Laundry Secrets: How To Kill Athlete's Foot Fungus In The Wash

“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” Lady Macbeth yelled in the famous Shakespearean play. She was, of course, talking about the blood on her hands from killing King Duncan. However, for people suffering from onychomycosis or athlete’s foot, that “spot” might be a lot harder to catch – it might be a tiny fungal spore.

These insidious organisms can live on surfaces for many months, re-infecting hosts multiple times. Since antifungal treatment is generally time-consuming and expensive, no matter which method you choose, you will want to avoid this fate. Here’s what we know about killing fungus on towels, clothing and sheets through the laundry.

prevent fungus

Fungal spores easily come off athlete’s foot and get onto towels, bedding, and clothing. Image Source:

Use A Laundry Additive To Eliminate Foot Fungus

Regular laundry detergent may not be strong enough to kill persistent mold spores.

Laundry additives designed to kill fungal spores include:

– Defense Antibacterial & Antifungal Soap

PediFix Funga Soap with Tea Tree Oil

Borax Laundry Booster 

Some people believe in using holistic additives like vinegar, neem oil, tea tree oil, castile oil, or baking soda. While there are antifungal properties in each of these natural ingredients, there are unfortunately no studies proving or disproving their effectiveness.

antifungal laundry

Some fungus fighters like to make their own “antifungal” laundry concoctions. Image Source:

What About Bleach? Does Bleach Kill Fungus?

Many people mistakenly believe that chlorine bleach kills fungus. However, the Environmental Protection Agency states that “The use of chlorine bleach is not recommended as a routine practice during mold cleanup.” The ion structure of bleach prevents chlorine from penetrating into porous materials — like wood, dry wall, towels, bedding, or clothing. A study conducted by Oregon State University found that bleach was able to reduce discoloration on surfaces caused by fungus, but “viable fungal propagules” remained on the surface following treatment of bleach, which would “invariably lead to regrowth of these fungi.”

kill fungal spores

Is your laundry water temperature hot enough to kill fungal spores? Image Source:

 To Kill Athlete’s Foot Fungus, The Water Must Be Hot, Hot, Hot!

A report published in the International Journal of Dermatology in July 2013 found that washing clothes in lower water temperatures fails to eliminate live fungal spores from clothing. This new trend caught on as homeowners look to save money on their utility bills, but they could be putting themselves in danger of foot fungus transmission and re-infection, according to a study from Israel.

Researchers sampled 81 socks worn by patients with tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) and washed them at 104 degrees Fahrenheit and again at 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

They found that 36% of the socks washed at 104 degrees tested positive for live fungal cultures of Aspergillus, a type of mold that may cause toenail fungus. Only 6% of the socks washed at 140 degrees still contained Aspergillus.

Athlete’s foot fungus, Trichophyton rubrum, was found on four socks washed at 104 degrees, but no socks washed at 140.

Study authors said the study confirmed their opinion that washing clothes at high temperatures is essential for killing fungal pathogens. “We consider that uses of other modes of disinfection, such as UV devices, should be considered as standard applications in domestic washing machines,” they added.

Until that day comes, you can run a 45-minute cycle with your SteriShoe device to kill 99.9% of the fungus in your footwear with UV light — and run another cycle with your fungus socks inside the shoes to kill the pathogens there, too.

2 replies
  1. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    I’ve seen other information online that borax is an anti-fungal but not any scientific data that supports this. Where did you get your information that borax is an effective anti-fungal laundry booster? You must not have gotten it from 20 Mule Team that you have a link to because when I called the company, the person who answered the phone said their product is not anti-fungal, that it is just a booster to get stains out.

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