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As you may know, one of the reasons athletes's foot and jock itch fungus are so hard to kill with OTC medicines like Lotrimin and Lamisil is because after you treat it, it is extremely difficult not to reinfect yourself with the fungal spores by re-wearing the same clothes and sleeping in the same bed sheets. Doing laundry properly is of paramount importance.

I've read on certain sites that in order to kill athlete's foot fungus spores on clothes, you need to wash your laundry with ultra-hot water (140 degrees Fahrenheit). I have some clothes and a fleece blanket so washing them with hot is not an option because I don't want them to shrink. So assuming I can't use hot water, what is the best combination to kill the fungus?

  • Bleach (?) - I've read that bleach will kill fungus such as athlete's foot on hard surfaces, but when used on fabrics it doesn't always penetrate deep enough into the material to completely kill the fungus roots. I've also read a post where the guy made the following comment:

Bleach removes fungus and mold but also promotes it’s later development... Fungus thrives in high PH environments caused by Bases like bleach... If you must use bleach you should neutralize it with a post acid rinse like vinegar or lemon juice.

  • Borax Laundry Booster (?) - Some people have said that adding 20 Mule Team Borax to your wash cycle can kill athlete's foot on fabric. But I've looked at the Borax product packaging and there wasn't any mention of this benefit so I'm a little skeptical.

  • Oxygen bleach (OxiClean ?) -This has also been mentioned, yet I see nothing on the product packaging that says it kills fungus.

  • Vinegar (?) - Vinegar has long been touted as a natural cure for athlete's foot on skin. Will it work on fabric? (Note to others: Do NOT mix bleach with vinegar as that can give off toxic gases!)

  • Something else?

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Edit: COVID and your laundry

If you're worried about SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus) or COVID, you're looking at the wrong post. Instead, please see a related question of mine and the answer I've posted there. Both the question, and the answer, discuss COVID.

A scholarly report discusses the matter

Some years ago, a scholarly report was published. The report's "Appendix A" discusses, among other things, how to clean your laundry if there's a risk that it may be somewhat contagious.

The advice given

The report advises:

  • Whenever you do laundry, add some activated oxygen bleach (AOB).
    • Notes: You can use standalone AOB, or a detergent with AOB included. This link discusses your options. In the US, Tide powder is one good choice. Certain products are probably not good disinfectants, including Tide liquid, Tide pods, and OxiClean.
  • If possible, also do laundry at 140 °F (60 °C).
    • Note: This may shrink and/or destroy certain items. (Source.) Read their care labels.
  • Use the regular cycle. Don't enable "quick wash", "water saving", or any other environmentally-friendly options.
  • Make sure each item goes through the rinse and spin cycles at least twice. Preferably three times.
  • It's best to wash items belonging to the infected family member in separate loads from everyone else's laundry.
  • If you can also dry the items in sunlight, this is an extra bonus.
  • The report also gives other advice; please see here.

Water temperature

In some countries (including the US and certain others), if you want to wash clothing at 140 °F (60 °C), there's a problem.

An article on the Bottom Line Inc. website states that, in these countries,

household water heaters typically are set to 120 °F [50 °C] to minimize the risk of scalding.

The article suggests three possible workarounds.

  • One (dangerous) workaround would be to raise your water heater's temperature to 140 °F (60 °C). But this is a dangerously-high setting. (Source.) It may also be illegal in your jurisdiction. (Source.) Water at 120 °F (50 °C) takes 5-10 minutes to cause a third-degree burn; but water at 140 °F (60 °C) takes just 3-5 seconds. (Source.) Third-degree burns sometimes kill people. (Source.) Maybe I should email the Bottom Line Inc. and suggest that they revise their article.

  • Another workaround might be to pour a kettleful of boiling water into your top-loading washer shortly before it's finished filling.

  • A third workaround is to use a washing machine with a water-temperature-boosting feature, "such as the Whirlpool Front-Load Washer with Deep-Clean Steam, model #WFW86HEBW, which can get the water up to 150 °F [65 °C]".

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  • 1
    +1: This is actually the only suitable answer for this question with proper formatting and sources. Thanks for digging up that old question! – Narusan Apr 7 '17 at 19:25
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    Congratulations again on this great answer and the edit, which made it even more awesome! It's great to see people actually follow Community guidelines and dig up old posts to adds great answer. You could probably delete the (late answer) disclaimer by now... – Narusan Apr 24 '17 at 21:24
  • @Narusan Isn't this quite conflating hand washing and machine washing? Even my mom used boiling water for 'hand' washing (with sticks instead of hands of course). Where is it not legal for a machine to use even 95°C settings? (quick check online left me really puzzled about this.) House hold water heaters have nothing to do with laundry machines? – LаngLаngС Aug 29 '18 at 15:21
  • @LangLangC: In America, many (perhaps most) washing machines lack heating elements. They draw hot water from the household water heater instead. ❧ In many places, it's illegal to set a household water heater to anything higher than 120 °F (50 °C), because such hot tap water may cause severe burns and possibly death. – tealhill supports Monica Aug 7 at 20:25
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Bleach was never an option for me due to the discoloring of the fabric, but after several years I've noticed a major improvement using Lysol Laundry Sanitizer:

https://www.lysol.com/products/laundry/lysol-laundry-sanitizer/

Note that you need to let your clothes soak in the product for at least 20 minutes, and the longer the better.

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  • Oxygen bleach is safe to use on colored fabric. I presume that your qualms about bleach relate only to chlorine bleach; am I correct? – tealhill supports Monica Jul 7 at 7:00
  • Correct. And I had tried oxygen bleach, Clorox 2, Borax, etc. but I never noticed an improvement until I started using the Lysol product. Obviously I can't prove it was the Lysol as there were many other factors at play, but I'm sticking with what seems to work for me – public wireless Jul 20 at 22:01
  • It's up to you. ❧ As was mentioned earlier, Lysol Laundry Sanitizer contains benzalkonium chloride (ADBAC). This chemical is definitely toxic to fish, and may also be somewhat toxic to humans. Therefore, it's best to use an alternative product if possible. As well, Lysol Laundry Sanitizer is labeled to kill bacteria, not fungi. ❧ I plan to keep on using a laundry detergent with AOB instead. – tealhill supports Monica Aug 7 at 19:57

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