The New York Times has a very interesting piece up, Cold-Water Detergents Get a Cold Shoulder. It’s worth a solid read, but to sum up, it appears that laundry washing folks all over the world can’t get over their addiction to hot water washing.
The piece notes that U.S. customers are stuck on hot water washing big time, refusing to use cold water, even though laundry soap manufacturers have been making, and selling cold-water detergent for years. The U.S. isn’t the only problem though. As the Times notes, “Even in Germany, where consumers tend to be more environmentally attuned than in the United States, manufacturers have discovered that cold-water washing is such a hard sell that they have relegated claims about it — and the attendant green benefits — to the fine print, choosing to emphasize other attributes.”
Not cool. Washing in hot water is an easy habit to break and offers multiple green benefits.
- First of all, the Times notes that cold water washing can save on energy use and help reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we’re living with. In fact, the piece notes that, “About three-quarters of the energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions from washing a load of laundry come from heating the water.“
- Secondly, washing on cold reduces waste. Clothes and other textiles don’t stand up to hot water washes well. Hot water reduces the lifespan of your clothes, can shrink stuff and fades colors.
Beyond saving energy and resources, cold water washing saves you cash. It costs a lot to heat laundry water – especially if you’ve got kids and are washing almost daily. The Times piece points out that expert studies show that cold water detergents work just as well as traditional detergents when it comes to getting clothes and other fabrics clean.
New American Dream notes the following:
- By doing 4 out of 5 loads in cold water you’ll cut 72 pounds of CO2 emissions this month alone.
- Keep washing 80% of the loads in cold for a year and you’ll save more than $60 in energy costs for the year ($100 a year if you live in regions with high electricity costs).
We’ve discussed this here before too. Hot water is so overrated. For years and years, I’ve washed clothes, reusable cleaning towels, reusable baby wipes and everything else in cold water + eco-friendly laundry detergent with zero issues. We’re not sick more than other families I know, and everything gets clean, smells just fine and holds up well. This isn’t just me talking either, science says cold water works.
Back in college, when I was in Microbiology for health sciences, we ran multiple experiments with germs, grime and water. It wasn’t the hot water that killed icky stuff. The biggest difference was from length of agitation (i.e. scrubbing time) and type of soap.
Also, keep in mind that science says that unless hot water is too hot to touch, no way will it sanitize. I’ve touched the hot water coming from my washing machine before and it certainly didn’t burn me. It’s just not that hot. If it’s not that hot, it’s not sanitizing, it’s just wasting energy and your money.
Honestly, I think that the whole hot water deal is an old school safety net that makes people feel better and cleaner, but again, you need really hot water to sanitize and most washing machines simply don’t heat up so much. Washing on cold, even if you’re washing icky cloth diapers is safe and cleansing. Green Baby Guide has an excellent piece up about washing cloth diapers on cold.
You can make a difference by bucking up and washing on cold. At the very least, you can give it a whirl and see how it works for you.
Do you wash your laundry on cold or hot? How come?
Image ©foobean01 via sxc.