Well Gal

Harmful Fungi May Be Lurking in Your Dishwasher

Dishwasher Door Ajar

Seals in dishwasher doors may harbor harmful fungi.

As if there isn’t enough to worry about in maintaining your household in a safe and green manner, now there is one more thing to be concerned about. Your appliances may be harboring dangerous fungi that’s hard to kill and could potentially harm you according to a recent Science Daily review of a study published in the British Mycological Society journal, Fungal Biology.

The study found that out of a sampling of homes in cities worldwide, that a little over 60% of them contained pathogenic fungal flora on the rubber seal of dishwasher doors.  What’s worse is that over 50% of them contained the polyextremotolerant black yeasts Exophiala dermatitidis and E. phaeomuriformis. Exophiala dermatitidis is especially a concern, because it can cause serious infections, sometimes even fatal, in the healthiest people. If that’s not bad enough, these little buggers are hard to kill off. Black yeasts are very resistant to high heat, salt, and even acid or alkaline conditions, so your detergents don’t keep them at bay!

By the way, even though the study didn’t focus on it, fungi have also been a problem in other appliances where high heat and moist conditions happily support them, such as front-loading washing machines.

So, what can you do to stay safe? Unfortunately, the study didn’t offer any solutions to deal with these lovely fungi, but don’t fret! No need to donate your appliances to your local Habitat for Humanity and resort to washing your clothes and dishes by hand like grandma used to do. Instead, consider these easy green cleaning tips:

  • Leave your dishwasher and washing machine doors (especially if you have a front-loading machine) ajar about 2-3 times a week to allow for air movement. Fungi just hate light and dry conditions.
  • Wipe down appliance door seals with a vinegar solution containing tea tree essential oil, which is a top essential oil used in green cleaning to kill fungi. You can make your own vinegar spray or solution by following this simple recipe.  Another option would be to add a little lemon juice to the vinegar solution or even plain water, because it contains citric acid, which is great fungicide. After applying your cleaning solution, let it sit for a few minutes and then wipe it away with a damp rag. Be sure to let the seal thoroughly dry before closing the door.
  • Add a couple drops of anti-fungal essential oil, such as tea tree, to your dishwasher detergent.

Have you ever encountered fungus on your appliance doors? If so, what did you find helpful for dealing with it?

Copyright © Karen Peltier and Well Gal, 2013. All rights reserved.
Photos © Karen Peltier and Well Gal, 2013

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