Could you use cold water for laundry?

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wash-laundry-cold-water-reduce-carbon-footprintFor day 42 of our carbon fast we are looking at our laundry habits.

The suggestion reads “only use your washing machine when you have a full load, and run it on cold whenever possible. Run at maximum spin to reduce drying time and avoid using a tumble drier. A typical washing machine uses 90% of its energy to heat the water. Generally, cold water gets your clothes just as clean and saves about 2 pounds of CO2 per load. “

Well I think I’m just about ok with this one apart from the cold washing. I’ve washed clothes in cold water and it comes out filthy.

little Miss Green likes to get muddy and washing mud in cold water just means you get muddy streaks over everything – not good. In addition, it seems that eco powders and liquids are ineffective at these temperatures and to be honest I’d be better off washing by hand because I’ve actually wasted electricity and water and I STILL end up with dirty clothes.

So my feeling is that cold washing probably works if you wear your clothes once and like to freshen it up or if you’re just not as dirty as us! I also think it’s more likely to be effective in a soft water area (we have hard water).

One thing I would caution against from the suggestion given is fast spinning. I deliberately bought a machine with a fast spin because I too, thought it was better to get the clothes out of the machine semi dry.

The thing is, what you gain in drying time you lose in fabric care. We noticed after a few months our clothes were becoming threadbare and misshapen.  The only changes we had made was a fast spin. So now we slow it down, but as you’ll see from a previous post, we still manage to live without a tumble dryer in order to reduce our carbon footprint and save money. We simply hang lines up in the dining room before we go to bed if it’s bad weather and in good weather, well it’s a no brainer – there’s nothing so great as a line full of sun-dried laundry.

Does cold washing work for you?


  1. Zoie @ Touchstonez on April 28, 2011 at 5:00 am

    Yes, I wash everything in cold. We have an he front loader, which does well for clothes, but my top loader definitely did a better job with dipes. I either use just vinegar & maybe a couple of drops of eucalyptus & tea tree oils or I use homemade powder detergent (or Seventh Gen free & clear powder as back up if I run out) I will occasionally use oxy clean, too. I found a great reuse for those old “downy balls.” I fill them with vinegar & use that to get my dipes clean & fresh. Any stains that didn’t come out in the wash, come out in the sun on the line.

  2. Preseli Mags on April 28, 2011 at 7:48 am

    I wash in cold or 30 degrees (for really muddy stuff). We have really soft water which helps. I did have one problem though – the washing machine got choked up and the engineer said I needed to do a really hot wash from time to time to clean out the pipes.

  3. Jennifer on April 28, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I wash most things in cold water. I don’t typically get very dirty (clay, unlike mud, seems to wash right out). I’ve actually forgotten to add detergent to my wash before and only realized it after I had put everything away — it made no discernible difference. The only things I wash on warm are loads with cloth pads; the oxy bleach seems to dissolve and work better in warm, and I don’t like stains.

  4. Nazima on May 1, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    I have not had much luck with cold water washing and tend to do the 30deg wash as babyfood mess is too ingrained. I dont use biological detergents but they probably work ok at colder temps (though am sure not ecologically sound).

  5. Mrs Green on May 2, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Sounds like the cold wash works really well for you Zoe; that’s great.

    Interesting about choking up the machine. I’ll bear that in mind too.

    I think you’re right; stuff that just needs a freshen probably comes up ok, but our things seem to get pretty dirty.

    Ah yes, babyfood seems to have a life of its own! I would imagine you’re right; bio products work better at lower temps.

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