An investigation has gone underway into the 2005 outbreak of E-coli in the UK in which over 150 people fell ill and one little boy died. But did you know that it's not unlikely that E-coli bacteria are running havoc in your washing machine right now?
Washing machines can build up quite a repertoire of dangerous germs. Environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba, microbiology professor at the University of Arizona's soil, water and environmental sciences department, says it's a myth that bacteria such as E-coli and salmonella thrive only in kitchens.
The professor pointed out that there are an awful lot of germs to be found in your home laundry due to dirty underwear. This is hardly public knowledge because most research into laundry germs focuses on pathogens- disease-causing microorganisms in hospital environments.
But Gerba believes that ordinary households are filled to the brim with all kinds of coliform bacteria too. E-coli bacteria originate in feces and often lurks around in washing machines persistently. You should not be surprised to find it in the load following the one in which you’ve washed your underwear. Of the 100 households that Gerba examined for a research project sponsored by a US chlorine company, 60 percent of washing machines had coliform bacteria and in about 10 percent he found E-coli.
E-coli tends to get killed in the permanent press drying cycle. But in case they don't, the experts advice that you use bleach. You can find many non chlorine based, environmentally friendly products easily. And using them is easy too; just run an extra rinse at the end of the washing cycle. It doesn’t require hot water, Gerba said.
If you want in-depth advice on environmental bleaches, check out laundry-alternative.com's information.
If you are not into bleach, you can also consider using a type of liquid silver called colloidal silver. This is tipped to be effective at fighting bugs.
Samsung even brought a washing machine on the market that targets bugs specifically. It's called the Silver Nano Health System washing machine. It comes with silver electrodes which upon contact with cold water produce nano sized ions. These tiny particles prevent bacteria from reproducing. Your clothes will be protected from E-coli as well as salmonella, hepatitis A, adenovirus and rotavirus (not scaring you, but just so you know) for up to 30 days after having washed your clothes.
Angelique van Engelen writes a blog about environmental issues: amplifiedgreen.wordpress.com.