an initiative of ACCORD


Laundry hygiene – WHY?

Your household contains many different types of items that need to be laundered, including clothing, towels and bed linen. These items can become soiled and stained from direct contact with the human body and the environment.

  • Soils - invisible matter, including microorganisms, spread throughout fabric.
  • Stains - localised areas of visible discolouration.

Soils and stains can be caused by a wide range of substances. Mould, for example, is a type of fungi which can build up in damp clothing and cause a musty smell, fabric stains, and can trigger skin irritations or respiratory conditions in some individuals.

Regularly laundering these items not only removes microorganisms that could be harmful to your health, but also gives fabrics cleanness and freshness, maintaining their appearance and making them comfortable to the touch.

Laundry hygiene – HOW?

There are two key aspects of the Australian laundry: laundry detergent, and the washing machine.

Laundry detergent provides the chemical energy to clean fabric by removing soils and stains. This is the essential aspect of laundry hygiene.

Laundry detergents come as powders, liquids and tablets. There are many specialised detergents to cater for a range of different laundry needs, including formulations for top-loading or front-loading machines; for white, coloured or dark clothing; for specific fabric types; or to give particular wash features including softness, freshness, fragrance (or fragrance-free), and brightness.

There are also other specialised laundry products, including:

Laundry Products

  • Bleaches, which remove stains and kill microorganisms. Chlorine bleaches get white clothing really white, and non-chlorine bleaches are suitable for whitening white clothing and for removing tough stains from coloured clothing without affecting the colour. Some non-chlorine bleaches are suitable for adding to the wash load.
  • Pre-wash stain removers and spot stain removers, which often contain enzymes and bleaching agents, are used on fabrics prior to washing. Enzymes help break down specific stains. Stain removers are available as powders, liquids, sprays, aerosols and sticks.
  • Fabric softeners, which help prevent the build-up of static that can occur from fabrics rubbing together, and make them feel softer and smoother.

For most laundry items, an effective laundry detergent will do the job. However, for heavily soiled laundry, clothing and linen from an infected person, or items contaminated with faeces or vomit, bleaches, bleach-based detergent or pre-wash soakers should be considered. Washing in water above 60 °C is also an effective means of killing microorganisms.


Most Australian homes – 97% – have a washing machine (Source: ABS 2008, Environmental Issues: Energy Use and Conservation.) The washing machine provides the mechanical energy needed to agitate and spin clothing, to pump water, and to push detergent through fabrics. These actions help remove soils and stains from fabrics, to remove detergent residue after washing, and to remove water after rinsing.

Washing machines are available with different:

Washing Machine

  • capacities
  • formats - top loaders, front loaders and high efficiency machines
  • water and energy efficiencies
  • performance - wash, rinse, spin and gentleness
  • additional features.

See the Washwise website for more information.

Microorganisms often thrive in dark, moist environments and can build up in your washing machine or grow on damp laundry. To help prevent the growth of microorganisms on wash items or in your washing machine, hang or dry laundry as soon as possible after the cycle has finished, and avoid putting damp items in the laundry hamper. It can also help to leave your washing machine open between washes so that it can dry out thoroughly. If your washing machine becomes contaminated, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for advice; some washing machines have a “maintenance cycle” which performs a thorough machine clean.

useful stuff...

Flushing the toilet sprays bacteria and viruses into air, which may float around for two hours after each flush.21 In 2006, women spent an average of 29 minutes and men 5 minutes per day on laundry & clothes care, and women spent an average of 69 minutes and men 29 minutes per day on food and drink preparation & cleanup.9 Australians experience approximately 15.9 million episodes of gastroenteritis every year.10
In 2006, Australians spent approximately 73% of their time at home or at someone else's house.9

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