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New figures show that 40 per cent of laundry washes are being done at settings too cold to kill bacteria.

Waste charity Wrap has revealed that the percentage of washes being done at a colder 30°C has risen from 12 per cent in 2012 to 38 per cent in 2016.

Health expert, Lisa Ackerley has warned that washing clothes at 30°C is too cold to kill bacteria on fabrics, which means that “clean” clothes could be making people ill.

"Underwear, bedsheets and tea towels should be washed at much higher temperatures like 60 or 90°C as potentially harmful pathogens may not be killed at 30°C,” she said.

"It's especially important to take extra care with washing for vulnerable groups like babies, elderly people and those with chronic illnesses as they are more likely to become ill.”

The increase in families using colder washing machine settings has been due to the encouragement of saving money and being kinder on the environment.

"It is great to save energy and money, but if you give someone an illness it may end up costing you a lot more than you've saved,” Ackerley said.

Bacteria lurking inside washing machines can also cause cross-contamination with studies revealing that a build-up of bacteria inside the washing machine can infect clothes.

Wrap surveyed over 2,000 people to understand behavioural changes around laundry practices as part of its campaign “Love Your Clothes”.