8 Times You Don't Need Hot Water to Get Clothes Clean
Laundry can be hard. We're here to make it easy.
When I first met my roommate, one of the first things she told me was that she loves doing laundry. “It just calms me down,” she said, as we stood over our newly-purchased washer, unsuccessfully attempting to connect the hose to the wall plug-in. “I love the routine of it.” Eventually, after forty-five minutes of wrestling with the washer hose, we called a plumber.
Unlike my roommate, I've always dreaded laundry day. I used to spend most of the week watching the pile in my hamper gradually begin to overflow, putting off washing my pillowcases or towels until they were stained with mascara. But since then, my laundry-loving roommate has taught me a thing or two about the do’s and don’ts of washing clothes, and laundry day has begun to look a bit less daunting.
For most of my life, I've defaulted to washing with warm water simply because it seemed like a good compromise between hot and cold. The most surprising laundry tip I’ve learned is that each temperature setting has its own strengths and weaknesses, from stain removal to fade prevention. Hot water is best for washing white items, and warm water is good for washing knits. But these shouldn’t be your only default settings. While hot water may seem like it will give the deepest clean, it can actually fade, shrink, or damage your clothes.
Here’s a rundown of when cold water actually does the trick.
1. Washing dark colors
Cold water is best for preventing fading, so stick to a cold setting on your darks load. (This is why it’s important to separate your clothes into light and dark laundry loads. While white items do best in hot water, cold water prevents fading in your dark items.)
2. Washing bright colors
Washing with cold water helps preserve colors and prevent them from bleeding or fading. So if you want to avoid your white socks turning pink, wash your brights separately on a cold water setting.
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3. Washing delicates
When it comes to more fragile materials like lace, silk, or wool, cold water is best, as it’s gentler on these items. Hand washing these delicate materials is equally as effective.
4. Washing jeans
It’s best to wash your jeans on the cold setting, which will prevent shrinkage or misshaping. Good Housekeeping recommends washing jeans inside-out to minimize the chance of damage. While it’s perfectly safe to put your jeans through the wash, be wary of dryers. Leaving your jeans to air-dry after a cold wash is the best way to avoid shrinking.
5. Removing stains
Hot water may be best for disinfecting and removing bacteria, but cold water is actually more effective in removing certain kinds of stains. A cold water soak and cold wash cycle will help fight tough food, coffee, or sweat stains more effectively than hot water. (Beware: sometimes, hot water can even worsen those pesky stains).
6. Reducing wrinkles
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to iron, cold water is your best bet to reduce wrinkling.
7. Saving energy
When switched on hot, your washing machine expends a significant amount of energy– according to GE Appliances, 75 to 90 percent of your washer’s energy can go to heating the water alone. So washing on cold can help lower your electric bill.
8. Washing eco-friendly
We know that washing your laundry in cold water saves energy– this also means it’s much more environmentally sustainable. Washing your clothes in cold water is an easy way to live a more sustainable lifestyle!
These tips and tricks provide a general outline of when it’s best to use cold water, but each item of clothing or fabric is different. Always consult the clothing tag before washing to find instructions specific to that item.
Following these general rules has helped me reduce the stress of laundry day and made this simple task a bit more manageable. Maybe next, I'll tackle cleaning the bathroom...