How Often Should You Clean Laundry Baskets or Hampers?
Ah, laundry baskets, the way station where dirty clothes swap germs. Seriously – laundry bins take on a lot of dirt, grime, and bacteria. Whether you have a top-of-the-line home-decor minimalist laundry sorter or a simple drawstring hamper bag, your laundry basket probably needs some serious TLC. Even if dirty laundry only stays in the hamper for a little while, it leaves a slight trace of everything it accumulates over the day. All of the grime on your dirtiest delicates, linens, and towels that disappear in the washer often ends up lingering in the corners of your laundry baskets. Without regular cleaning, your hamper can collect lots of germs and bacteria. If you use the same basket to hold dirty laundry AND to transport clean clothes to and from the laundry room or laundromat, you’ll want to be extra careful to keep them spotless. If you don’t, cleaning something that only temporarily holds clothes before they’re washed may not seem worth cleaning, but uncleaned hampers can also develop unpleasant smells. Wet clothes, in particular, leave hampers with a musty mildew odor. Worst of all, if left unchecked, your hamper can become home to visitors that aren’t so easily washed away, such as fungi, and even (in rare cases) to something like the Salmonella bacteria!
But don’t sweat it. It’s pretty easy to clean your clothes hampers, and by incorporating the habit into your routine, you’ll keep your laundry baskets as clean as the laundry that comes fresh from the dryer. Here’s a guide to how often you should clean your laundry basket or hamper based on the type you have.
Fabric hampers are the most at-risk for developing bad smells and holding on to germs. It’s essential that these hampers are washed regularly or, ideally, every time you run a load of laundry. Good news – fabric hampers are usually very easy to clean. Even heavy-duty fabric hampers and laundry bags are usually machine-washable, and most collapsible or foldable hampers come with a removable liner. Many decorative laundry baskets are double laundry hampers with removable liners that are easy to attach and detach.
To clean these, simply take the fabric hamper or liner and add it to your regular load. If the hamper has any stains, you can pre-spot it with Charlie’s Biodegradable Laundry Pre-Spray Stain Remover or add our Non-Chlorine Bleach to the washing machine to eliminate odors and brighten colors. Your fabric hamper should come out fresh, clean, and ready to handle another week’s worth of clothes.
Plastic baskets are, generally, a much more sterile laundry bin than their cloth counterparts – they just don’t hold on to germs and dirt as fabric hampers do. While it’s still a good idea to wipe plastic baskets down after every load of laundry, they typically don’t need to be cleaned that often. Even if the baskets don’t look dirty, don’t forget that bacteria can still hold on to the plastic surfaces, so we recommend you wash them about once a week.
Like fabric hampers, plastic laundry baskets are easy to clean. Simply wipe down the inside of the basket with soapy water or, for a more powerful clean, a multipurpose cleaner like the Environmentally Safe Natural Kitchen & Bath Household Cleaner from Charlie’s Soap. This product also works great for pop-up and tote mesh laundry baskets. All you have to do for these is scrub out the inside and allow them to air-dry.
While wicker or rattan laundry bins are stylin’, they can pose a bit of a problem when it comes to cleaning. Because of wicker’s textured and absorbent surface, it’s much more likely to house bacteria and, potentially, develop mold spores from wet or sweaty laundry. Wicker baskets are also slightly more challenging to clean than fabric or plastic alternatives. To skip the hassle, you might consider adding a fabric liner or removable bag to your wicker basket and following the guidelines above. If you’re working with a regular wicker basket, you should be sure to wash it after every load of laundry.
If you have access to it, a garden hose is fantastic for cleaning wicker baskets. Spray out the basket, then scrub the inside using warm, soapy water to remove any mildew or mold. Be careful – wicker can break if put under too much pressure. The best way to dry wicker baskets is to leave them out in the sun. Depending on the weather and the type of material in the basket, this step could take a while. Let the basket dry completely before you bring it in, or you could risk additional bacterial growth. A few hours later, voila! You have a perfectly clean wicker laundry basket.
The Bottom Line
Although it can be easy to forget or shrug off, washing your laundry hamper regularly is vital for keeping a clean environment. Wet and dirty laundry picks up just as much grime from a laundry basket as it leaves behind – including bacteria that won’t be budged by the heat from the drying cycle. You might be exposed to the dark side of your dirty hampers as you handle these seemingly cleaned clothes. To keep your clothes as clean as possible and to make laundry day a breeze, wash your laundry hampers and baskets regularly.