The researchers have found that the household washing machines may be a thriving place for the bacteria. In a neonatal ICU in one of the German hospitals, multidrug-resistant pathogens were continuously appearing on premature babies’ skin and this left the investigators confused.
The incubators and also the healthcare workers who dealt with the babies were tested but the result came negative. However the babies were continuously infected with bacteria known as Klebsiella oxytoca which is responsible for infections like urinary tract infection, pneumonia, a kind of blood poisoning leading to septic shock and infection of soft tissue. It was then that the knitted hats and socks were tested by the investigators and they traced the presence of bacteria in the laundry room of the hospital. Unlike other hospitals, this particular hospital was using an energy-saving household washing machine. It was found that the detergent drawer along with the door seal made of rubber and the two sinks in that area housed the Klebsiella oxytoca. The infections stopped when the washing machine was removed.
Usually peroxide-based disinfectants and chlorine was used for washing clothes even in hospitals. Even though stains and dirt are removed using household machines, they do not get sterilized. Washing in hot water and maintaining high temperature while drying killed the germs. However environmental concerns have brought about a great change in the way laundry is now done. Temperature between 86-104F was used for washing colored laundry in Europe. Cold water was preferred in Korea, Japan and China.
As per studies a temperature of 140 F is required for killing the pathogenic bacteria effectively. Studies have also shown that bleach may also not be effective at lower temperatures of washing. Energy-efficient drying is not capable of killing the germs. Drying in direct sunlight is always a better option as the sun has some sanitizing properties. It should also be taken care that the washer gets washed after the washing of germy clothes to prevent the germs getting passed on to the next load.