Laundry hygiene and odor control: state of the science

Sarah E. Abney, M. Khalid Ijaz, Julie McKinney, Charles P. Gerba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Laundering of textiles—clothing, linens, and cleaning cloths—functionally removes dirt and bodily fluids, which prevents the transmission of and reexposure to pathogens as well as providing odor control. Thus, proper laundering is key to controlling microbes that cause illness and produce odors. The practice of laundering varies from region to region and is influenced by culture and resources. This review aims to define laundering as a series of steps that influence the exposure of the person processing the laundry to pathogens, with respect to the removal and control of pathogens and odor-causing bacteria, while taking into consideration the types of textiles. Defining laundering in this manner will help better educate the consumer and highlight areas where more research is needed and how to maximize products and resources. The control of microorganisms during laundering involves mechanical (agitation and soaking), chemical (detergent and bleach), and physical (detergent and temperature) processes. Temperature plays the most important role in terms of pathogen control, requiring temperatures exceeding 40°C to 60°C for proper inactivation, while detergents play a role in reducing the microbial load of laundering through the release of microbes attached to fabrics and the inactivation of microbes sensitive to detergents (e.g., enveloped viruses). The use of additives (enzymes) and bleach (chlorine and activated oxygen) becomes essential in washes with temperatures below 20°C, especially for certain enteric viruses and bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • hygiene
  • laundering
  • laundry
  • odor
  • pathogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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