Killing of fabric-associated bacteria in hospital laundry by low temperature washing

Martin J. Blaser, Paul F. Smith, Henry J. Cody, Wen Lan L. Wang, F. Marc LaForce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Hospitals using 71.1 C water for laundering consume vast amounts of energy. We studied whether washing at 22 C would result in fabric-associated between bacterial counts significantly different from those remaining after the high-temperature wash procedure in general use. Using a standard method to enumerate fabric-associated bacteria, we found that soiled sheets and terry cloth items were contaminated, respectively, with 106 and 108 cfu/100 cm2 of fabric area, predominantly gram-negative rods (especially Enterobacteriaceae and Pseudomonadaceae). Staphylococcus species were the most common gram-positive organisms. A standard low-temperature washing cycle without laundry chemicals removed 3 log10 of bacteria by agitation, dilution, and drainage. When low-temperature laundry chemicals were used, 3 log10 of bacteria were killed after the bleach was added, and sheets and terry cloth items had postwash colony of 101-102 cfu/100 cm2. Drying removed an additional 1-2 log10 organisms. Bacterial counts and species from low and high-temperature washed fabrics were comparable. Low-temperature washing is therefore as effective as high-temperature washing for eliminating pathogenic bacteria from hospital laundry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1984
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases


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