The Truth About Leaving Laundry in the Washing Machine Overnight
We've all been guilty of this at some point or another, but here is what you need to know about leaving your wet washing to sit overnight... and what to do about it.
We've all been there – we've headed to bed or gone out of the house and forgotten that we've left wet laundry in the washing machine, tumble dryer, or basket. Whether it's been a couple of hours or an entire day/night, we sit and try to decide if it needs to be re-washed or if it's okay to go out to dry. After all, we don't want our clothes and linen bedding to be smelling and developing mildew especially when it's something you have to sleep in all night. It's also a waste of water and electricity to unnecessarily put on a load of washing for a second time.
Below, we take a look at how long you can leave your wet laundry in the washing machine before you need to give it another wash and what you need to do if it has been left for too long and has begun to smell.
If damp clothes or bedding have been left in the washing machine or a basket for more than 8-12 hours we recommend giving it another wash. If it's been over 12 hours it's a safe bet that they will need to be re-washed. Bacteria and mildew can begin to form on the laundry, which results in bad-smelling garments and linen. According to a medically-review article published on Healthline "Mildew is a fungus that thrives in warm, damp environments, so your washer is an ideal incubator" which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin, for those that are more sensitive.
If you're someone who forgets their laundry regularly, it's worth using an unscented or chemical-free detergent that doesn't mask signs of mildew to help you better decipher whether it needs a second wash.
If your wet laundry has been sitting for under 12 hours and you're unsure whether it needs another wash, you can do a smell test of the items to see if there's a distinct mildew odour (a musty and often pungent smell).
If not, it's safe to just hang them out to dry or pop them in the dryer. If there is a white, grey, or yellow texture that is fluffy or powdery developing on your laundry, it absolutely needs another wash.
You can either hand or machine wash your linen – always separately – and always with lukewarm or cold water. Linen is ultra-absorbent, so we advise that you launder any stains while they are still new to avoid permanent damage. For this very reason, use plenty of water when both washing and rinsing your linen to prevent stain absorption.
A gentle detergent will work well, especially when used in combination with an oxygen-type bleach instead of a chlorine-based alternative for pure white linen to minimise the risk of discolouration.
If your linen has a mildew smell to it, the best course of action is to wash it in a cycle with 1 cup of vinegar and then a cycle with 1 cup of baking soda. If possible, it's a good idea to air dry your linen in the sun as the ultraviolet rays from the sun have disinfecting properties that can help kill any remaining bacteria in the laundry.
The idea of washing your washing machine may sound funny, but it is something you should do every now and then. It's especially important to not forget to inspect and clean your washing machine if the source of the mildew is coming from the seal. To do this, simply run an empty, regular cycle on hot, using two cups of white vinegar instead of detergent. The hot water and vinegar combo will fight any mould, mildew, and everyday gunk.