/ Health, Home & Energy

Washing machines – does washing at 60 really banish bugs?

Washing machine

More than a third of Which? members use the 60°C program on their washing machine regularly. But is 60 the magic number when it comes to keeping bacteria at bay? And do washing machines actually reach 60°C?

We asked our members why they choose to wash at 60°C. More than half use this program to wash items like towels and bedding. These are laundry items that are typically associated with germs and for a long time the wisdom has been that we need to wash laundry at higher temperatures if we want to wipe out bacteria.

Normally, we test washing machines using 40°C programs, as modern washing detergents are effective enough to allow people to use 40ºC for almost all their washing needs. Towels and bedding seem to be the exception, due to the perceived advantages of washing at 60.

But can you rely on your washing machine to reach this temperature? And is 60°C actually high enough to kill bugs and bacteria anyway?

Testing top temperatures

We put 12 washing machines to the test and measured the top temperature they reached during a 60ºC  wash and how long that temperature was maintained. Eight of the machines did not get to 60 degrees at all. The lowest top temperature was 43°C.

Most of the machines kept the water cooler than 50°C for the majority of the program. That’s not exactly what you might expect if you’re using the 60°C wash with the hope of keeping your laundry bacteria-free.

Banishing the bugs

Our test results suggest that a typical 60°C wash can’t be relied upon to kill bacteria, especially if your machine only reaches this temperature for a couple of minutes (or not at all).

We asked a microbiologist for advice about ridding laundry of bugs and he explained that the real key to wiping out bacteria is using a good laundry detergent to wash them away. Detergents are much more effective than they used to be at lower temperatures, so even if your machine doesn’t get to 60°C, a good detergent can remove bacteria and viruses.

I very rarely use a 60°C wash at home. I prefer to be as energy and water efficient as I can and use a fast program that washes at 30°C. I used to wonder if I was taking any chances by not using a hotter wash on things like towels and sheets. Now I know that laundry detergent has a major role to play in bug removal as well as stain removal, I just have to always remember to actually put some in the detergent drawer…

Do you wash at 60°C? Which washing machine program gives you the most peace of mind when it comes to keeping your laundry bug-free?


I use my washing machine two or three times a week and do at least one wash at 60C. I have done this for over 31 years and have no evidence of bugs growing on the door seal or inside the machine, and never have a problem with nasty smells. I do my own maintenance and have dismantled parts on occasions, so I think I would know if my machine was affected by bugs. I have used powders, tablets and liquid capsules, generally choosing supermarket products unless there is an offer on the better known brands. I used to use non-biological detergent because I suffer from allergies but now choose biological products because they don’t cause me problems and do seem to be more effective. I have never used fabric conditioners because these remain on the fabric and I certainly don’t want unnecessary chemicals in contact with my skin.

The point that washing machines typically do not remain at the maximum temperature for long is well worth making. This is true with spin speed too.

What I am doing seems to keep my machine clean, whereas I have seen examples of bug infested and smelly washing machines. It is worth mentioning that my early 80s washer does rinse better than modern ones designed to conserve water.

There is little published information on contamination of washing machines by bacteria and moulds. I know a bit about microbiology, having done research and teaching in this field. I would like to have a discussion with the microbiologist who has suggested the detergent is the key factor. Is there any published evidence to support this hypothesis?

I never wash at 60°C, very rarely over 30°C. Never use fabric conditioner or liquid capsules or the ‘save even more water’ button. But I always use the long 30°C wash on my Bosch with Daz bio. This takes 2 hours 36 minutes and gets everything clean, rinses very well, and the machine never ever smells yucky.

Daz contains a bleaching agent, which must be what is preventing bugs growing. I guess this is sodium percarbonate, which breaks down to produce hydrogen peroxide.

Yay, I’m doing it right. And my coloured fabrics don’t fade either. Which are going to have to revamp their washing powder tests to include temperature and bug killing criteria.

Firstly I am very disheartened to find that the Which? tests do not tell us about the adequacy of a 60 degree cycle but it only gets revealed in a Conversation.

Secondly I agree with wavechange that the precise questions put to your single specialist and the precise answers would be most informative. Can Which? please provide as soon as possible as otherwise the thread seems doomed to controversy as we provide opposing views – – documented.

Just for fun Eczma Society guidelines:
” If possible, fit mattress, pillows and duvets with barrier covers, although these can be expensive. Vacuum mattresses and wash bedding at a temperature of at least 60°C once a week. ”

“The thermal death point for C. lectularius is high: 45 °C (113 °F), and all stages of life are killed by 7 minutes of exposure to 46 °C (115 °F).[20] Bed bugs apparently cannot survive high concentrations of carbon dioxide for very long; exposure to nearly pure nitrogen atmospheres, however, appears to have relatively little effect even after 72 hours.[31]”

is very enlightening how little money is saved by having a colder wash, and details of day to day maintenance. Perhaps an area where Which? could actually think of adding to its site covering common kitchen and household devices.


Good point about the effect of temperature on cost of using a washing machine. The cost of electricity used for different temperature wash cycles is very easy to measure using an inexpensive plug-in energy meter, since most modern machines are cold fill only. A disadvantage of hotter washes is that they cause more deterioration of the fabric, particularly using detergents containing bleaches (typically powders rather than liquid products).

I believe that it is a standard recommendation to wash bedding at 60C to kill dust mites, which are a problem for many people these days. Airing beds and keeping bedrooms cool are also useful.

I would welcome a more scientific approach on topics related to microbiology. My main concern is food microbiology and some people have posted some potentially dangerous advice about consuming old food and food that has been on the floor. Having a disclaimer on this site is not really enough. I doubt that anyone has become seriously ill as a result of what is growing in their washing machine, though they may have developed problem with skin sensitivity or allergies.

If you’ve got a washer dryer the drying cycle will kill everything.

Does nobody iron their clothes and sheets these days? A bit of 100 degree C steam should see off any infection.

Good point Em. Ironing – whether steam or dry – will certainly kill most bacteria. The sole plate of an iron is well above 100C.

I have always ironed tea towels and pillowcases, and don’t wash either in a load with underwear. Apart from that, any ironing is for appearance. My bedding gets washed at 60C because I’m in close contact with it for days.

Those who are obsessed with cleaning their houses with anti-bacterial products should forget doing this and think about what’s happening in the moist atmosphere provided by humans sleeping and warmth provided by bodies and central heating.

Raysalarf says:
24 August 2013

Simple answer to the question, “Does washing at 60c get rid of bugs” No!
Does washing at 60c on a regular basis keep most bugs away Yes!
Does boiling certain clothes at 100c kill bugs Yes!
Downside, washing machines do not wash at 100c anymore, so go back to the good old fashion large saucepan.
Downside, clothes are not supposed to be boiled these days……

The more I think about this the less I think it matters greatly, at any rate for most of us. After all we are rather intimate with the other inhabitants of our beds and by the time a week or so has gone by they’ll have made their presence felt if that’s what they’re going to do. It’s hardly necessary to ensure complete sterilisation of our sheets each time we wash them. If they didn’t infect us before we washed them, they’re unlikely to infect us afterwards

I’d be interested to know how often hotels change their bedding other than the linen. Even the poshest hotels keep the same pillows, quilts and blankets between guests. I suspect many establishments change the bedding somewhat less frequently than we might imagine.

I agree, Nick. Those allergic to the products of dust mites are most likely to be affected and the best solution is to wash bedding as frequently as necessary to remove the allergens.

What concerns me more is the growth of ‘mould’ inside washing machines. It is seen on door seals and powder drawers but the innards of the washing machine can become coated in a slime or ‘biofilm’ that contains bacteria and moulds. Apparently it can be very smelly. Though I have read a lot about this problem, I have only seen it once.

Growth of bugs in washing machines seems to be a relatively recent event in the history of washing machines. Likely causes are lower washing temperatures, which not only fail to kill bugs but allow the inner surfaces to be coated with grease removed from clothing, the use of detergents without a bleaching component (typically absent from liquids and gels) and closing the door when the machine is not in use. It is beneficial to leave the door open when a machine is not in use (though this is not necessarily safe when pets and children around) because keeping it closed maintains a moist environment, helpful for growth of bugs. Washing machines still contain quite a lot of water when ’empty’ but ventilation does help keep some surfaces dry.

Some of the biofilm in a contaminated washing machine will get onto the fabric. I doubt that anyone will become ill because of this, but it could cause skin irritation for those with allergies.

I will continue to do a wash at 60C once a week and keep the door open when the machine is not in use. If a problem arises, I will stop using liquid detergent and switch to one containing a bleach. I really don’t think that doing a high temperature wash once a month, which is often recommended by manufacturers, is enough to ensure a machine is kept free from bugs and other residues.

In a previous role I managed blocks of flats and the number of cases where people generated a lot of moisture and then claimed mould growth was caused by rising damp were legion. More bathing, more drying of clothes indoors, tighter building envelopes and on-off heating as people go to work create a poor environment. Moulds and funguses are dangerous.

” Microbial growth may result in greater numbers of spores, cell fragments, al-
lergens, mycotoxins, endotoxins, β-glucans and volatile organic compounds in
indoor air. The causative agents of the adverse health effects have not been iden-
tified conclusively, but an excess level of any of these agents in the indoor envi-
ronment is a potential health hazard”

Man has lived with microbes for tens of thousands of years so generally we are Ok however we have been changing how we live in the Western world and this may mean we are more in contact in our tight little homes. The danger maybe not from not lethal effects but rather an undermining of general health.

I know that washing machines can stink and go mouldy if you wash at low temperatures for too long, especially if you leave the damp clothes inside for hours and keep the door and soap drawer shut all the time. 30C washes too often will leave you with a bacteria-ridden smelly machine – yes I’ve been told this happened to someone who was convinced that doing 30C washes all the time was the right thing to do!

I wash at 60C most of the time and keep the door and soap drawer slightly open after washing. No smells, cleaner clothes and no broken washing machine. I still clean-out the soap drawer (and its surrounding area) about once a month. I know that if I regularly washed my clothes below 60C and never did the occasional 95C wash, by now the washing machine would be smelly and maybe broken down.

Just found this page which proves that washing below 60C does a lot more harm than good:


I think people who are concerned about bacteria on their clothing need to ask themselves how the bacteria got there in the first place.

Under normal conditions, unless you propose to shower at 60 degrees C for several minutes (ouch!), any clothing you have disinfected is going to be immediately contaminated with more bacteria from your skin.

The main purpose of washing clothes (and humans) is to remove some of the nutrients that bacteria thrive on – mostly proteins like dead skin and sweat – to slow down regrowth. Even most of these bacteria are totally harmless, the only down side being the unpleasant smell of the by-products they produce (BO).

The only area I’m aware of in a normal domestic environment where particular care is required is where food is being prepared – tea towels, dish cloths, etc. Yet how many people would think to change their shirt BEFORE preparing food, or even wear a clean chef’s tunic?

An “oxy”-type stain remover, like Vanish, contains Sodium Carbonate Peroxyhydrate and can be added to your washing machine – just watch out when using it with coloureds and some delicate fabrics.

The active ingredient, when dissolved in water, forms hydrogen peroxide (the bleaching agent) and sodium carbonate (washing soda).

Hydrogen peroxide is effective against bacteria (particularly anaerobic), and also spores, yeasts, fungi and viruses when left to soak.

The washing soda softens the water and helps to dissolve oils and fats.

Perhaps this is why my washing machine doesn’t smell, as I sometimes use a high temperature wash, dosed with the cheapest stain removing powder I can find. I also use it to remove algae from wooden decking and paving slabs. Mixed to a paste with water and applied with an old toothbrush, it is effective for removing mould on grouted tiles.

Em – good extra uses for Vanish etc.

Sophie Gilbert says:
25 August 2013

My pharmacist once advised me to run an empty wash two or three times a year with soda crystals at 60 degrees. This cleans up your machine and also gets rid of washing powder/liquid residue, which can prevent the machine from rinsing properly. If your clothes aren’t rinsed properly they can cause a skin irritation, which is why I went to the pharmacy in the first place.

Em and Sophie have both mentioned use of washing soda (sodium carbonate). At 60C this will be very effective at dissolving grease and killing bugs. I don’t know if washing machines contain aluminium parts these days (my mother’s twin-tub did) but washing soda would corrode aluminium and might harm hoses, door seals, etc. I would check with the manufacturer before using soda, unless it is recommended in the instructions.

Hydrogen peroxide is effective at killing bugs but is very rapidly inactivated by organic material. I doubt it would cause damage to the machine but again it is worth checking. It is a bleach and and must be kept away from coloured clothes.

I’m impressed by a pharmacist being able to advise on how to keep a washing machine clean. 🙂

“In terms of temperature, the Hygiene Council recommends that all clothes, linens and other fabrics should be laundered at a high temperature — i.e., 60c — to be sure bacteria, viruses and dust mites have been destroyed.

It also says if lower temperatures are used, then a laundry disinfectant should be added — particularly for the laundry of small children or other contaminated items. ”

” A report by the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene warns that low temperature washing might not be strong enough to kill disease-causing bugs.

Professor Sally Bloomfield, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, wants a campaign to educate consumers in laundry hygiene. ‘We need to launder clothing in a way that renders them not just visually clean, but hygienically clean — the two are not the same,’ she says.

Her concerns are backed by a German study on clothes contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, linked to skin and urinary tract infections, as well as pneumonia. Researchers found the only way to eradicate the bacterium was with temperatures of 40c and above combined with a detergent containing bleach. ”


Now why do Which? only normally test at 40C??

” Modern washing detergents enable most people to wash at 40ºC for almost all washes, so we only test at this temperature because this helps to protect the environment by reducing the amount of energy and water used by doing the washing. We currently do a full load wash and the main easy-care cycle at 40ºC. ” Which?

So the next question seems to be why did Which? reach this decision when hygenic washes seem to require a 60C wash? It sort of gives me a headache to think that Which? on behalf of its members decide to dispense with what apparently most of us feel is a significant wash cycle. To learn a machine washes at 43C when on a 60C cycle makes one wonder at what temperature its other washes run at.

” Nobody goes to the same lengths that we do when testing washing machines.” Which?

PS Your microbiologist Bill Grant does not seem to be a specialist in this field so I was curious how he was selected to give Which? advice whilst no opposing view from those experts quoted in articles in the media was provided to give some balance.

PPS The date of this information appears to be post March 2013 but nowhere does it state when it was written. This is unhelpful.

I discovered the article mentioning Prof Bill Grant a couple of days ago. I am very encouraged because his name is familiar to me and he has published good research papers. It would be nice to be able to consult someone who has done research on bugs growing in washing machines, but the next best thing is to discuss the problem with someone familiar with environmental microbiology and microbial physiology.

Like Dieseltaylor, I would like to see a more scientific approach and the public given simple but clear advice. I also agree on the need for date of publication of information on the Which? website and would like to see relevant links put in from Conversation introductions. That might even encourage more people to subscribe to the magazine. 🙂

I hope that people are not doing anything silly like washing soiled nappies, etc at low temperature. I wonder how this information is passed on. In the past, mothers knew to boil nappies.

The fact that the operating temperature of washing machines can be substantially different from the set temperature is inexcusable, and there is no standard for how long the maximum temperature is maintained.

The temperature can be checked by opening the door during the wash cycle and using a thermometer. Obviously the temperature cannot be checked when the water level is above the bottom of the door, but by that stage, cold water has probably been added.

Feeling the temperature of the door glass will give a very rough indication of temperature.

Darn I keep meaning to buy an infra-red temperature reader from the likes of Fluke – it would be ideal for the task.

I expect that this is how Which? tests the performance of washing machines in its labs. I wonder if Which? offers tours round its labs. I’m sure some of us would find this very interesting.

I used a Comark digital thermometer with a thermocouple probe to check my washing machine, but did not mention this because it did not seem useful information. Maybe a higher temperature version of the LCD temperature strips used on tropical fish tanks would be a cheap and easy way of checking the approximate temperature.

You can buy a cheap multimeter with a thermocouple for £10. Just trap the wire inside the glass door seal, but not so far it can get tangled in the laundry. I use it to check my oven, fridge, freezer and immersion heater temperatures too.

Apart from being a lot cheaper, it might be more useful than an infra-red reader. They don’t work too well through the freezer door!

But the Fluke will allow me to examine buildings for heat loss also : )

I am impressed with people having the wherewithal to check temperatures. I am a non-scientist but do try. I did have a oven thermostat changed as being too inaccurate!. Ikea’s 5 year guarantee is very useful.

@DT – Is this a particular hobby of yours – whilst walking the dog maybe? If it is your own house, I don’t think you will find the U-values of your construction will vary much of their own accord, so there will be little point buying an IR device as they shouldn’t change once you have taken the intial readings. A survey might be cheaper than a Fluke.

I suppose you could use it to monitor people you come into contact with for Swine Flu. You could then increase the wash temperature accordingly 🙂


At about £2500 it is a bit too expensive for me to be philanthropic for friends and neighbours. However I have thought before that perhaps some consumer operation could provide it as a service to members for a smallish fee …….

>>> However I have thought before that perhaps some consumer operation could provide it as a service to members for a smallish fee ……. <<<

Which would that be then? Nice idea.

Perhaps said consumer operation could also offer walk in Portable Appliance Testing and small repairs for a nominal fee plus cost of spares.

Thanks for improving the link Katie.

The article revealed raises some important points.

1. We talk of bugs but actually appear to be concentrating on microbiology and ignoring insects such as the dust mite and bed bugs, and other irritants such as dander and pollen. Why?

2. If the Whirpool reads 53C for a 60C wash what temperature is it using at a nominal 40C? This information does not appear on the overall testing even though Which? test at this temperature.

3. I suspect the Beko machines 30 minutes at over 55C is actually sufficient to kill mites however the only testing done on the matter was at 60C. It should receive great credit for this .

4. This seems a tad wishy-washy [!]
“The EU energy label is based on the 60°C and 40°C cotton programs, but the label’s criteria does not actually have a requirement for the washing machine to reach the temperature stated on the control panel. So no, manufacturers are not cheating the energy label.”

I am afraid a lie is a lie and if claim that you provide a 60C wash cycle you darn well need to reach it. I am very disheartened that the great EU consumer movement failed to notice or challenge this very obvious gaping hole in the regulations. It seems that a Pollyannaish view has prevailed which is quite disheartening. I expect better protection from the likes of Which?.

5. On a more practical note in common law is this not a fraud on the public claiming to provide something that you do not. Perhaps Which? Legal can help to confirm my vague memories of contract law and what can be done about it. Many County Court cases would be fun. : )

Yes Which? Legal agree with me and suggest Sections 13 & 14 of the Sale of Goods Act. Taking the Hoover as the prime example of under-performance against temperature on the dial. So if anyone has bought one …..

The fact the Beko says that the wash profile is the same for all their machines concerns me that this concept may also be true of all Hoover machines. Over to you Which?

Well, I’ll watch that one with interest!

I can’t find the Hoover manual for the particular model tested.

The Hotpoint manual states: “The Test wash cycle in compliance with directive 1061/2010: set wash cycle with a temperature of 60°C. … The actual washing temperature may differ from the indicated value.”

The Whirlpool: “* Reference programmes for Energy Label. For reasons of energy saving, the real water temperature may deviate from the declared cycle temperature.”

The Miele is absolutely clear: “With [icon for 60°C wash programme] the actual wash temperature reached will be lower than 60°C although the wash performance is the same as with a standard Cottons 60°C programme.”

I could go on … . As the consumer is supposed to read the operating instructions before using the appliance for the first time, it could be difficult to rely on SoGA to reject the goods purely on the basis of wash temperature after using it even once.

em – Thanks for digging those manuals but I normally have great trouble at shops getting to see any manual before a purchase . I doubt I am alone in that respect. In any event the generalised phrases would seem to indicate a small amount of potential variation not a designed multi-degree
off profile.

Directive 1061/2010 is an interesting read and by implication they seem to believe that there is a difference in the two washes

” indication that the ‘standard 60 °C cotton programme’ and the ‘standard 40 °C cotton programme’ are the standard washing programmes to which the information in the label and the fiche relates, that these programmes are suitable to clean normally soiled cotton laundry and that they are the most efficient programmes in terms of combined energy and water consumption;”

My impression is the Commission would be put out to find that Hoover was running a momentary 43C wash to fulfill a Directive aimed at making most efficient use of water and electricity.

Sale of Goods Act I actually see as fairly straightforward. Section 13 deals with description of the goods so if you say to a salesman does this wash better than others at 60C and he confirms that it does you then find, courtesy of Which? that it makes 43C then case closed.

Section 14:
” (2A)For the purposes of this Act, goods are of satisfactory quality if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking account of any description of the goods, the price (if relevant) and all the other relevant circumstances.”

The key part is the “reasonable person would regard as satisfactory “. I think it would be easily provable that normal people believe that in a 60C wash that the wash takes place around that temperature. Probably within 5C.

I am not sure that pleading you are fulfilling an EU Directive is any defence against misleading buyers by offering a 60C setting that is significantly away from that figure.

Commonsense suggests that the specifications should state the temperature as something like 60C plus or minus 1 degree, and state the time that this is maintained in a similar way.

It should not be difficult for large manufacturers to achieve accurate control of time and temperature. I’ve designed and made my own temperature controllers and it really is not difficult.

I don’t disagree with your points dieseltaylor and wavechange – just more background you might find of interest.

The EU directive is entirely based around IEC 60456. This sets out a series of test procedures for washing machines, designed to assess their ability to remove certain types of soiling from fabrics – oil-bound carbon black, pigments (blood, chocolate, etc.) and stains (used to be red wine, but I think that has changed). There is currently nothing in the test about removing micro-organisms, but that may again come in a future edition.

The test is carried out using standard soiled fabric strips and comparing their optical reflectance (“whiteness”) to those washed in a reference machine. There are other factors I won’t list here.

“Cotton 60 °C” is the name for a series of programmed operations which are pre-defined within the washing machine under test and which are declared as suitable for washing certain textile types – see my comments elsewhere on the Convo about care labelling.

IEC 60456 precisely defines the REFERENCE machine’s Cotton 60 °C wash programme; it does peak momentarily at 60C during part of the wash cycle. However, there doesn’t appear to be any requirement for the machine under test to emulate the IEC reference machine’s wash programme. Of course, if manufacturers were obliged to do this, every machine would use almost exactly the same amount of energy and water.

Since EU energy label now requires all machines to wash (as defined by the reflectance and other IEC tests) to A-class standard, it is simply measuring the energy and water efficiency of the appliance when compared to the reference machine’s standardised cotton 60C wash programme. If the manufacturer can achieve equivalent wash performance with a more economical program, it is up to them how they do this.

I see how this is confusing and even misleading for a consumer, but it is the result of using the term “Cotton 60 °C” outside of the IEC test where its meaning is clear.

Thanks Em. This may explain why washing machines are not reaching the temperatures we expect them to.

We certainly need to address the problem that some users are suffering from bugs growing in their washing machines, which means either doing periodic washes at higher temperatures or using detergents containing bleaches or other chemicals to get rid of the bugs, in at least some of the washes. I prefer higher temperature washes because some (not all) chemicals could be harmful if not removed from the fabric or create environmental damage.

Thanks Em. That background detail is a help in understanding what is going on in the world of washing machines. I now know why Expert reviews tests have pictures of all the cloth strips.

I cannot afford to buy a copy of the EU standards for one reading but this by proxy highlights some of the differences with Australia/New Zealand :

You will note Section 5 where the ASNZ states ” Hot will be 60c – or+ 2c ” and the EU version.


I am a little disheartened that this information, provided by posters, has to be wheedled from the Web when to be honest I would expect Which? to have this chapter and verse for the benefit of its loyal subscribers. Or is there a belief that Which? users cannot handle detail, or do not need to have grown-up matters explained to them.

However it does fit with the model I have in my head where I believe Which? has a very silo mentality. The subjects of washing machines and washing powders , and drying, is all part of a single process and they should have an overall view of the process. Providing us readers with simply product reviews does not hit the mark.

Also we obviously now discover that in fact Which? recommendations are based on testing which does not even look at all claimed temperatures – which as we know in the real world are important to a large number of people for very practical reasons.

So we on the thread now have an appreciation of the bigger picture : ) Not that this helps the rest of the British public to understand that what it says on the dial is not necessarily what you have a right to expect.

Do we know anyone who could summarise this on say two A4 pages ? And keep it somewhere useful for reference ?

>>> You will note Section 5 where the ASNZ states ” Hot will be 60c – or+ 2c ” and the EU version. <<<

From memory, that is the test standard where the machine has a hot fill inlet and no temperature range has been specified by the manufacturer. In the IEC test, if the manufacturer states a different recommended hot inlet temperature, that temperature will be used instead. I don't think it a reference to the wash temperature, even when a hot fill in available.

As you say, these publications are far too expensive for members of the public to buy, but I assume Which? must have copies they could check for us.

for hot water – temperature indicated by the manufacturer ±2 °C, or (60 ± 2) °C, if no
value is given.

When the manufacturer specifies a hot water temperature range, which includes (60 ± 2) °C,
the hot water temperature shall be set at (60 ± 2) °C. When the manufacturer specifies a hot
water temperature range, which does not include (60 ± 2) °C, the hot water temperature shall
be set at the end of the temperature range which is closest to (60 ± 2) °C. When the
manufacturer specifies a single temperature with a tolerance, then that temperature shall
be used.

Oops – managed to find the relevant part on the web, but clicked submit before editing and tidying my post. Hopefullly it makes sense.

Em and Dieseltaylor

I suspect that Which? focuses more on testing washing machines than studying legislation. It has limited resources to devote to many consumer issues.

The information we have been given is as follows: “Even though we found machines often didn’t hit 60°C, manufacturers are not actually cheating the EU energy labels because there’s no requirement for the washing machine to reach the temperature stated on the control panel.” Of course it would be great for some of us to have more than one sentence on this subject, but most readers will be interested in the technicalities and legislation.

This might not be very important regarding the cleaning performance of washing machines (which is given greatest weight when Which? assesses the performance of machines) but it is obviously very relevant to helping keep machines free of microbial biofilms.

I wonder if those who drew up the EU document knew the first thing about microbiological contamination of washing machines. If we had scientists and engineers on the job, 60 °C would have been used to refer to a temperature rather than a program.

Oops. That should read ‘…most readers will NOT be interested in the technicalities and legislation.’

wavechange ” It has limited resources to devote to many consumer issues.”

IMO the bedrock of Which? is not its activity in consumer issues but was you could believe in the product testing being thorough. Pre-internet it was THE source for independent in-depth product reviews .

I am sure I could conduct surveys amongst existing members to prove one or the other is more important to subscribers. However for me it is product reviewing first and foremost. I know there are other sites that do far better reviews than Which? on certain products , there are also sites/magazines that do incredibly poor reviews.


I have never associated Which? with in-depth product reviews, particularly for cars, cameras and computer, where more detail is available from specialist magazines. As I see it, Which? covers a much wider range of products in sufficient depth for the majority of readers. I trust Which? reviews and see them as a good starting point even if I’m looking for more detail. In the case of a specialist magazine or website, I have no idea whether or not the reviewer has been given a free product or paid to make favourable comments, or may be looking at a carefully selected sample rather than a typical example. If it was not for the involvement of Which? in consumer issues, I don’t think I would be a subscriber.

I am concerned about the growing problem of bugs in machines due to lower washing temperatures and/or removal of bleach from some detergents, and possibly other factors. Hopefully we can be given useful advice. Perhaps it is down to how we use our machines than how they perform in product reviews.

Maybe Which can partner with Trustedreviews dot com to review machines and other stuff? Their tech reviews are very indepth and frank.

A Daily Mail piece citing a press release from the Hygiene Council (sole funder Reckitt Benckiser, links to Detoll on its website) really tells us much we don’t already know. Hot water and disinfectant.

What we really don’t know is the level of risk. Has any evidence based study been done on the infection rate caused by poor laundry technique? How many cases per 100,000 notified? At the moment it all seems anecdotal and, unless we happen to be detergent manufacturers, may or may not be worth losing sleep over.

…doesn’t really tell us much we don’t already know….I should say


As I said before, I’m not concerned. I believe that it is important to keep washing machines free of microbial slimes, and it does not matter whether this is done by using higher temperature washes periodically (I suggest once a week at 60C rather than once a month, which is often recommended), washing powders containing bleach, or by using washing soda. I hope that manufacturers do not exploit the public’s fears by introducing antibacterial laundry products. Antibacterial hand washes etc. are harmful to the environment and might be harmful to those using them.

I don’t think we can completely dismiss health risks. Those with poor immune systems can be affected by small numbers of certain bacteria. For example, plumbing systems are now designed to keep hot water at a sufficient temperature to avoid outbreaks of Legionnaire’s Disease.

I would not pay much attention to anything in the press, but Dieseltaylor is asking Which? some very important questions.

Having had time to properly study the supporting article and other references, I don’t understand how Which? could a) jump to any conclusion about a 60°C cotton program actually needing to wash at 60°C, or b) leave us, the consumer, to ponder about the meaning of a 40°C / 60°C / whatever°C program and why the nominal temperature is not enforced by some energy labelling or other form of regulation.

Surely, the answer to this apparent anomaly is all to do with fabric care labelling as defined by Ginetex – The International Association For Textile Care Labelling. They are the organisation responsible for those little washing, bleaching, drying and ironing care symbols that I’m sure we all check before putting our clothes into the machine.

To quote some pertinent information from their web site [my emphasis in caps]:

“The numbers in the wash tub specify the MAXIMUM washing temperatures in degrees Celsius WHICH MUST NOT BE EXCEEDED.”

“Care performed on the basis of the information given on the label provides a GUARANTEE that the textile product WILL NOT BE DAMAGED. However, it does not guarantee that all kinds of dirt and stains will in fact be removed.”

“Milder types of treatment and temperatures LOWER than those indicated on the label ARE ALWAYS PERMITTED.”

This is an almost complete reversal of the hotter-is-better assumption we might conclude from reading this article.

I can’t see anywhere that Which? have pointed out that the Indesit washing machine, which reaches a temperature of 67°C for several minutes, is likely to damage fabrics and cause dyes to run. Or that the machines that run cooler will be better for the care of your clothes and preserve your right to return items that have been washed in accordance with the care label should they fail to perform.

Wow, an interesting if not confusing topic, so now for a lighter note!

Having been blissfully unaware of this issue I was comforted when our washing machine recently popped up with a message telling us we had used a lot of low temperature programmes and now was the time to run a high temperature setting!

How good was that – great customer service by a machine that tells us what to do and when. I can’t wait for the next revelation – you learn something new every day! We call our new friend Minerva, although I believe this one hails from Germany!

Perhaps when someone has the answer to the big question they will publish it in plain English!