What temperature kills bacteria and viruses?

Get your clothes ready to wear after being ill by understanding what temperature kills bacteria and viruses.

Updated 23 March 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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When you are finally feeling better after being ill, the last thing you want is the germs coming back to make you ill again. Here we will explain how long germs live on surfaces and what temperature kills bacteria and viruses, giving you all the steps you need to get your clothes and bedding ready for use again.

Although knowing what temperature kills bacteria in washing machine cycles is important, using a quality detergent will ensure any germs on clothes and bedding are gone.

How long do germs live on clothes?

Even if you are feeling better, the bacteria that causes a cold virus can still survive on your clothes and household surfaces for 24 hours to several days. Be sure to wash items that could be infected separately. As long as you combine a good quality detergent with a high temperature wash, a large percentage of the virus causing bacteria will be killed off of the fabrics you are washing. Pay particular attention to items such as:

  • Towels

  • Bedding

  • Pillows

  • Clothes

  • Pyjamas

For towels and sheets, which can especially harbour bacteria, choose the longest wash setting with an extra rinse with a good quality laundry detergent. If you have a tumble dryer, it’s worth popping your clothing and bedding on high heat for around half an hour to kill off any bacteria that may have survived. Always check the care label to make sure the items can be tumble dried. If you don’t have a tumble dryer, or the items can’t be tumble dried, pop them outside to dry in the sun as UV rays are a natural disinfectant.

Using bleach kill bacteria

Once you have made sure to clean your clothes and bedding, think about other places and surfaces that you may have been in contact with and now need a clean. These include:

  • Your kitchen

  • Your bathroom

  • Your car

For the surfaces in these areas bleach is the ideal product, as it is a highly effective disinfectant which will not only clean your home and car, but also kill any bacteria and viruses that could cause you to become ill again. Try using nine parts cold water to one part bleach on a clean cloth to wipe down these surfaces. This should elminate any remaining bacteria and viruses on frequently touched surfaces.

Do you need to clean anything else?

Once you have cleaned any regularly touched surfaces and fabrics, be sure to give a clean to other items such as:

  • Your toothbrush

  • TV controllers

  • Door handles

  • Light switches

For items like these a good antibacterial spray or wipe will work wonders. Another antibacterial solution can be made by combining one cup of water with half a cup of white vinegar and shaking well. You can also add a few drops of essential oils to make it smell great.

Now that you know to use a good quality laundry detergent that kills bacteria when combined with a high heat wash cycle, and which areas of your home you need to clean; you can make sure that you are able to prevent the virus from coming back.


The information in this article is accurate at the time of publishing. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it’s possible that some guidance may have changed since publication. While Cleanipedia is trying to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using GOV UK and NHS.

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