Author Topic: Pathogenic bacteria transmitted via washing machine  (Read 355 times)

Offline Mr. Bill

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Pathogenic bacteria transmitted via washing machine
« on: September 29, 2019, 06:11:45 PM »
Press release from American Society for Microbiology, 9/27/19: Your energy-efficient washing machine could be harboring pathogens

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For the first time ever, investigators have identified a washing machine as a reservoir of multidrug-resistant pathogens. The pathogens, a single clone of Klebsiella oxytoca, were transmitted repeatedly to newborns in a neonatal intensive care unit at a German children's hospital. The transmission was stopped only when the washing machine was removed from the hospital. ...

"This is a highly unusual case for a hospital, in that it involved a household type washing machine," said first author Ricarda M. Schmithausen, Ph.D. Hospitals normally use special washing machines and laundry processes that wash at high temperatures and with disinfectants, according to the German hospital hygiene guidelines, or they use designated external laundries.

The research has implications for household use of washers, said Dr. Schmithausen.... Water temperatures used in home washers have been declining, to save energy, to well below 60°C (140°F), rendering them less lethal to pathogens. ...

"If elderly people requiring nursing care with open wounds or bladder catheters, or younger people with suppurating injuries or infections live in the household, laundry should be washed at higher temperatures, or with efficient disinfectants, to avoid transmission of dangerous pathogens," said Martin Exner, MD....

The clothes that transmitted K. oxytoca from the washer to the infants were knitted caps and socks to help keep them warm in incubators....


The journal article: The washing machine as a reservoir for transmission of extended spectrum beta-lactamase (CTX-M-15)-producing Klebsiella oxytoca ST201 in newborns

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...Isolates of the K. oxytoca strains were detected in the detergent drawer and on the rubber door seal of a domestic washer-extractor machine, used in the same ward to wash laundry of the newborns as well as in two sinks. ...

...the study implies that changes in washing machine design and processing are required to prevent accumulation of residual water where microbial growth can occur and contaminate clothes.

Offline Morning Sunshine

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Re: Pathogenic bacteria transmitted via washing machine
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2019, 06:42:15 PM »
huh.  I feel vindicated.

I bought an energy efficient machine about 9 years ago.  First, it took something like 3 hours to wash a load (not TIME efficient for a mom of 4 with another on the way).  Second, I would have sheets and towels come out with DRY spots.  If it is coming out with a DRY spot, I know it did not come clean (so, NOT EFFICIENT at all).  Third, I had to do smaller loads - so 1/2 again as many loads.  That isn't very efficient either.
After a year, I listed it on KSL.com, and sold it for $50.  I bought a Speed Queen that was NOT energy efficient, and have been happy ever since.

Offline Mr. Bill

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Re: Pathogenic bacteria transmitted via washing machine
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2019, 07:50:47 PM »
I bought an energy efficient machine about 9 years ago.  ...  I bought a Speed Queen that was NOT energy efficient, and have been happy ever since.

Ditto and ditto for us.  Our energy-efficient model was a top-loader from Whirlpool, and it was awful.  We had to start using hotter water plus non-chlorine bleach to get the smell out of towels.  And you have to run a "cleaning cycle" with Clorox at least once a month, wasting two full tubs of hot water.  Very energy-efficient.  Also it died (leaked all over the floor) at age 7.  The repair guy told us that was a typical lifespan, and suggested Speed Queen even though his company didn't sell them.

I got dry spots too, but I investigated and found that everything really was getting wet during the wash cycle.  Pretty sure it was the incredibly high speed spin that did that.  (That was the only really good feature of the washer.  The dryer could dry everything really fast after that.)

Speed Queen gets things clean the old-fashioned way, with no nonsense.  But it does sometimes develop a musty smell if I don't do any Clorox loads.  So (back to the medical topic) I'm still not sure if it's a perfect solution for preventing bacterial growth.

Offline NWPilgrim

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Re: Pathogenic bacteria transmitted via washing machine
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2019, 08:39:11 PM »
I wonder how resistant those bacteria are to exposure to air?  Or if spritzing the rubber seal with ammonia would kill them?

The front loaders HAVE to have the door left open soon after the cycle ends or you get a moldy smell and have to run a clean basket cycle.  If I open the door right away and move the wet clothes to the dryer then I never smell anything foul, just fresh clean clothes.  The salesman said this is because the front loaders have a tight rubber seal and air does not circulate when it is closed.  Top loaders typically have a gap between the door or washer top so air can circulate and generally won't have a problem leaving wet clothes in the washer overnight.

The salesman did warn that front loaders don't last much past 5 years, and ours died at about 4.5.  Fortunately we bought the extended warranty and had a $1,300 repair totally covered (a bit more than cost of the washer!).  When a front loader dies it is not just a pump or seal like on a top loader (which I repaired myself many times on the older one).  A front loader tears itself apart so you end up replacing the rollers, cage, basket, electrical controls, etc.  I think the only thing not replaced on ours was the control panel and sheet metal body. And there is very little if anything a DIYer can repair on a front loader (very heavy parts to move around).

 The sales guy did point out that if you want ultimate reliability, get a Speed Queen top loader.  That is what we plan to do when our repaired washer dies again.

Offline Morning Sunshine

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Re: Pathogenic bacteria transmitted via washing machine
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2019, 08:47:52 PM »
Speed Queen gets things clean the old-fashioned way, with no nonsense.  But it does sometimes develop a musty smell if I don't do any Clorox loads.  So (back to the medical topic) I'm still not sure if it's a perfect solution for preventing bacterial growth.

I have not noticed that problem.  But we typically do 2 loads a day, 6 days a week.  So maybe we just do not have time for musty to develop?  I think I remember, Mr. Bill, that you are empty nesters?  So less laundry?

We do have a top loader.  I rarely ever use clorox, like so rare I cannot remember the last time (although I know I have used it)

Offline Mr. Bill

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Re: Pathogenic bacteria transmitted via washing machine
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2019, 09:11:42 PM »
Yeah, we are never-had-a-nest-ers (just two of us and a cat), so we can go 5 days without running the machine.

One comment about Speed Queen: my mom got the bottom-of-the-line top-loader with the mechanical controls and shorter warranty.  She has needed repairs twice -- both covered under the warranty, but a nuisance.  We have the top-loader with electronic controls, and have had zero problems.  Two data points aren't enough to find a trend, but that's our experience for what it's worth.