The average American home washes 200 loads of laundry each year. For the most part, everyone is doing it wrong. Many Americans use way too much hot water to wash their clothes and ignore new innovations in technology and chemistry that have enabled the cold wash cycle to emerge as the best option for cleaning your clothes.
Heating water accounts for 90 percent of the costs of washing your clothes. The other 10 percent is made up from the energy consumed by the motor and digital displays on the machine. The best way to quickly save energy is to switch from hot to cold water when washing your clothes. Washing a load of laundry with hot water costs about 68 cents while washing laundry with cold water costs about 4 cents. If you switch to 100% cold water washes, you can save about $130 a year! You get the same clean clothes for far less money. Currently, only about 7 percent of white laundry loads are done with cold water, 22 percent of light colored loads are done with cold water, and 57 percent of dark loads use cold water.
Hot water can also be worse for your clothes. It opens up the fibers in the material, which can release the dyes and cause the colors to “bleed” onto other clothes. Cold water keeps the fibers closed and you don’t run the risk of turning your blue shirt purple. Most people know not to wash their colors in hot water (or at least won’t make this mistake twice), but the truth is you don’t have to wash most of your loads in hot water.
You will need to use hot water when you have oil-based stains on your clothes like grease or paint. If you are using hot water when washing clothes without such stains, you are wasting energy and running the risk of shrinking your clothes.
There are three components to cleaning clothes: thermal energy (hot water), the chemicals in the detergent, and the mechanical energy from the washing machine. In an attempt to lower their environmental footprint, Procter & Gamble set out to create a laundry detergent designed especially for cold water usage – essentially overcompensating for the lack of thermal energy. In 2005, they released Tide ColdWater. Several competitors have followed suit and there are now many detergents specifically for cold water washing.
According to the New York Times, when Tide ColdWater was introduced in 2005, 30 percent of laundry loads were done using cold water and that number is up to 40 percent today. A 33 percent improvement is pretty impressive, especially given the fact that Americans have been conditioned for decades to use hot water to wash clothes that aren’t too colorful.
And now washing machine manufacturers are adapting to follow Procter & Gamble’s lead. The Maytag Bravos XL washing machine debuted in September 2016 and features a cold cycle designed to work with cold water detergents. Now there is an entire category of cold water cycle-enabled washing machines at BestBuy as other major manufacturers have released their latest washer models.
If you don’t have stains on your clothes, you most likely don’t even need specially formulated detergent to wash your clothes in cold water. But if you want to have cleaner clothes and avoid the wasted costs associated with hot water, switch to a cold water detergent. If you want that detergent to be even more effective, switch to a washing machine with a cold water cycle. But no matter, cut back on the hot water usage and you will see significant energy savings.
Want to save money on drying your clothes as well? Check out these tips.