The Truth About Clean: Laundry

Soap makes particles and grime more soluble or dispersible in water.  It’s what allows the particle of dirt to be separated from the article that is being cleaned.  This is because soap, or detergent, is a surfactant. The word “surfactant” comes from the combination of three words: surface active agent. 
It’s much better than the combination I would have come up with: aceivag. 

Surfactants work by being bi-polar, not unlike magnets. One end of the molecule is hydrophobic, or hates water, while the other end is hydrophilic, which loves water. When a surfactant encounters dirt or oil in water, the hydrophobic end attaches itself to the particle while the hydrophilic end attaches itself to the water, allowing the dirt or oil particle to be removed with the water and preventing the particle from redepositing itself on the article being washed.  Surfactants and the soaps and detergents that contain surfactants are very good at doing their job, which is to simply remove dirt and debris.

Is it just me, or have you noticed that, even though I use reputable detergents and even bleach at times, there is still the potential for bacteria and mold to grow?  I can see red slime in the cracks and crevices of the rubber seal and even on the glass of my front-loading washer. Mold and mildew grow around the edge of the drum, and feeds on the overflow of detergent and softener in the dispenser. 
If my washing machine can become so dirty, how can I possibly expect my clothes to be clean?

TRUTH:  Detergents do not disinfect articles, not even clothing laundered in a washing machine.

By disinfect, I mean detergents do not remove harmful bacterial and fungal microbes.  A study posted on the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health revealed that “The number of living bacteria was generally not lower in the WM [washing machine] effluent water as compared to the influent water.”  The detergent and laundering process may be removing the dirt, but not the bacteria or fungi.  This means the water going out of the washer has as much live bacteria as the water coming into the washer, so the “wash” isn’t killing the bacteria.

 Even with the use of detergent, clothing can “cross-contaminate.”

“Accordingly, malodour-causing microbial species might be further distributed to other clothes. The bacteria on the ingoing textiles contributed for a large part to the microbiome found in the textiles after laundering.” That is why your clothes may end up smelling like your son’s football funk. Oh, I know, you don’t wash your clothes with the funk clothes anymore.  Well, that’s why!  We all want to look like athletes, not smell like them.   

Household washing machines provide an ideal location for bacteria and biofilms that contain pathogens to thrive

The researchers found that, “The laundering process caused a microbial exchange of influent water bacteria, skin-, and clothes-related bacteria and biofilm-related bacteria” in the washing machine.  The even scarier fact is that “A variety of biofilm-producing bacteria were enriched in the effluent after laundering.” Biofilm is a microbe’s defense system.  Microbes that can produce biofilm very difficult to remove.  Think dental plaque and pond scum.  The report finds that “biofilms are shown to harbor many possible human pathogens like Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae, sometimes even considerably more than toilets.”  That is serious stuff.  And I was just worried about my clothes smelling like wet dog!

Researchers noted that more eco-friendly detergents and lower water temperature settings are contributing factors in for the survival of bacterial and cross-contamination.  They acknowledge that modern washing machines contain a lot of plastic parts that also encourage bacterial communities.  Washing machine manufacturers often suggest a monthly high temperature wash along with a bleaching agent.  Bleach, however, will not solve the issue of the infected areas outside the drum because it only kills bacteria if it comes into direct contact with the surface for at least four minutes (according to manufacturers).  Also, we have more to contend with than bacteria.  Biofilms can be produced by other microorganisms like fungi and protists.

TRUTH:  There is a simple way to clean your clothes and your washer!

Clothing funk: I spray clothing with COMPEL before washing.  Not only does it take care of the odor-causing bacteria, but it also removes the deodorant that gets caked on my husband’s t-shirts, and those hard-to-clean grease spots. COMPEL is clear, no added dyes or scents. The scent-free is nice because you can tell the stink is really gone, not just covered up, and it doesn’t compete with your scented detergent or softener or dryer sheets. COMPEL is safe to use on all fabrics and won’t cause colors to fade.  Nevertheless, I must tell you to test a small sample of the fabric before going all in!

Full load funk:  If your entire load is questionable, pour a small amount of COMPEL in with your liquid detergent (liquid only). This cleans not just your clothes but also your washer drum.

Biofilm:  I spray the gunk with COMPEL, let it infiltrate the bacterial defense system, then wipe with a paper towel so I can throw it away.  It takes a few wipes to completely remove the film, (If you still see color, it is still there!), but once thoroughly removed, there is less likelihood it will return anytime soon.

Mold/mildew:  Spray COMPEL on a paper towel or disposable cloth until the cloth is wet.  Press wet towel or cloth onto the mold and let it sit for a few seconds then wipe it off.  Make sure to clean it thoroughly with COMPEL so that it is not allowed to regrow.  Avoid spraying the mold directly so that you don’t end up dispersing the spores.  COMPEL will not damage the plastic, glass, rubber, nor metal parts of the washer.

Of COMPEL’s ingredients, ethyl alcohol kills bacteria, chlorhexidine takes care of bacteria and fungus, and Lauramine oxide is a surfactant, essentially, creating the ultimate laundering trifecta.  Be confident your clothes are clean with COMPEL!

Bacterial Exchange in Household Washing Machines (

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published