How to Protect Your Laundry From Athlete's Foot

sneakers by the hamper

The Spruce / Jesi Lee

If someone in your home has athlete's foot (tinea pedis), learn how to handle laundry to prevent this fungus from spreading to others. Spores can be shed onto socks, shoes, clothes, towels, sports uniforms, and other textiles in an open laundry basket or hamper.

Following these steps will help in the prevention of athlete's foot to others in the household by killing the fungus. Read on for tips on hot water and more methods to stop the fungus from spreading.

A diagram of avoiding athlete's foot
The Spruce / J. R. Bee

How to Prevent the Spread of Athlete's Foot in Laundry

Invest in a Shoe Dryer

If you have a frequent challenge with athlete's foot and shoe odor, it is worth the modest investment to buy a shoe dryer. Dryers ensure a much quicker and more thorough drying of the shoe, so bacteria and fungus have less time to grow, thus reducing odor and colony regrowth size.

Separate Affected Laundry From Clean Clothes

Separate infected socks, towels, and other exposed laundry from other items until they can be washed. This can be done with a mesh bag for holding laundry, which can be thrown into the washer to be cleaned with each load. If using a plastic basket or hamper to separate fungus-exposed laundry, wipe it down with a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water while each load is in the washer.

Disinfect Items Regularly

Disinfect gym bags and backpacks regularly. If they cannot be washed in hot water, use disinfectant wipes or a cloth dipped in diluted chlorine bleach and water for a thorough inside cleaning. Allow to air dry completely before using it again.

You should also clean and disinfect shoes after each wearing, if possible. Allow at least 24 hours between wearings to allow shoes to dry completely.

person disinfecting their gym bag

The Spruce / Jesi Lee

Use Hot Water for Infected Laundry

Use hot water (140°F or 60°C) and your regular detergent for infected laundry. Lower temperatures will not kill the fungus and can transfer spores to other fabrics in the same load.

  • For white cotton socks, you can use chlorine bleach along with hot water to disinfect the fabric. 
  • For colored socks and clothes that cannot be washed in hot water and should not be exposed to chlorine bleach, use a non-chlorine disinfecting method.
  • For wool socks that cannot be washed at a high temperature, disinfect using a non-chlorine disinfectant and cold water wash.

Be sure to dry athlete's foot fungus–exposed fabrics on the highest suggested temperature in a tumble dryer to ensure further that the fungus is dead.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Athlete's FootAmerican Podiatric Medical Association.

  2. Hammer, Timo R. et al. Infection Risk By Dermatophytes During Storage And After Domestic Laundry And Their Temperature-Dependent InactivationMycopathologia, vol 171, no. 1, 2010, pp. 43-49. doi:10.1007/s11046-010-9347-9.

  3. The Role of Shoe and Sock Sanitization in the Management of Superficial Fungal Infections of the Feet, Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association