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Someone on another forum made the point that doing laundry with sodium hypochlorite (bleach) will kill any fungus such as athlete's foot fungus, but that after the fabric dries, the pH level of the fabric is conducive to more fungal growth, since bleach is a base. The person made the point to substitute bleach with an acid like lemon juice, or to first do the laundry with bleach and then a second time with lemon juice. Exact quote below:

"Bleach removes fungus and mold but also promotes it’s later development. I had jock itch on and off for years until I stopped using bleach in my wash. Once I stopped using bleach it never returned. Fungus thrives in high PH environments caused by Bases like bleach. My jock itch returned for a short time when my wife used bleach again. If you must use bleach you should neutralize it with a post acid rinse like vinegar or lemon juice."

Is there any scientific rationale to backup this statement? Is lowering the pH of fabric with an acidic substance a workable means of preventing fungal growth? Or does it not matter- in other words, washing your clothes with bleach should neither promote nor inhibit future fungal growth (emphasis: athlete's foot fungus)

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  • $\begingroup$ I doubt that anyone can point to a specific scientific study about this. As a chemist it doesn't make sense. I know whites smell like chlorine after a bleach wash. I suspect that the 2nd lemon juice wash just gives the clothes a nice smell. Rather than spending money on lemon juice I'd suggest some foot powder would be vastly more effective against athlete's foot. I also have used dipped my feet in a dilute bleach solution to kill it. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Nov 4 '15 at 1:40
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Hypochlorite bleach is a potent biocide, so throughly washing clothes with it should kill all fungi. The pH part is true, bleach is alkaline, but so are all common detergents. But this should not even matter, if the clothes are properly rinsed with clean water, that should remove almost all of the bleach and restore the pH to close to neutral. What I think happened, is that his clothes were not rinsed well enough, so traces of the bleach and the detergents stayed in the clothes, causing or exacerbating skin problems. Some people have skin especially sensitive to bleach and allergic reactions to detergents can happen to. So I would recommend washing with bleach, but making sure the clothes are well rinsed. You may need to set your washing machine on an extra rinse cycle to get the desired effect. Using lemon juice should not be necessary.

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after using bleach,the pH of the fabric becomes (7+12)/2=19/2=9.5,so in order to make the fabric neutral,it has to be washed with an acidic substance which has a pH of 4.5 afterwards,but since (9.5+4.5)/2=14/2=7,however if that acidic substance has to be added simultaneously,then it must have a pH of 2 because of the mathematical equation that (7+12+2)/3=21/3=7,As simple as that.

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    $\begingroup$ This just isn't right. Some detergent was certainly used for the laundry. So the wash water is a soup of chemicals. Wash usually gets two rinses with water that has all sorts of cations and anions. So the pH of the clothes should be about the pH of the inlet water. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Nov 10 '15 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ The math here is incorrect, pH exists on a logarithmic scale and so cannot be added linearly. The final pH also depends on the volume of the two liquids added. An example of adding two pH values would be, two solution of equal volume, one with a pH of 6, the other with a pH of 8. They would add to -log((10^-6 + 10^-8) / 2)/log(10) which is approximately 6.3. But MaxW is correct, in that everything would be heavily diluted with the inlet water. $\endgroup$ – yeerk Feb 22 '18 at 17:06

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