Tips from our expert on fabric care during a pandemic

What temperature kills germs? How do I wash my delicate fabrics at home? Our fabric care expert Elisa Stabon shares tips on keeping laundry fresh and clean during the pandemic.

Q: With anxiety about germs in the home right now, what’s the recommended temperature for killing viruses?

A: We normally recommend washing at lower temperatures to put less burden on clothes and the planet. But of course we are in special times right now. If you have a load that really needs sanitizing, aim for a temperature of 60 degrees or above and use a powder detergent containing bleach or specific sanitizing additives. Use a ‘sanitize’ or ‘anti-allergy’ program if it is available on your washing machine – this is designed with a special cycle profile which maintains the temperature above 60 degrees for several minutes in order to remove bacteria from the fibers, providing a high level of hygiene.

Q: Does a higher temperature mean using more energy?

A: Yes, and of course that’s a friction point for people who want to be sustainable. The reason for this is the amount of energy that is needed to heat the water. Simply switching from 40 degrees to 30 degrees for example can lower the energy consumption up to 35 % which is far kinder on the planet. Consider using lower temperatures on loads that don’t require specific sanitizing.

Q: While staying at home, how can consumers take care of delicate fabrics they used to dry clean?

A: The good news is that thanks to recent advancements in washing technology and laundry detergents, it’s now possible to use gentler washing cycles, lower temperatures and drying settings so you can wash more and more garments in a washing machine, such as wool and silk blouses. Make sure to wash wool on specific wool cycles, and use a gentle cycle for silk.

Q: With consumers shopping less for clothes, how can they keep their ‘old’ wardrobe feeling like new?

A: Simply washing less where possible will help your clothes feel new. For clothes that don’t need sanitizing, try spot cleaning to take away a small dirt mark, and consider using fabric spray to remove unwanted odors.

Also try steam refreshing your clothes. Steam relaxes fabrics, reduces wrinkles and makes clothes smoother. An added bonus is that will make ironing easier, or even unnecessary.

And don’t be afraid to repair old clothes. With more time at home, fixing clothes that you might have discarded before (recycled ideally!) is a great way to give clothes a ‘new life’. For those of you not feeling confident, there are so many online tutorials – check out sites such as which take you through repairs step-by-step.

Q: Should we even wash our washing machines?  

A: Yes! Lots of people never think to clean their laundry appliances but a clean machine is more efficient when it comes to taking care of your clothes – especially important if you’re doing more washing during this time.

To do this, empty your machine and then carry out a cotton program at the hottest temperature setting or run a specific ‘machine clean’ program when available on your appliance. Use a washing machine cleaner – not detergent. Remember to clean the dispenser and around the seal too.

Don’t worry about using a high temperature setting – a more efficient machine is better for the planet in the long-run.

Q: Do you have any laundry ‘lifehacks’ we should adopt during the pandemic and long term?

A: Did you know, we don’t even wear 80% of the clothes we have in our wardrobes? * I think with so many sheltering at home, we will see more people ‘shopping in the back of the wardrobe’. There are so many lovely clothes I don’t wear tucked away at the back and forgotten about that I’m going to bring to the front. I think we’ll all discover new ways of loving our old clothes and hopefully create new, more sustainable habits that stick after this current crisis is over. I hope so.

*Fashion United