Residence Education

Sustainability in the Laundry Room

Washing clothes on a cold cycle will clean most clothes just as well as a warm or hot cycle does. Responsible for this are technological advances in both machines and detergents. Using cold water has some important advantages. Since heating water is responsible for about 75-90% of the energy used in doing a load of laundry, cold water is the eco-friendly option. Cold water is more gentle on clothes, too. It reduces the risk of clothes shrinking or wrinkling, and colors bleeding or fading. When trying to remove stains, cold water is often the better option. Washing soiled articles with hot water can set stains, especially if they are protein-based (such as sweat or blood). At the same time, a cold water wash saves money. It puts less stress on the machinery, meaning that machines will last longer, and saves one household about $40-$60 in utilities annually.

Using a liquid detergent specifically formulated for cold water will yield the best results. The water temperature should also never be below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. There are some cases in which warm water is the better option. Only hot water will sanitize fabric infected with bacteria. Cold water might not work well with all synthetic materials, or clean all tough stains. In this case it is helpful to pretreat stains, and presoak or prerinse items.


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