft to protect your sensitive and delicate area, and cotton does just the right thing. Also, cotton allows skin to breathe easily and can absorb sweat, which will be helpful in preventing yeast infection.

Synthetic materials are another contender. While they give you a fairly soft and pleasant touch, the fabric doesn’t allow air to circulate well around your private area. Over time, they create opportunities for yeast to develop.

Should I wash my underwear with my normal clothes?

Generally, it is better to deal with each type of clothes differently because the bacteria lingering on your underwear are often tougher to remove than your normal overwear. So if you are washing your clothes with a hot water cycle, then it is acceptable to wash your underwear along, since the high temperature will prevent the transfer of germs to the rest of the laundry.

My advice is that you should reserve a separate session for your own batch of dirty underwear. Not only does this lower the transmission chance, but your underwear will also be cleaned in a more thorough manner.

Should I iron my underwear to completely kill the bacteria with intense heat?

No, you shouldn’t. Ironing, though, is an effective way to eliminate germs and bacteria that are left after the washing process took place. However, you should practice ironing only on regular clothes, and since underwear are quite delicate to some degree, ironing is considered a taboo when it comes to heat-treating your underwear.

Instead, you can make use of the tumble dryer set on low-heat cycles for a milder treatment. But it is best to let it sit naturally in an open space, because the ultraviolet rays in the sunlight proves to be the most effective factor to kill bacteria. One thing to remember is that sunlight can cause discoloration, so you should flip to the other side after 30 minutes.

Can I substitute white vinegar with regular vinegar 

In fact, you shouldn’t. The same goes for apple cider vinegar or wine vinegar. Due to their fairly high pH level, which means that the level of acidity is also higher than white vinegar, these substitutes can leave stains on the surface.

White vinegar and Borax are also perfect detergent alternatives if you need to disinfect your colored underwear. Unlike heavy-duty bleach or hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar or Borax are more benign and they can retain the pigment of your piece of clothing, while still possessing traits of a high-quality disinfectant.

Should I wash new underwear for the first time?

Yes, you should. Not only is this true for underwear but it goes the same for all other fresh out-of-the-box clothes. For one reason, there are still some residual treating chemicals, dyes or additives during the manufacturing process. Moreover, you obviously have no idea how many people have tried on that piece of clothing before you.

It is ideal to soak your newly-bought underwear in lukewarm water so that the residual chemicals will be diluted. After that, you only need to put your new underwear to a single cold wash for the fabric to get softened and ready for your next use.

How to know if I am using too much detergent

The more detergent, the better the cleansing? Not so fast! While it seems logical to put it that way, excessive use of detergent may lead to unwanted results. Of course, you can check the appropriate dose according to the guide on the label product, but sometimes you need to learn it the hard way! 

So if you notice one of these signs after your rinse cycle, you may want to tone it down a bit next time you wash your underwear: stain and residue on the surface, disturbing odour coming out of the drum, ineffective draining process leading to damper clothes.

Our closing line

While it is true that unhygienic underwear may pose a serious threat to your health and your loved ones’, it doesn’t mean that you must go to great length in order to get rid of all the germs and bacteria on your clothes.

By following these tips above, just take a bit extra care to treating your undergarments and to your laundry environment, just be consistent and it will turn into a daily routine before you even know it. The key things to keep in mind is to always categorize your underwear based on the safety precautions stated on the product labels and you are good to go. 

In addition to that, if you are looking for an upgrade for your gadgets, you can further maximize the effect of sanitizing and disinfecting your laundry by investing in a high end washing machine that we have done a thorough review here

I hope that you will find these guides above useful the next time you wash your underwear. Do you agree with me, or do you have any handy tips you want to share? Feel free to share your own stories in the comment below. 

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