The Science of Washing Machines, Detergents and Removing Mold from Laundry
By Cesar Collado
This is a must read for mold sufferers who have identified the issue of moldy beds and linens, clothing, and laundry rooms. Over the past several years, it has been discovered that the laundry room is often a hot spot for mold due to humidity and the increased utilization of high efficiency (“HE”) front-loading washing machines. These machines are more efficient, use less water, and clean clothes better. Learn more about removing mold from laundry-
Unfortunately, moldy laundry rooms, clothing, and washing machines, if not maintained properly, can contaminate your “clean” clothing and bedding with mold, debris, and mycotoxins that can travel with you throughout the day or surround your entire body when buried in your bedding.
Moldy beds and linens is not just a problem for people living in moldy homes or working under moldy conditions. Living in a moldy home will inevitable spread mold to clothing, upholstery, and bed linens. Mold proliferation is a critical obstacle to address in regard to getting well because the mold spores will adhere to almost any textile, fabric, or carpet that can be continuously disrupted, become airborne, and inhaled throughout the day or evening. Continued inhalation of mold will prevent your body’s immune system from healing by forcing it to remain vigilant and active all the time. As important, mold in your bed and linens diminishes the body’s optimal time to heal, while sleeping.
There are also several professions that can expose individuals to dangerous levels of mold daily. Physicians and staff treating mold patients are continually exposed to a significant amount of toxic molds. In fact, you can often smell mold in the waiting rooms if you have not become nose blind. These physicians often fog their treatment and waiting rooms with a HavenMister on a daily basis. Mold inspection and remediation professionals can be exposed to millions of spores that, when inhaled at once, will result in will. a single significant exposure. This can can make any individual not taking safety precautions reach their body’s toxic load leaving them both mold and chemical sensitive. Construction workers, cleaning staff, carpet cleaners, manufacturing workers, and landscapers all get exposed to mold daily. As a result, wearing work clothing when arriving at home can spread the mold throughout the house. In fact, many mold professionals will either wear full body protection on the job or change clothes in a staging area, such as a garage before entering the home. They can then immediately shower to remove mold from the body. You can read about CitriSafe Haven Shampoo and Bodywash HERE. This product will directly address mold on your body and also provides many vitamins, minerals, and moisture to protect skin and hair.
A Washing Machine’s Functions
The original washing machines were invented in the 1400s using manpower to move the agitators. Since then, today’s washing machines have evolved through countless incremental innovations to be the very effective machines we have today. The end result is an endless number of options and combinations for cleaning involving hot, warm, and cold washing cycles, various detergents and amounts, and customized agitation used for different types of fabrics. Proper washing is essential to maintain clothing over time.
While washing machines work on a wide variety of textiles, different fabrics are impacted differently under different wash conditions. As an example, wool, a very durable material, absorbs huge amounts of water (hygroscopic) and can lose its elasticity in warmer water. As a result, when you wash wool materials, you don’t want to use hot water or to overly agitate (because the fibers will degrade and stretch too much). With sturdier fabrics like denim, you can agitate to the best of your machine’s abilities. With denim, you need the agitation to get the emulsified detergent deep into the fibers to break up the dirt.
Today’s washing machines place great emphasis on the cycle selections made for the wash cycle. They universally take approximately one hour for the entire wash cycle. The “computer” controls all of the various mechanical elements, moving parts, and water supplies that make up an optimal wash environment for clothing.
About Moldy Clothes
I know of several physicians that will take a mold tap test on mold patients which provides a lot of information about the home environment. When high mold results are found on a patient’s clothing, it is an easy deduction to surmise that the home has mold issues. Sick patients seldom do more than get dressed to go to the physician appointment. Further testing in the home becomes an important next task to identify if mold is the cause of the sickness. Here is an example of the results from an analysis I performed that was publicized on the “Know The Cause” syndicated television show.
You can learn more about mold testing at Immunolytics.
CitriSafe Remedy Laundry Liquid Detergent
Walter Hayhurst, R. Ph., and CitriSafe’s founder, spent significant effort and resources to incorporate citrus seed extract and tea tree oil as natural antifungal components in the first Laundry Liquid Detergent of its kind. Walter, a compound pharmacist, was both mold and chemically sensitive. He experimented with numerous formulations of laundry additives while using commercial detergents. Unfortunately, commercial detergents, with chemical cleaning and fragrance components, created more problems for his clients than they solved. In the end, he formulated a custom laundry detergent using several anionic and cationic surfactants that were both surface active and emulsified to create the optimal soapsuds (bubbles) with the correct ionic charges that would be attracted to mold and soil, encapsulate them in micelles, and escort the mold out during rinsing.
The Agitation Cycle is Essential
The basic idea of a clothes washer is to agitate your clothes with soapy water or soapsuds for a period of time and then rinse with clean water. Finally, the spin cycle moves rapidly, using outward force to remove the water. Think of a clothes washer and you probably think of a big drum that fills with water—but there are actually two drums, one with holes inside the other that is water-tight to avoid spilling water.
The inner drum is the one you can see when you open the door or the lid. In a front-loading clothes washer, now common in US and Europe, the drum faces forward. You push your clothes inside the door from the front and the whole drum rotates about a horizontal axis. The drum has lots of small holes to let water in and out and paddles around the edge to “slosh” the clothes around. In a top-loader, more common with older washing machines in the United States and Asia, you open a lid on top and drop your clothes into the drum from above. The drum is mounted about a vertical axis but doesn’t actually move. Instead, there’s a paddle in the middle of it called an agitator that turns the clothes around in the water.
The two drums are the most important parts of a clothes washer, but there are other important working parts. There’s a thermostat to monitors the temperature of the incoming water and a heating element that warms it up to the required temperature. There’s also an electrically operated pump that removes water from the drum when the wash is over. There’s a mechanical or electronic control mechanism called a programmer, which makes the various parts of the clothes washer go through a series of steps to wash, rinse, and spin your clothes. There are two pipes that let clean hot and cold water into the machine and a third pipe that lets the dirty water out again. All these pipes have valves on them (like little doors across them that open and shut when necessary).
Surfactants in Laundry Detergents are Critical to Remove Mold
Detergents are added to the wash in order to build up soapsuds or tiny bubbles composed of two components: a hydrophobic component that repels water and a hydrophilic component that repels water. These structures organize themselves into sphere like structures called micelles. The hydrophobic portion are attracted to each-other in the middle and the hydrophilic portion surrounds the outside.
In soapy water, the hydrophilic components expand to attract the debris or in this case, mold, and the structure reforms where the hydrophobic pull the soil or mold to the inside of the sphere. This is how soil is removed from the clothing during the wash cycle.
The reason the wash cycle rotates is to allow the micelles to flow through the fabric to remove the dirt or biologic waste from the clothing. Since clothing is made of yarn like strands, the soap does not have trouble getting into the seams between clothing fibers; however, each fiber is a yarn-like structure composed of smaller tightly woven fibers in itself. The soap has trouble penetrating these fibers. Only about 0.1% of the soapy water can penetrate these fibers. These micelles need to be knocked out of the fiber by clean water.
Until recently, it was believed that the wash cycle did enough rinsing to remove these micelles. However, a group of physicists recently discovered that this process would take hours, which contradicts the normal wash cycle of 1 hour. This was called the “stagnant pore” problem that scientists did not solve until a paper published in 2018, “Cleaning by Surfactant Gradients: Particulate Removal from Porous Materials and the Significance of Rinsing in Laundry Detergency”. The cleaning occurs as a combination of both the wash cycle and the rinse cycle. The process called “Diffusiophoresis”, the movement of tiny particles suspended but not dissolved in a fluid. The use of an anionic surfactant creates an electric field that when hit with clean water forces micelles out the fibers. Without this ionic charge, the micelles and mold debris will likely not leave the fabric.
The following graphics show how advection impacts laundry. In the field of physics, engineering and earth sciences, advection is the transport of a substance or quantity by bulk motion. The properties of that substance are carried with it. Generally, the majority of the advected substance is a fluid. Figure A shows how advection alone will not remove particles from the microscopic pores or spaces between the yarns. Figure B demonstrates diffusiophoresis that occurs with an anionic surfactant.
CitriSafe’s Remedy Laundry Liquid Detergent
Remedy Laundry Liquid Detergent contains natural botanicals that known for their antimicrobial properties as opposed to toxic chemicals. They are combined with anionic and cationic “soapy” surfactants that lend themselves to the washing machine process during both the wash and rinse cycles. The surfactant creates sudsoap composed of micelles that can penetrate the larger fibers as well as the smaller fibers used to make the strands of yarn. Figures a and b show the relative micro-spaces within fabric and its yarns.
There are other laundry rinse additives for mold. However, they are limited to the extent that they are not capitalizing on the soapy suds during the all-important wash cycle because they are added to the rinse cycle reservoir. In some cases, for reasons I do not understand, surfactants such as simethicone, the active ingredient in anti-flatulence pharmaceuticals (OTC medicine, Gas-X) are used in place of a typical surfactant. While they are technically surface-active, they are used mostly as antifoaming and emulsion agents rather than as a detergentand during endoscopic procedures so that the camera view is not obstructed by bubbles. The non-foaming addition to the rinse cycle acts in the opposite manner of what an effective anionic, “soapy”, emulsion agent is intended. That being the use of a detergent during the wash cycle to lift and wash away the mold from the clothing fibers.
Remedy Laundry Liquid Detergent is an effective product that capitalizes on the entire wash cycle. It removes mold from both the fabric fibers and the smaller fibers that compose the strains of yarn in the fabrics. The active ingredients are antimicrobial and also remove putrid and musty odors that are the result of bacteria and mold mixing with perspiration and body oils. This product is very potent and only requires one ounce per load, giving 32 loads per bottle, making it cost effective. In addition, no other detergents are needed. This also saves on cost. The end result of washing with Remedy Laundry Liquid Detergent is fresh smelling, clean, mold free clothing, bed linens, and other fabrics. You can say good bye to moldy beds and linens. Once a person who suffers from mold gets used to not having mold right next to their skin, it is hard to go back to chemical based laundry detergents.
In closing, it is important to maintain a mold free washing machine. It is highly recommended for mold sensitive people
to avoid fabric softener altogether. Fabric softener is made of cellulose and is often the key nutrient for mold in washing machines. It can be seen in the reservoir tray and the washing machine door seal. Remember to drain excess water from the tub located below the door of a front loading washing machine and to leave the door open after washing to allow the inside to dry completely.
Another key benefit of using Remedy Laundry Liquid Detergent is the fact that washing your clothes with it cleans the machine preventing the harboring of mold in these places.
If you would like to share your story or ask a question, please comment on this post.
Informative article. However, I strongly disagree that new front-loading or economy machines are efficient. I have researched 20 or more machines when doing my own laundry last few years while in hotels, at updated laundromats, in airbnbs, etc., across the country, and they simply do not get clothes clean. And the clothes “smell musty” after the wash. The tell-tale bad sign. Ask around and one will find that many people agree. In some of the newest water-saving economy models, I have sat and watched the full watch and rinse cycles and then removed jeans in which the insides of the pockets are not even wet, even with the machines set to “max water” and longest cycles! And, importantly for a mold and CIRS patient, they are almost always extremely mold/bacteria/Candida ridden. The older, top-loading machines we grew up with seem to consistently work much better and are much less moldy. I wold take the musty cloths from the newer machines and re-wash them in the older top-loading machines and the difference was immediately clear. I have used many washing machines the last 5 years, having stayed in many hotels, airbnbs and friends’ houses on my journey running from mold and professional travels.
I can usually smell candida and mold within 10 feet of the newer machines. You can see mold/bacteria etc and chronic wetness in them, esp within the door seal but also heavily smell dampness and mold between the two tubs, even is leaving the door open after washing. They seldom completely dry between washes. I have tested them and their laundry rooms using the agar plate method perhaps 20 times and consistently find very elevated levels of mold and candida, often >10 and TNTC for candida. When I test the older top-loading models we grew up with, the levels are typically much reduced, often <5. The difference is remarkable. I also often do not smell or react nearly as much to the laundry rooms with older top-loading sturdy machines. This is of course is only they are well-ventilated, with no water leaks, well maintained, etc.
The problem of moldy newer machines has become so troublesome to me that I now do laundry manually in the bath tub, because using the newer, swapped out machines in laundromats are too moldy, and the older top-loading machines in laundry mats are also too moldy due to other users washing their moldy clothes and using fabric softeners – the machines are never cleared of mold. If one opens a laundromat machine and smells inside, one will instantly arrive at this conclusion for most machines. I have also found that my clothes are actually cleaner from doing them in the bathtub compared to using new cutting edge models.
I recommend staying away from newer style front-loading machines and tubs, esp the small economy and water-saver stacked machines so popular in apartments that do not get clothes clean, and when buying a new machine for your home, try to buy the older model, top-loading central agitator machine with older style tubs that dry better. You can still find them from good companies, it just takes a bit more looking. I think what the industry is doing with newer machines is causing adverse health impacts to many people. They don;t get clothes clean and they harbor more mold and other inflammagens.
Steve, mold sufferer and CIRS patient in Pueblo West
Btw, is this sentence in your article correct? "hydrophobic component that repels water and a hydrophilic component that repels water" Hydrophilic attracts water? Steve in Pueblo West CO
Thank you Steve for your thoughtful response. I respect your experience and opinion and have no issues if fellow readers want to take your advice and go with a top loader. I can only share my experience; but, I do know that top loaders do not have the problem or need special care. So Top load is always a good choice. I will check on the article on that sentence. I can make mistakes.
I have several down comforters I would like to wash with Citrisafe laundry detergent and dry in a laundromat that has large washing machines. The machine I have at home is not large enough for the comforters. How do I know if the laundromats machines are contaminated with mold? Is there a way to pretreat the machines prior to using them to get rid of the mold and other potential harmful elements?
That is difficult to answer. Washing an empty load with the detergent will clean the top and hoses. There is no way to determine whether there is mold throughout the machine. Also, physical removal of mold may be necessary. I would suggest not using a laundromat if you are mold sensitive. I’m sorry if this does not help.