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Cold vs. Hot Water in Laundry

Everyone has an opinion, but let's look at the facts:

Is hot or cold water better to do laundry in? Should I use hot water to do all my laundry? We try to answer these questions for you below

There are good reasons to use cold water and good reasons to wash on hot so let’s explore why temperature is important in certain situations and clear some myths and misconceptions about washing on cold and hot water.

The cost/energy savings of washing in cold is obvious. I won’t argue with that for a second. From an economic standpoint, cold water wins hands down. From a cleaning standpoint – you may have to weigh getting clothes cleaner vs how much money you are spending per load.

In a previous post, I discussed the basic principles of washing. Lets review.

The process of washing laundry is broken into a ratio of:

Time, Water, Mechanical Action, and Chemicals.

Here’s the monkey wrench – Cold water changes a few things. Cold water requires that you not only run your machine longer and/or use more chemicals (soap), but also on the drying side of things, your clothes may have to dry for longer in the dryer.

Hot water is most often 10 degrees colder when it arrives at your machine from when it leaves your hot water heater. In washing terms, hot water is 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 Celsius) or above. Warm water is generally between 110 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit ( 43.3-32.2 Celsius). Cold water is between 80 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7-15 Celsius).

When you are washing at 80-60 degrees Fahrenheit, soap works 70-90% less effectively within the same amount of time time as it would in warm water. If your cold water is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius), clothes are unlikely to be cleaned very well. 

In short….

Cold Water = a need for increased wash time (or increased chemicals) and possible longer drying time.

 

Hot water = decreased wash time (or decreased chemicals) and possible shorter drying time

 

In some cases your washing machine will automatically give you a longer wash time if you select a cold cycle, but when the settings are completely up to you – if you didn’t know to increase the time when decreasing the temperature, you might be wondering why your clothes aren’t getting properly clean.

All things considered, you are most likely still saving money using cold water, even if you have to run the machines a little longer. In that regard, cold water wins.

The cost/energy savings of washing in cold is obvious. I won’t argue with that for a second. From an economic standpoint, cold water wins hands down. From a cleaning standpoint – you may have to weigh getting clothes cleaner vs how much money you are spending per load.

How Detergent Relates to Water Temperature:

The above factors should be taken into consideration, but also what type of laundry detergent you are using. Liquid detergents generally better for cold water washing, because it takes less energy to break the detergent down in the bath solution inside the washing machine. Powder detergents have to be broken down further because they are solids, so it will typically require more powder detergent to accomplish the same level of cleaning in cold water than if you used a liquid detergent in the same cold water temperature. However, not all liquid detergents are created equally. You generally get what you pay for, but it's a good idea to use a "cold water" liquid detergent if you are trying to use less resources and wash your laundry in cold water. These detergents are specifically designed for their molecules to break down easier in lower water temperatures, without sacrificing cleaning ability.

In support of powder detergents, however, they are created with more "builder" molecules than liquids (that's what makes them solid and gives them mass). These builder molecules provide a source of friction for the cleaning process, and help to improve cleaning ability. For this reason, we at GRX Commercial Laundry prefer powder detergents for our work. There are many economical brand choices out there that work just as well as the higher-end detergent brands, but are available for a much better price.

See the following video from Consumer Reports:

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