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A Cleaner World Blog

Leaving Wet Clothes in the Washing Machine

A few years ago, I shared a story where my husband left a load of wet towels in the washing machine for a week.  Given the amount of clothing I wash in a week, that’s something I would never do, but recently I accidentally left a load of towels in the washing machine overnight.  The next morning, I quickly headed to the laundry room after waking up.  I opened the washer door expecting to be greeted by some weird funky smell -- but there was none.  I started thinking and ended up posing this questions to myself: “How long is too long to leave wet clothes in the washing machine?” 

Let’s talk about the factors that lead to mold and mildew:

  • Mold and mildew are living fungi that thrive in certain circumstances – wet, warm, reduced light, and little or no air circulation.
  • They need organic food to thrive.  They like fabrics such as cotton, linen, rayon, silk, wool, and leather, and they tend to avoid synthetic fabrics, but because much of the soil that is collected on fibers is edible, even synthetic fabrics aren’t safe. 
  • In addition to the items mentioned above, they also thrive in humid conditions with temperatures around 77-88 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Mildew and mold growths can start to grow on a damp surface within 24 to 48 hours.

So, based on all that information and the fact that you’re likely not going to sleep an entire 24 hours, it’s going to be okay if you accidentally leave your clothes in the washer overnight.  But if you’re concerned about leaving your clothes in the washer overnight (because you shouldn’t have your dryer going when you are asleep), then here are a couple of tips:

  • Leave the clothes in the washer but open the door or lid to allow air circulation.
  • Pull the clothes from the washer and place them on a drying rack where they can sit until you are ready to place them in the dryer.
  • Avoid using fabric softeners, which can leave a coating on clothes and towels.
  • Pay attention to your washing machine’s buzzer or set a timer for when the load completes so you can address the clothes in the washer right away.

But if you do happen to have a musty smell on your clothes, check out this blog post we wrote a couple years ago to help with removing musty smells from clothes.  Of course, if you need help in this area, feel free to stop by or call one of our locations

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