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How to Sanitize Laundry (With Bleach or Without)

Have you ever wondered “are my clothes really clean?” I do SO MUCH laundry and while none of us work in hospitals or clinics, I am sure that with three kids, the germs in our laundry are pretty bad, especially after they return from school or a trampoline park. I am not a doctor nor am I a scientist, but I have been reading up on how to sanitize laundry because it is growing increasingly important to make sure that our clothes are sanitized. If you think about it, why would you want to go to all of that work, washing and folding and putting away clothes if they’re not really clean?

how to sanitize laundry with bleach or without

So, I began researching ways to disinfect laundry with bleach or without, depending on what you are comfortable with and what you have in the house!  Here is what I found!

How to Sanitize Laundry with Bleach

Always make sure to read labels for proper care.

  1.  The first and most obvious choice is to wash your laundry on HOT and use bleach. Set the washer temperature setting to the highest possible. The hottest setting should usually only be used for white items. Colored items should be washed in cooler water so bleeding doesn’t occur.  Delicate items should be washed by hand or a delicate cycle, in cold water.
  2. Add the regular, recommended amount of detergent and then add the recommended amount of bleach, according to the bottle’s directions. Chlorine bleach is good for white items and all-fabric bleach is usually safe for colored items. Wash as normal.

How to Sanitize Laundry without Bleach

Borax and Hydrogen Peroxide

  1. To disinfect your laundry with borax and hydrogen peroxide, make sure to be careful when using with dark colors. You can do a spot test on fabric before washing the entire garment.
  2. Mix 4 cups of hydrogen peroxide and 1 cup Borax, then add your usual amount of detergent. Add water in and mix well before adding in laundry. 
  3. Wash as usual.

White Vinegar

Add 1 cup of WHITE vinegar to your rinse cycle to kill bacteria. As a bonus, it also softens fabrics!


OxiClean isn’t as good as regular bleach at disinfecting, but it is better than just detergent. If you have some on hand, add the recommend amount to every load, along with your regular detergent.

how to sanitize laundry


Simply hanging your clothes out in the sun to dry is very effective at sanitizing them! Hang until dry or at least 30 minutes to kill bacteria. (If you have pollen allergies, this probably isn’t the best idea, but it is a cheap natural solution!)

Lysol Laundry Sanitizer

I recently heard of Lysol Laundry Sanitizer for the first time and while I haven’t used it, people swear by it! Lysol says that it kills 99.9% of bacteria. It should be added to the rinse cycle and allowed to sit for 16 minutes, so this might not be a good option if your washer isn’t able to be paused for some reason. It is also dangerous for cats so don’t use it on cat bedding or anything cats might come into contact with. There are two types of Lysol Laundry Sanitizer – Regular and Free & Clear. Both advertise 0% bleach, gentle on all clothes, and works even in cold water.

100% Tea Tree Oil

Add 2 tsp of tea tree oil to each load of laundry. It is advised to avoid tea tree oil on children’s laundry or anything pets may come into contact with, because it is not safe for them.


Add 10 drops of 100% lavender essential oil to each load for it’s antibacterial and antiseptic properties.


Using hot water PLUS drying laundry in the dryer OR in the sun until 100% dry is the best way to kill bacteria, but that isn’t always possible, depending on the color and fabric type. Again, check labels before deciding what to do with your laundry.

Other tips to disinfect laundry:

  1. Make sure to sanitize washing machine at least month by doing a strictly bleach wash plus rinse.
  2. Wipe down washer drum with disinfectant wipes after doing loads of laundry that are filled with bacteria.
  3. Wipe down laundry room and hamper with disinfectant wipes regularly.

Laundry items that need to be sanitized:

  1. towels – at least weekly, every day or after every use if illness is present (including hand towels!)
  2. clothes after returning from daycare, school, work, or basically anywhere in public if there are illnesses going around, which there usually are!
  3. bedsheets, pillowcases, and blankets – weekly, or every day if illness is present
  4. underwear – because, obviously
  5. stuffed animals during illness
  6. jackets and coats
  7. school items

Do you have any other tips for sanitizing laundry? 

>>5 school items you NEED to wash over school breaks<<


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Family lifestyle blogger from
Tyler, TX
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