Your machines for washing clothes and dishes could be causing a problem if they are harboring fungi. Washing machines or dishwashers, because they use water, can provide the perfect home for these undesirable visitors. Not only are they damp and warm but the continuous use of detergents makes their environment more alkaline too.
Researchers tell us that the rubber seals of dishwasher and washing machine doors provide the perfect places for these fungi – not unlike the tropical rain forests that are their natural homes!
While there is as yet no direct relationship established between dishwashers and human fungal infections, the health hazard does exist.
So what is the big fuss for?
What makes fungi hard to deal with it is that they can survive almost anywhere and under extreme conditions. All they need is a little bit of moisture, even if it is in the form of humidity in the atmosphere.
Some of the fungi culprits are black yeasts Exophiala
, red yeasts Rhodotorula,
a white yeast Candida parapsilosis
and other molds. These fungi make spores to survive in extreme environments, as well as to reproduce and spread. These spores are single-celled seeds that are very light and spread easily, through air or by clinging to moving things.
We all know about the nuisance value and even unsightly appearance of mold in your machines or anywhere else.
There are more sinister reasons why it should be avoided or gotten rid of
- Black yeast have been found to cause lung disease in patients with weak immunity while the mould magnusiomyces capitatus can cause fatal infections especially in leukemia patients.
- The black yeast exophiala and the mold magnusiomyces capitatus thrive in high concentrations of salt and in some areas, depending on the hardness or softness of the local water, salt is used in dishwashers to avoid accumulation of calcium.
- Adults and children taking antibiotics are also at risk, and so are diabetics.
Research studies on mold in home appliances
In a new study published in the journal Medical Mycology
, the researchers visited 177 homes and took nearly 900 samples from the dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, bathtubs, bathroom walls and shower heads. 30 of the samples tested positive for fungi, with the most common being two types of black yeast Exophiala dermatitidis
. Dishwashers were the most common culprit.
An earlier study in 2011 found that 62% of dishwashers tested positive for fungi, 56% of which were black yeasts.
What can you do to fix the problem?
For a 100% natural solution, Tea tree oil is a good way to kill off mold and mildew. While it has a strong scent and is more costly than vinegar, it has powerful fungus-killing abilities. You can either add two teaspoons of tea tree oil to two cups of water to spray onto affected surfaces, or add a few drops to your vinegar mildew-killing solution.
The vinegar mildew-killing solution consists of vinegar, baking soda and bleach to be used once a month. Of course bleach can be a very harsh substance to use and you may prefer to leave it out. Start by removing all racks and washing them by hand in hot soapy water. Use a soapy sponge to wipe down the dishwasher's interior surfaces and around the rubber door seal. Let everything air dry thoroughly. Mix half cup of white vinegar with 2 cups of hot water in a spray bottle. Spray all surfaces thoroughly and scrub with an old toothbrush around the crevices and seal. Use a scrub brush for large surfaces. After putting the racks back into the dishwasher, fill a small glass bowl with vinegar and place it on the top rack. Run the washer on the hottest setting. Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda on the dishwasher floor and run the machine a second time on high heat.
An easier way!
If this sounds too much like really hard work for you, you might like to try the Smelly Washer 216 Dishwasher and Disposal Cleaner
that comes in a 12 ounce bottle from Amazon for 24 treatments. The big plus is that it has all natural ingredients and is easy to use.
There is another version for washing machines
by the same company.
You will also find online helpful tutorials on how to clean and maintain (a) your dishwasher
and (b) your washing machine.