Today in gross news you probably don’t want to hear, children’s school uniforms are absolutely teeming with bacteria. And when we say teeming, we mean it.
Colony-forming units (CFUs) are used to estimate the number of viable bacteria in a sample, as they all grow together in a little gang of germ-iness.
A study by Bimuno found the cumulative colony-forming units (CFUs) per uniform worn by a child in year 2 at school (when they’re aged six to seven) harboured an eye-watering 29,283,677 CFUs.
To put this into perspective, this is a whopping 12,353% more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
Interestingly, school children seemed to harbour more bacteria on their uniforms than kids at nursery – Bimuno, a supplement provider, found the number of CFUs on a uniform worn by a child attending nursery full-time totalled 11,774,416.
It suggested school cardigans carry over 1,000% more bacteria than the sole of a shoe and kids’ school socks harbour 408,000% more bacteria than an iPhone. Lovely.
The company behind the study touted its gut health supplements to help keep illnesses at bay among children this winter. It also recommended regularly washing school uniforms and encouraging children to wash their hands.
Róisín Pichon, Bimuno’s in-house nutritionist and gut health expert, labelled the findings “concerning, but not surprising”.
“School uniforms are often worn for multiple days without being washed, and they can be exposed to various environments, including playgrounds, school buses, and crowded classrooms. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria,” she said in a press release.
So, how often should you wash school uniform?
There’s not really any set guidance on how often you should be washing school uniform – and parents will have different strategies for this. After all, some kids get messier than others during the school day.
We’re also in a cost of living crisis, so running that washing machine day in, day out can eat away at the pennies.
Parents debated this on Netmums after someone asked whether they tend to clean their children’s school clothes daily, mid-weekly or weekly.
“As a general rule I inspect the clothes as they take them off and if they’re clean enough to wear again I fold them and stack them somewhere for wearing the next day,” responded one parent.
“Usually a new polo is required but sometimes I get lucky. Jumpers normally last a couple of days as do trousers.”
Another parent said their children had a fresh set of uniform every day. “I see it as I wear fresh clothes every day to sit at a desk and type, so my kid[s] get the same,” they said.
One parent suggested it really depends on the child’s age. “I have three children and when they were younger I used to have to wash everything every day,” they chimed in.
“Now they are a little bit older they don’t get so messy and if trousers/skirts and jumpers/cardigans are still clean then I will use them a second day but I put clean polo shirts on each day.”
How to wash your child’s school uniform
Bosch recommends checking the label on your child’s uniform before you go ahead and wash – most items are fine with a standard wash (around 40°C), but blazers might need special care, it suggests.
It’s best to keep light and dark washes separate and to wash colours on a lower heat setting.
If you’re worried about washing clothes at lower temperatures and not killing bacteria, you can use detergent and laundry sanitiser/disinfectant to do a little extra legwork.