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4 Reasons to Stop Washing Your Clothes in Hot Water

Man turning a dial to set the settings on his washing machine.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Many people believe that using hot water will clean your clothes better than cold water. Although there are rare times you’ll need to use hot water, cold water is actually the better choice. Here’s why.

In the past, hot water was the answer to all deep cleaning needs. It broke down dirt, killed bacteria, and left clothes smelling sweet and fresh. However, due to the increased efficiency of washing machines, along with powerful cold-water detergents, hot water is not always necessary.

More and more people are making the switch to cold water cycles. Still not convinced? Read on.

Cold Water Cleans Just As Well

The secret nowadays to cleaner clothes is in the detergent, not in the water’s temperature. Maybe your grandmother’s detergent needed hot water to get the job done, but the stuff you’re buying today doesn’t. Most popular detergents break down soil, grime, grit, stains, and everything else—even when washed on a cold cycle. However, powder detergents usually need warm or hot water to dissolve properly so opt for liquid detergents when you can.

Check your detergent to see if it’s recommended to work in cold water. You’ll be surprised—most brands out there do an excellent job. Tide Coldwater Clean is a popular choice.

Believe it or not, some stains respond better to cold water. For example, if you’re struggling to get rid of blood and sweat stains, cold water is the answer (hot water can actually make these types of stains set because of the protein in them). Who knew?

If you’re determined to get your clothes squeaky clean, but they’re too delicate to blast with hot water and/or bleach, such as delicates or baby clothes, consider using a cold-water friendly laundry sanitizer.

Better for the Environment

Looking to adopt a more green lifestyle? Switching off the hot setting on your washing machine is one easy step you can make today.

Does using cold water really make that much of an environmental difference? Yes, it does! The Environmental Protection Agency states that using hot water accounts for about 90 percent of the energy consumed during a wash cycle—with a meager 10 percent going to running the motor. Wow.

Even if you cut your warm and hot washes in half, you’ll be making a difference.

Save Money

Who doesn’t want to cut down on monthly bills? Well, switching to mostly cold wash cycles is a quick and easy way to save.

The difference might seem insignificant, especially if you’ve always washed in hot water and are used to your regular electric bill. However, when looking at energy costs, it’s believed that a hot water cycle costs around $0.68, whereas a cold wash costs only $0.04. Not sure how that adds up over the year? Well, for a family who averages one load a day, that’s a yearly savings of $233!

You might need to use hot water sometimes, but if you focus primarily on washing with cold water, you’ll notice a substantial savings—one that makes the switch well worth it.

Safer for Clothes

Hot water can be detrimental to most clothes, especially delicates and baby clothes. Plus, hot water can cause certain clothes to shrink, fade, or for the colors to bleed. Yikes!

Using a cold wash cycle means you can throw everything in together—no need to separate whites and colors. The cold water will prevent darker colors from bleeding, keeping your lighter clothes safe. However, keep in mind that brand-new clothes might still bleed during their first cycle, even when using cold water.

In the long run, your clothes will thank you by being treated to a cold cycle. They’ll remain more durable, allowing you to wear them longer.

When Should You Use Hot Water?

Even though hot water gets a bad rep, there are certain situations when it’s necessary.

Basically, if things are super gross, then go ahead and switch on the hot water. Here are some typical situations that usually require hot water:

  • Cloth diapers: If you use cloth diapers for your little ones, then it’s highly recommended to wash them on a hot cycle. There are very specific instructions for properly washing cloth diapers. Check out Fluff Love University for some excellent tips.
  • Illness: If there’s an epidemic in your house, such as the flu or a stomach bug, it’s recommended to wash everything in hot water. This is especially true when dealing with heavily soiled clothing and linens because you don’t want to spread the illness to other family members. Check out the sanitize cycle on your washing machine.
  • Head lice: Nobody wants to deal with head lice, but the truth is that it does happen. It’s best to wash and dry all clothes and bedding on a hot cycle to help kill those annoying critters.

If you find yourself in a situation where you want to sanitize your laundry, but the material in question is too delicate for a blast of hot water and/or bleach, take a look at laundry sanitizers—you add them like fabric softener to your loads to kill off bacteria.

Using a cold wash cycle has many benefits, such as saving money, helping the environment, and prolonging the life of your clothes. It’s an excellent choice as long as you have an efficient washing machine and use cold-water detergent. If you have any doubts, try it for a few weeks and see for yourself.

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »
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