Does Ironing Kill Bacteria & Viruses Incl. Coronavirus?

Having an active family and a growing 10-year-old son got me wondering if there’s a more effective way to ward off germs, bacteria, and viruses in clothing, without using potentially harmful cleaning products.

Does Ironing Kill the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

According to the CDC, we know that cleaning and disinfecting your home and clothing, is an extra precaution we can take to lower the risk of infection.

Dr. Anthony Fauci explains that the primary way the Coronavirus spreads is through coughing and sneezing.

Infected droplets land on surfaces like doorknobs, handrails, drinking glasses and even clothing which is then touched by your hand and unintentionally carried to your face. Another way is through a fine mist called “aerosol” that could remain floating in the air a short while after someone has coughed or sneezed, which is then inhaled unknowingly by a new carrier.

Since the coronavirus is believed to survive on some surfaces for up to 9 days, an infected person’s cough or sneeze from several feet away could mean you’ve come into contact with the virus, even long after they’ve left the room. Cleaning and disinfecting these surfaces is critical.

We know that a clothing iron heats up steam to 212 °F  which kills 99% of all germs and viruses, but the truth is, we simply do not know enough about COVID-19 yet to be entirely sure how it behaves.

We Know that Soap “Kills” the Coronavirus

What we do know about viruses, in general, is that they are covered in a layer of fat that basically “dissolves” when it comes into contact with normal, everyday soap. Once the surrounding layer is destroyed, the virus falls apart and becomes powerless.

This is why washing hands, faces and even clothing, with soap, is still one of the most powerful steps you can take to combatting the Coronavirus.

Does Steam Ironing Kill Bacteria?

Firstly, Bacteria and Viruses are two very different things. For example, antibiotics are effective at treating bacterial infections but do not work for viral infections.

Steam ironing effectively kills bacteria because the iron has to heat the water to 212 °F in order to generate steam, and most bacteria can’t survive at this high temperature. Studies show that washing and tumble drying alone does not eliminate all germs and that ironing plays an important role in sanitizing clothing.

Higher steam output improves your chances are of eliminating unwanted germs, bacteria, viruses, and bugs while you iron.

For steam to be created, water has to heat to a temperature of 212 °F (100 °C). This is the temperature at which most harmful germs, bacteria (including E. coli, Staph bacteria, Salmonella), mold, viruses, and even dust mites die. Washing and ironing are not guaranteed to kill all bacteria.


Bacteria Growth On Fabrics


When clothing comes into contact with your skin, bacteria transfer from the skin onto the fibers of the clothes. Add a little warmth and humidity, and you have the making of an ideal environment in which bacteria thrive.

Bacteria grow in warm, moist settings, most commonly created when we sweat in hot weather conditions or while playing sports. This leads to unpleasant odors and in some cases, skin irritation and skin allergies. Bacteria can even cause the discoloration of fabrics.

A study was conducted comparing bacterial activity in both polyester and cotton. The research revealed that polyester garments had a much stronger odor compared to cotton. This indicated a higher percentage of bacteria in these garments. Traditionally, polyester is not ironed as it does not easily wrinkle, but it is advisable to run a cool iron at full steam over your sports clothing to ensure your clothes are hygienically clean and odor-free.

Bed Sheets and Linen

When we sleep, our body temperature rises and falls. In warmer temperatures, between 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 25 degrees Celsius) Bacteria, as well as dust mites, flourish.


To ensure they are wiped out, wash sheets regularly at a high temperature and then steam iron them before returning them to your bed. If you know dust mites to be an issue in your home, steam clean your mattress (as well as those of your pets) and carpets to avoid contagion.

If you run a guest house and handle a lot of sheets and bedding, it’ll be worth your while to invest in a steam generator iron. They produce high pressures steam guaranteed to neutralize any unwanted organisms in your sheets, so you can rest easy knowing your guests are sleeping in sheets that are as clean as they can get.

Eliminate Bacteria for Sanitized, Odor Free Clothing

Bacteria naturally occur on the body and lives on our skin. They create the byproduct that is the cause of body odor that we recognize when the body sweats. The odor you detect is not the smell of the bacteria but a result of bacteria breaking down the proteins in our sweat into acids.

Steam ironing your clothing can help remove this odor, and most definitely, eliminate the presence of bacteria and germs.

Steam Ironing to Freshen-Up Clothing

You can easily freshen-up garments and remove any funky odors by applying a steam iron to affected areas.

Clothing that has been hanging in the closet may be clean, but oftentimes has a moldy, musty smell to it. The most likely cause is mildew.

Most modern home irons for clothes, and even travel irons, offer the added benefit of vertical steaming. This feature is really handy for quick treating garments still on their hangers. The steam alone will freshen up the fabric so it’s as good as new. Additionally, any creases or wrinkles will be ironed out in the process.

Drapes, curtains, and upholstery can also benefit from a once over with your steam iron, especially if you have pets. Pet stains such as urine should be washed first and allowed to dry. Once the area is clean, run your steam iron over the surface to eliminate any residual odor and to ensure it’s germ-free. (The soleplate shouldn’t make direct contact with the surface to prevent accidental scorching.)

Note: Do not attempt to mask the odor with fragrance. In most cases, this will only worsen the problem and may cause the animal to return to mark the spot.

Ironing to Protect Sensitive Skin

Bacteria can cause irritation on sensitive skin or aggravate existing conditions. Bacteria can even cause infection so its worth understanding where and how it grows, plus how to eliminate it.


If you or your child has sensitive skin and you want to ensure there are no allergens or dust mites lurking in their clothes or bedsheets, steam ironing will help provide relief and peace of mind.

Steam ironing baby clothes and even cloth nappies can help reduce irritation and improve skin conditions. If you use cloth nappies for your child, iron them using the irons steam setting and set the iron to cool. A hot iron will flatten the soft fibers which you’d want to avoid. The steam alone will ensure any contaminants are removed.

Remove Bacteria From Day Old Clothing

Whether you’re on a business trip and need to wear a piece of clothing more than once, or laundry day has not yet arrived, steam ironing clothing can give you that extra wear out of an outfit.

If the item you plan to wear has a stain on it, first spot clean the area. Ironing over the soiled area may cause it to set and make the stain harder to remove. Spot iron areas that need extra attention like under the arms. This will help sanitize the material and remove odors.

Germ-Free Without Harsh Chemicals

There’s no need to add chemicals to your ironing water to get a more powerful germ-killing effect, the steam alone does all the work. The steam emitted by the iron is powerful enough to kill 99% of germs and render viruses inactive.

Steam is a powerfully effective, safe, and eco-friendly alternative. People are increasingly aware of the impact of toxic chemicals on our health so they should be avoided where possible.

Adding chemicals to your iron can also cause damage to the appliance. Some chemicals can cause parts of the iron to rust. This will not only reduce the lifespan of your iron but could cause it to damage clothing. Rust build up inside the iron can discolor the water and stain fabrics with brown spots while you iron.

Kill Harmful Bacteria Without Harming the Environment

Steam ironing uses 100% water, which unlike harsh chemicals used in dry-cleaning, releases no toxic or harmful substances into our environment.


The water needed to power your steam irons is free and readily available, plus it doesn’t come in plastic containers that need to be thrown out. Steam power has highly efficient sanitizing results without harming the planet.

What Sort of Germs and Bacteria Does Ironing Eliminate?

Steam ironing will eliminate several kinds of harmful bacteria including E. coli, Staph bacteria, and Salmonella. (source).

Additionally, it is also extremely effective at removing mold on drapes and furniture. You can even use your steam iron vertically to apply sanitizing steam to the areas that are affected. The steam iron can also be used to kill dust mites in your bedsheets and pillowcases as well as the areas where your pets sleep.

In Conclusion

Steam ironing is a highly effective way to get not just your clothes, but other items in your home, 99% bacteria-free. It’s a simple task that most of us do anyway to look presentable and polished, only now we have a little added motivation to get the job done.

If you’re not in the habit of ironing your clothes, it helps to know there’s an additional purpose to the process, and you get the added benefit of looking wrinkle-free at the same time.