How to Clean Kitchen Laundry in a Public Laundromat

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I love your website, your tips have been extremely helpful to me. I have a question, though, whose answer I couldn’t find in your archives.Maybe you can help me out?

I don’t have a washer at home so I take most of my laundry to a laundromat. I’ve been washing my dishcloths in a bucket with regular laundry detergent and dish washing liquid for stains. But when it comes to bigger items like aprons and table cloths… I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve been buying new ones because it just feels strange to wash them on a public laundromat, even if I wash them separately from my clothes.

If I don’t have a washer, how should I wash kitchen things?

Thanks a lot,
Clueless Germaphobe

Heather says:

If you had your own washing machine and knew what exactly was being washed and when I’d suggest you take a deep breath and not worry. You can always disinfect your own washing machine after doing something awful like cleaning up after a toilet overflow or dealing with toddlers and potty training accidents. Let’s face it, not everyone out there is considerate and when it comes to food safety, go ahead and let your germaphobe tendencies run free.

The following information is from the New Mexico State University Agricultural Extension:

Use a disinfectant when washing at a laundromat. Illness from another family can be passed on if the washing machine is not disinfected before it is used. Wipe off the surface of the machine with a disinfectant, then add disinfectant to the wash cycle. Follow the directions on the disinfectant’s label.

We’ve talked, in the past about how to use chlorine bleach safely.

First of all, in your situation it makes more sense, both from an economical and food safety sense to use paper towels for any clean up involving the preparation of raw meat and grease.

Next, you most need to remember when laundering your kitchen dishtowels, aprons, and dish cloths in a public laundromat is to not overload the machines. Your wash cloths and towels need enough room to move freely and enough water for the the dirt and germs to be suspended in the wash water so they do not end up re-deposited on the clothing.

Use the dryer on the hottest setting possible. Most bacteria can’t survive the heat of a dryer.

Don’t use the same laundry basket you used to bring the icky dishcloths and towels in -use a laundry bag that also gets washed- to transport the clean laundry home. OR simply give it a good wipe down with a sanitizing solution while you wait for your clothing to dry.

So here’s the short and sweet answer:

  • Use chlorine bleach – not the fancy scented kind, the traditional, plain sanitizing sodium hypochlorite version in your wash water -this is why I highly recommend buying cheap bar towel style dish cloths and towels.
  • Disinfect the surfaces of the machine and the folding table. Pretty much assume someone has used it as a changing table without cleaning it.
  • Use the largest load setting possible and don’t overload the machine. Use an appropriate amount of detergent.
  • Use the hottest setting of a dryer.

 

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

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Comments

  1. I’m afraid I don’t understand the letter writers hesitation. If she washes her kitchen towels and aprons at the laundrymat, the hot water, soap, and hot dryer has got to get the cleaner than hand washing them in a bucket and air drying, even without the extra effort of disinfecting the machine and the table. (I carry a couple of hand danitizing wipes in my purse for cleaning tables.)

    I keep these seperate from clothes, so no stain transfer before washing, and so I can fearlessly use bleach and the hottest wash and dry settings.

  2. Chlorine bleach looks (to me) very powerful, but pretty dangerous… So it’s important to read your previous post: http://www.home-ec101.com/how-to-use-bleach-safely/

    • Yes – Chlorine Bleach can be harmful when used in conjunction with similar products or cleaning agents. It should always be used as a stand alone cleanser and diluted with water only; when appropriate and by the label of the cleaning product.
      Borax, hydrogen-peroxide and baking soda are all wonderful alternatives to applying bleach as a cleaning tool.

  3. Yes – Chlorine Bleach can be harmful when used in conjunction with similar products or cleaning agents. It should always be used as a stand alone cleanser and diluted with water only; when appropriate and by the label of the cleaning product.
    Borax, hydrogen-peroxide and baking soda are all wonderful alternatives to applying bleach as a cleaning tool.