Why You Should Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water

Most modern day detergents don't require heat in order to clean your clothes. Plus, switching to cold-water washes helps save you money on your next energy bill.

George Dvorsky from io9 reports in a recent article that more than 60 percent of Americans may not realize they don't need to launder their clothes in warm water anymore. Instead, he says, wash your clothes in cold water — they'll get just as clean, save you some money, and help the planet in the long run.


Part of the issue is spreading the word that the science of detergents has changed for the better, allowing for more eco-friendly washes. There's an old-world mindset that's still prevailing in a majority of Americans who think warm water is necessary in order to get clothes sudsy and clean. However, detergent chemistry has made strides since then. Most of the high-performance liquid detergents we use today don't require high heat in order to activate their cleaning solutions to get out stains and grime.

What's more, the most expensive part of washing your clothes comes from heating up the water, consuming roughly 75 percent of the energy that goes into completing a cycle. Consumer Reports calculated the savings in an article, writing that switching to cold-water washes would “save you $60 or so in energy costs (or more if you live in a state with higher-than-average electricity rates), which should just about cover the cost of your detergent, assuming you do the average 300 loads of laundry per year.”

Dvorsky put it in larger terms, writing:

“If every Las Vegas household switched to cold washing for an entire year, the amount of energy saved could power its famous Strip for nearly a week. If every household across the U.S. switched to cold water for an entire year, that would save the same amount of energy produced by the Hoover Dam in 20 months.”

Another added benefit of washing your loads in the cold cycle is the preservation of your clothes — they'll last longer. Washing at warmer temperatures tends to break down the dyes and also causes clothes to shrink after a while.

Read more about the chemistry of detergents and why washing in warm water is unnecessary at io9.

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Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

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The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

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