Laundry Product Testing
I am hoping to find the best, safest laundry detergents or additives that kill germs in the laundry. Here are the products that I've tested so far.
Chlorine bleach is the gold standard for germ killing. Adding 1/2 cup of bleach to a large load of laundry is recommended for disinfecting. Of course, bleach will fade the laundry, so you can't use it on your colored clothes or good clothes. I tested using bleach to disinfect laundry in several different machines. Surprisingly, it did not work well in all of them.
Samsung High Efficiency top loader without agitator
When I do a hot load on the normal wash setting in this Samsung top loader (without an agitator) and put chlorine bleach in the dispenser, these are the results that I get. The bleach hardly does anything! I repeated this in disbelief numerous times. I can't stress enough how much I don't recommend high efficiency top loaders. They don't fill up with water, and they barely agitate the laundry. It is possible that another brand works better, though.
When I did a hot load with bleach in my neighbor's old Whirlpool machine, I added the bleach directly to the wash water and got very clean results. I used my Tide Free and Clear detergent for this load. It looks like a few bacteria were picked up from her dryer.
I did a load in both of my neighbor's front loaders using 1/2 cup of bleach in the dispenser, and they both came out very clean. The front loaders agitate the clothes so much more than a top loader (with no agitator).
Whirlpool duet front loader
I tested my Whirlpool duet high efficiency front loader by adding 1/2 cup of bleach to the dispenser. I also used the sanitize cycle with extra rinse and a Tide Free and Clear in this experiment. It did great!
Here is my dirty dish towel load which STUNK they were so dirty. Again, I used the sanitize cycle set on "normal soil", extra rinse, 1/2 cup bleach in the dispenser with Tide Free and Clear detergent. It did great!
I also tested the dirty dish towel load washed on COLD with 1/2 cup of bleach in my Whirlpool Duet front loader. It did great, too. So, you can use cold water with chlorine bleach. Cold water helps keep the bleach fumes down to a minimum.
Speed Queen Top Loader
I also tested my Speed Queen top loader on hot with bleach. The Speed Queen fills all the way up with water and really agitates the laundry. I put bleach in the dispenser and it does great.
Adding 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach does a great job disinfecting laundry using hot or cold water in front loaders and old-style top loaders with agitators that fill all the way up with water. Adding bleach did not do much to kill the germs in my Samsung top loader.
3% hydrogen peroxide
I wished there was a way to produce laundry with less bacteria without using chlorine bleach. I tried putting 1 full cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide in the wash water of a hot load of laundry. I was not impressed with the results. 3% hydrogen peroxide is fantastic for cleaning as you can see in my cleaning experiments. However, it does not work well when diluted so much in the laundry.
For this experiment, I washed some beach towels in the sanitize cycle with 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine bleach. It was the "normal soil" sanitize cycle, and it did not yield the super clean results that chlorine bleach does.
Here I tested the dish towel load with 1 full cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide. I poured half in the detergent dispenser and half in the bleach dispenser. I ran the heavy soil sanitize cycle with extra rinse. It did pretty good but it was not as good as chlorine bleach. The sanitize cycle on its own does this well.
I also tested using 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide in a normal cold wash cycle.
I also tested a cold normal load with 1/2 cup 3% hydrogen peroxide in the detergent dispenser, 1/2 cup in the softener dispenser, and 1/2 cup in the bleach dispenser (so 1.5 cups total) and Kirkland detergent on top of the laundry in the machine. It didn't seem to do a great job.
As great as it is on surfaces, 3% hydrogen peroxide does not seem to do much germ killing in the laundry. It must not work well when diluted.
Clorox 2 Color Safe Bleach
Here is an experiment where I tested Clorox 2 Color safe bleach in my Samsung HE top loader on a dish towel load.
The results don't show any significant germ killing from the Clorox 2, unfortunately.
I also wanted to test Clorox 2 in my Whirlpool Duet Front Loader. I added 1/2 cup Clorox 2 to the bleach dispenser and 1/2 cup of Tide free and clear. This was a warm load and a normal cycle. To save agar plates, I just blotted the laundry after it came out of the washer instead of before. The Clorox 2 did not seem to significantly reduce the bacteria.
I also tested Clorox 2 in my 3 neighbors washers. I blotted the laundry on the agar plates right after the washer was done and there is still a lot of bacteria in the laundry.
From these experiments, I don't count on any significant germ-killing from Clorox 2 color-safe bleach.
Several people requested that I test OxiClean to see if it would kill germs in the laundry. The OxiClean container does not mention anything about killing germs, though, so I didn't have high hopes. I washed 2 loads of laundry on cold with my normal Tide free and clear detergent and 1/2 cup of OxiClean in each load. To save money on agar plates, I just tested the laundry when it came out of the washer. We all know by this point that the laundry was full of germs going in to the washer. Here are the results after washing with Oxiclean.
So, the laundry still had a ton of germs after washing with Oxiclean. However, my washer is not the greatest, so I had two of my neighbors wash their laundry with 1/2 cup of the Oxiclean. I blotted their laundry onto the agar plates AFTER the dryer. The dryer does kill a lot of germs so their laundry is not as germy as mine which was blotted onto the agar plate before the dryer.
I have not detected any significant germ-killing ability from the Oxiclean. It certainly doesn't compare to using chlorine bleach in the wash water. Bummer.
I did 2 cold loads in my washing machine with 1/2 cup of Borax in addition to the regular Tide Free and Clear. I blotted the laundry onto an agar plate when it came out of the washer. I did not notice any significant bacteria killing ability of the Borax. I also tested Borax in some of my countertop cleaning product experiments and it did not kill any significant amount of germs in those either. So, I won't be relying on Borax (Although, it does seem to be good for killing ants.) Keep reading because I tested Borax one more time in my new washer.
I decided to test Borax in my new washer with a soak cycle. I washed these loads on the cold heavy soil cycle with an extra soak cycle. I mixed 1/2 cup borax in 1 cup of water. I poured half in the detergent dispenser and the rest directly on the laundry. I also added the extra rinse so the cycle was 1 hour and 51 minutes.
I recommend NOT relying on Borax for any germ killing.
Tide Free and Clear
I still expected the cold load without bleach to have lots of bacteria and it did. This load used Tide Free and Clear detergent.
Here is a cold load after washing and then after drying. The dryer (which is still my Samsung dryer) does kill some germs. It used Tide Free and Clear detergent.
Here is a cold load using no detergent at all.
Here is a cold load using regular Tide detergent. Still plenty of bacteria.
Even though the cold loads still had a lot of germs, I do think the clothes get visibly much cleaner than my old washer got them. I washed my long white puffy winter coat on delicate (with no bleach) in my new washer and it came out very clean. I washed it last year in my old washer and it didn't look any cleaner at all. When I wash my young son's pajamas that are soaked with pee, I need to use the heavy soil cycle with the extra rinse because they still smell like pee if I just use the normal cycle. Overall, I am quite happy with my Whirlpool Duet HE front loader. I always leave the door open and have had no problems with mold or mildew smell.
Kirkland Free and Clear Detergent from Costco
I also tested Kirkland Free and clear laundry detergent from Costco and it did not see any amazing bacteria-killing.
Now that I have a better washer, I wanted to test some more laundry products. I put 1/2 cup Odoban in the bleach dispenser and 1/2 cup Odoban in the fabric softener dispenser for a grand total of 1 cup Odoban in this load. I also used Tide free and Clear. I used the sanitize cycle set at the "normal soil" level. The cycle was 1 hour and 45 minutes.
As you can see, a lot of germs were killed but there still were a lot left. As I discovered later, the sanitize cycle would work this well with NO detergent so I don't think the ODOban is making any significant contribution. It smells nice, though.
Thieves laundry detergent
I also tested Thieves laundry detergent in my new HE front loader. It smells wonderful! I put 1 tablespoon of the Thieves detergent into the detergent dispenser. It didn't seem to have much impact on the amount of bacteria.
Does the sanitize cycle kill bacteria in the laundry?
My new HE Whirlpool duet front loader has a sanitize cycle that I have used on the "normal soil" setting for several experiments. It finally occurred to me to crank it up to the "heavy soil" setting and see what it can do. For these experiments, I used NO BLEACH and NO DETERGENT. I just wanted to see what the washer itself can do. I used the sanitize cycle set on the "heavy soil" setting with the extra rinse. It was 1 hour and 52 minute cycle. I pressed many pieces of each load of laundry onto an agar plate when they were done in the washer before going into the dryer.
These results are pretty darn good. The sanitize cycle is not as good as using chlorine bleach but it is probably good enough. They are not always this clean on the sanitize cycle, though. Here is a picture I already posted of a dish towel load done on the sanitize cycle with Kirkland detergent and 1 cup hydrogen peroxide. It is not quite as clean but the dish towel load is my dirtiest, stinkiest, load of all.
Before I had gotten my new washing machine, I tested the sanitize cycle on my neighbor's machine. I did a hot load on the sanitize cycle in my neighbor's machine and did NOT use chlorine bleach but I did use Tide. I also only had the "normal soil" level selected.
As you can see, it seems to do better than a regular cycle but it is still not as clean as using chlorine bleach. This machine might be able to do better if I set it to "heavy soil" so I'll try to test it again sometime.
I also tried the "Heavy Duty" cycle on my old Samsung HE top load washing machine without using bleach. It was almost a 2 hour cycle and the machine got very hot. I couldn't test the temperature because the lid locked and it wouldn't pause. I was not impressed with the results. I am very happy with my new Whirlpool Duet HE front loader.
Crystal Wash allows you to do your laundry with NO detergent! You put these 2 balls in your washer that contain special "bio ceramics" that change the pH of the water and allow dirt and bacteria to be removed naturally. The company claims that it is as good as regular detergent, natural, and will save you money. To recharge your crystals, you simply set the balls in the sun for the afternoon. I decided to test crystal wash on some cold loads of laundry in my new front loader. I simply put them in the machine on top of the clothes and ran a normal cold wash cycle.
After the wash cycle, I blotted several pieces of laundry onto an agar plate. The plates were incubated for 24-48 hours in my warm incubator.
This particular day I had a lot of laundry to do and was able to do 3 different cold loads of laundry. So, you can see how NO DETERGENT, compares with Kirkland detergent (from Costco), and Crystal Wash.
As you can see, there is always a lot of bacteria in cold loads of laundry. The Crystal wash did not seem to do BETTER or WORSE than regular detergent. The company claims that it is as good as laundry detergent and it probably is as far as germs are concerned. The laundry did seem clean after Crystal Wash. So, if you want to try Crystal wash to save money on detergent, go for it.
Lysol Laundry Sanitizer and Norwex Detergent
After many requests, I tested the Norwex detergent. I blotted dirty laundry onto one agar plate, then I washed the laundry with 1 scoop of Norwex detergent (30 mL) on a warm, normal cycle in my HE Whirlpool front loader. When the cycle was finished, I wore clean gloves and carefully blotted several pieces of wet laundry onto another agar plate. The plates were incubated for 24 hours in my warm incubator (about 90 degrees F). Not surprisingly, there is still bacteria in the laundry.
Here is another load that I did on a hot normal cycle with 1 scoop of Norwex detergent. It looks about the same as every other detergent. Although, if you keep reading my Lysol laundry sanitizer results, there does seem to be something special about the Norwex detergent.
I really did like using the Norwex detergent, though. It has a very subtle, pleasant, clean smell that I love. I hate detergents that smell strongly of perfume. It seemed to do a great job cleaning the laundry. Everything was soft, and it is free of all kinds of unpleasant chemicals. So, if you like the Norwex detergent, go for it. I have yet to find a detergent that really rids the laundry of germs anyway, so I don't think any are BETTER detergents than Norwex at this point. If you would like to order Norwex detergent, here is a link to the Norwex rep's website who sent me the detergent to test. Keep reading to see how Norwex pairs with the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer. Norwex fans will be happy!
Lysol Laundry Sanitizer
I was so excited to test the new Lysol Laundry Sanitizer! It does not contain any bleach and claims to kill 99.9% of bacteria. It would be so WONDERFUL to have an alternative to chlorine bleach that really killed germs! I purchased the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer at Walmart. According to the directions on the bottle, you simply add the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer to the fabric softener dispenser in your washing machine.
In this experiment, I blotted several dirty pieces of dirty laundry onto an agar plate. This is not artificially contaminated laundry. This is my real laundry basket full of dishcloths and dish towels that I used all week. I put two capfuls of the Lysol Laundry sanitizer into the fabric softener dispenser (which overflowed it a little). I also used Kirkland free and clear detergent in the detergent dispenser. Then I washed the laundry on the normal, warm, heavy soil cycle in my Whirlpool HE front loader. The cycle was 1 hour and 15 minutes. After that, I wore clean gloves and carefully blotted several pieces of wet laundry onto a clean agar plate (before they went into the dryer). The plates were incubated for 24 hours.
There is a decrease in the amount of bacteria on the plates, but is this killing 99.9% of germs? I don't know. I don't think so. All I know for sure is that the results on my agar plates do not even compare to the clean results that I get when laundry is washed with chlorine bleach. Huge Bummer. Just to refresh your memory, here is a load of laundry washed on COLD with a half cup of chlorine bleach. (If I use a hot sanitize cycle, it gets even cleaner.)
I tried again. This time using a hot, heavy soil, normal cycle with 2 cups of Lysol Laundry Sanitizer in the fabric softener dispenser. This was a particularly stinky dish towel load, and it certainly didn't get clean.
I wasn't ready to give up yet. I tested the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer in my neighbor's old fashioned top loader. I put 2 capfuls of the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer right on top of the laundry. So, it was with the laundry the entire time. I used a high water level, heavy soil, warm cycle. These results look a better.
In the 2 experiments below, I put 2 capfuls of the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer in the DETERGENT dispenser (not the fabric softener dispenser like the directions say) of MY Whirlpool HE front loader. I washed them on hot, heavy soil, normal cycle. I didn't use detergent.
There is less bacteria in the laundry after washing with the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer. It seems that the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer works better when it has more TIME with the laundry and possibly in the warmer water (since rinse cycles are usually cold). It still doesn't compare to chlorine bleach.
I still wasn't ready to quit. This time, I washed the laundry first on a normal, warm cycle with Kirkland free and clear detergent. Then I washed it AGAIN on a hot, normal, heavy soil cycle with 2 capfuls of the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer in the DETERGENT compartment. Now, the laundry is starting to get clean.
Next, I tested 2 cups of Lysol Laundry Sanitizer in the DETERGENT dispenser of my Whirlpool HE front loader AND 1 scoop of Norwex detergent on top of the laundry. I ran it on a hot, heavy soil, normal cycle. 1 hour and 15 minutes
These results looked amazing! So, I did it again.
These results were not quite as good as the first time but still impressive. I repeated it again with Norwex detergent and the Lysol laundry sanitizer.
These results indicate that the combination of the Norwex detergent and the Lysol laundry sanitizer (when the Lysol laundry sanitizer is in the detergent dispenser) works very well! There may be a synergistic effect happening.
I repeated this experiment again, but I used Kirkland free and clear detergent instead of the Norwex detergent. I put the Kirkland detergent on top of the laundry and 2 capfuls of the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer in the detergent dispenser. I used a hot, heavy soil, normal cycle. 1 hour and 15 minutes
The results with the Kirkland detergent and the Lysol Laundry sanitizer were not impressive compared to the Norwex detergent with the Lysol laundry sanitizer.
I also repeated the experiment using a Tide Pod detergent. I put the Tide pod in the washer on top of the laundry and 2 capfuls of the Lysol laundry sanitizer in the detergent dispenser. I used the same cycle that I had been using (hot normal cycle that was 1 hour and 15 minutes).
make a good combination. There may be something special about the Norwex detergent.
I'm disappointed that the Lysol laundry sanitizer is not nearly as effective at killing bacteria in the laundry as chlorine bleach. I'm not saying that it does not do what they claim (killing 99.9% of bacteria). I'm just saying that it doesn't compare to chlorine bleach in my experiments. I don't personally think it is worth buying and putting in the fabric softener dispenser. If you are going to use it, I'd put it in the detergent dispenser or directly in with the laundry. (Of course, I could probably get in trouble by telling you not to follow the manufacturers directions for a product.) I'd also use it with the Norwex detergent for now, because that made a very effective combination. (I do not sell Norwex and am not affiliated with the Norwex company. In fact, most Norwex reps don't like me.)
If you have vomit covered laundry that can't be bleached, I would wash it 3 times and add the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer
to the last 2 wash cycles in the detergent dispenser. (The Lysol Laundry Sanitizer does not claim to kill any viruses, so we would just be hoping it would help with vomit covered laundry.) The Lysol Laundry Sanitizer has a very strong perfume smell. Your laundry will at least SMELL clean. I am a " free and clear" kind of girl so I don't like the smell. Now, it is possible that the Lysol Laundry Sanitizer would work better in a different washing machine. I was only able to test it in 2 machines.
. It It is also a laundry additive that goes in the fabric softener dispenser. The bottle has no English in it. So, I just put 1/2 cup into the fabric softener department with no detergent to wash my dish towel load. I blotted some dirty laundry onto an agar plate, ran the cycle, and then blotted the clean laundry onto another agar plate. The plates were incubated for 24 hours. I ran it on a normal warm 40 minute cycle.
in the fabric softener dispenser. I need to do more experiments to determine if adding it to the detergent dispenser so it would have more time with the laundry would yield better results. So, check back later for more Persil results.
I have also tested the pureWash Pro laundry system that uses ozone to kill germs. Those results are on a separate page. Click here to see those results.