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Sustainable Laundry: Wash Clothes Greener with Cold Water

March 5, 2024

Sustainable Laundry: Wash Clothes Greener with Cold Water


Doing laundry is an essential household task, but it can use a lot of energy and water. Washing clothes in cold water instead of hot or warm water is one of the easiest ways to make your laundry routine more eco-friendly. Washing with cold water saves energy, reduces waste, and is gentler on clothes – all while still getting them clean.

Reasons to Wash Clothes in Cold Water

Saves Energy

Washing clothes in cold water saves a tremendous amount of energy. Heating water accounts for 90% of the energy used to wash clothes in a conventional top-loading washer. By skipping the hot or warm water settings, I am dramatically cutting the electricity or gas needed per load. This saves money on utility bills and reduces my carbon footprint.

Prevents Clothes from Fading and Shrinking

Hot water can be harsh on fabrics. The heat from warm and hot water cycles causes clothes to fade and shrink over time. But when I wash clothes in cold water, it is gentler on fabrics. This helps items maintain their color and shape for longer.

Extends Life of Clothes

In addition to preserving colors and preventing shrinkage, washing in cold water causes less wear and tear overall. The agitation and friction from being tossed in hot or warm water can break down fabrics. Cold water is less abrasive, so clothes washed in it will last longer.

Uses Less Water

Heating water accounts for a significant portion of the water used in a load of laundry. When using cold water, no water needs to be wasted heating it up first. This conserves water, which is especially important in areas prone to drought.

Removes Stains and Odors

Surprisingly, cold water can clean clothes just as effectively as hot water. Detergent lifts stains and odors from fabrics even in cold temperatures. As long as the detergent has time to work, clothes come out of the wash clean. There is no benefit to using hot water.

Better for Sensitive Skin

For those with skin conditions like eczema or sensitive skin, hot water can cause irritation. But when I wash clothes in cold water, there is less chance of a reaction. Babies and children will especially benefit from having their clothes washed in cold water.

How to Wash Clothes Effectively in Cold Water

Switching to cold water cycles is easy, but it helps to make a few adjustments:

  • Use a detergent formulated for cold water – Look for a detergent that says it is suitable for cold water. These are designed to activate in lower temperatures.

  • Use the correct amount of detergent – With cold water, it is important not to under-measure detergent. Check the label and use the recommended amount.

  • Increase wash time – Let the load run through the complete wash cycle, which is usually longer for cold water settings. This gives the detergent enough time to work.

  • Pretreat any stains – For any extra dirty or stained clothes, pretreat them with detergent or spray before washing to boost cleaning power.

  • Wash darks separately – Darker fabrics shed more dye when washed. Wash them separately from light clothes to avoid any transfer of color.

  • Clean the washing machine – Over time, detergent and lint buildup in the machine can affect wash performance. Clean it regularly.

The Bottom Line

Switching the laundry to cold water is an easy and impactful change. Washing clothes in cold water saves energy and money while reducing wear on clothes and being gentler for sensitive skin. With a good detergent and the right washing machine settings, cold water cleans just as well as hot. Going green doesn’t require sacrificing clean clothes. Give cold water washing a try – the planet and I will thank you!

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