Cold Water Wash is Hot | Seventh Generation
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Cold Water Wash is Hot

Author: Seventh Generation

Cold Water LaundryWhen it comes to saving energy, cold is gaining rock star status. Cold water laundry, that is. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, about 90% of the energy used for washing clothes in a conventional top-load washer goes to heat the water. Getting out of hot water can save you money -- as much as $70 a year on your energy bill. In addition to saving money, you'll also help lower carbon emissions! Most experts -- including many Seventh Generation Nation members who do their families' laundry -- report that cold water is great for regular loads, with hot or warm water wash reserved for oily or other stubborn stains. "Cold water saves energy, but it's also more gentle on clothes and onesies," says one Nation member, a new mom. "I've noticed that clothes hold their color better and last longer when I wash in cold." Many laundry detergent makers, including Seventh Generation, offer products that work in both cold and warm/hot water. Here are some other energy-saving laundry tips:

  • Wash full loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
  • When buying a washing machine, look for the ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels. ENERGY STAR clothes washers clean clothes using 50% less energy than standard washers. Most full-sized ENERGY STAR washers use 15 gallons of water per load, compared to the 32.5 gallons used by a new standard machine. ENERGY STAR models also spin the clothes better, resulting in less drying time.
  • Use shorter cycle settings when possible.

Do you have a cold water laundry tip to share? We'd love to hear it!


RoyTIA picture
I know a lot of people consider household liquid bleach to be not environmentally wonderful, but I have done considerable research on this. Using a liquid bleach like Clorox is really good in cold water white laundry washes. Don't confuse laundry bleach with the chlorine bleach in paper production. Hypochlorite bleach is a really different product that breaks down to salt water after use. If you looking for an inexpensive and environmentally responsible way to disinfect laundry consider this option. If you are working with colorful garments, it is really okay occasionally use a warm wash and still be true to the planet. Biz and other boosters are not hugely effective in cold water.
darinandkate picture
I am a stain freak. I have used every stain remover there is and found the best thing to do is nearly free and environmentally sound: make a paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and let it sit for hours (or even overnight) on the stain. Then wash and hang to dry in the sun. Even stains that have been treated washed adn dried numerous times fade significantly or come out completely. It really does work. The only thing it doesn't work on is dark colors as it has a mild bleaching effect that will fade that spot. most dark clothes though only show grease stains (an even darker spot) for which dish liquid used to pretreat is the best solution. I haven't bought stain remover for years!
jdemchak picture
Hi! I'm a new mom and trying to figure out the best way to clean my baby's clothes and other items that get soiled with poop. In the past I've typically used cold water for clothes, but now that many of my baby's clothes have poop on them (as do the cloth wipes I use), I've been doing her laundry in warm or hot water thinking I needed to for sanitary purposes. I've also been using OxyClean spray stain remover, which works well, but I'm not sure how natural it is. Any suggestions for laundering baby clothes? From some comments above about the dryer killing dust mites I'm thinking maybe it will sanitize the poop germs as well :-)
johedrick picture
Hello, I bounce between 7th Generation or Earth Friendly Ecos laundry detergents. Most smells come out the ones where I am problems with are.. urine (adhd child is still having night time accidents, and spouse is military so clothes get stinky quick). For those stains in the actual load I use either Biz or 7th Generation Chlorine Free Bleach... to spray the odors directly, I use full vinegar. Spray the pits area, neck and any other stinky spots.. and I let sit for 10 minutes. For stains I am afriad I am still having to use Zout until I can find something thats natural and actually works. I have 2 boys, and some of the natural products just don't work..
bradykp picture
I've been washing on cold water for at least 10 years now. I sweat a lot on a normal basis - and I've never had issues with smelly clothes. I use Eco, Method, or 7th Gen laundry detergent in a HE front loader. This is new - before that I was in an old front loader or a small, apartment sized top loader. i've had no issues with smell, and colors stay. we had bed bugs for a period and had to wash everything on hot. our towels and sheets faded, and so did most of our clothes. I'll never use hot water for anything. occasionally we'll do warm for towels and sheets - but for dust mites, reduce the amount of them by buying a cover for your mattress and pillows. get rid of carpeting in your bedroom if you can as well!
myownhealth picture
We have free hot water with our thermal solar water heater. We have more free hot water than we can possibly use. With the tax credits, state rebates, and carbon credits, it is paying for itself in a couple years. Oh, did I mention the significantly lower electric bills as well? The only problem with our HE front loading machine is that one cannot change the load size. Still, it's quite efficient all around, especially that extreme spin cycle that nearly drys the clothes.
hmw picture
Unfortunately, the laundromat where I work isn't 100% committed to environmentally-friendly means of washing laundry. However, working here -- and being a very eco-conscious person myself -- has helped me to learn some tips about effective cleaning without the use of caustic cleaners. 1. Sweaty/stinky clothes: a lot of our customers are athletes, so I'm familiar with this problem. As others have suggested, a good amount of baking soda added to your laundry really helps. If your laundry is super smelly, try soaking laundry in a water/baking soda solution before washing. 2. Cold water: it's true that hot and warm water help get a better clean, but only with unusually dirty laundry. When you wash with only cold water, it's important to use high-quality detergent (like 7th Generation) and to supplement soap with whitening/water softening agents like Borax. Or.... 3. Bleach alternatives: bleach is absolutely not necessary, and over time it truly does wear on your fabrics. I also really dislike the smell. Instead of bleach, Borax is good, but hydrogen peroxide is better. Even better is chlorine-free bleach. I haven't used 7th Generation's version (sorry!), but I can recommend Vaska Oxygen Bleach -- it's amazing, and it really does get whites and colors brighter. It's also biodegradable and contains surfactants, which add to the cleaning and water-softening process. 4. Cleaning is so much more important than disinfecting. Disinfecting with things like bleach and sanitizing soap only proliferate germs, which is why it's best to use things like antibacterial soap in your home (I can't speak for places like hospitals, of course). Germs and dust mites are everywhere, and trying to kill all of these microbes is unnecessary, futile, and destructive to the environment. Regular cleaning is so much better!
dcromney picture
I love 7thGen products but have found something even more natural - SOAP NUTS! They work fabulously and are totally cost-effective! For a little extra pleasant odor, I add a few drops of an essential oil (sweet orange is lovely) and even my husband's gross sweaty undershirts come out beautiful.
CondoBlues picture
I use borax in my washing machine and wash my clothes in cold water. They get very very clean. For stubborn stains and bright colors I switched to Seventh Generation's Liquid Oxygen Bleach. I'm kind of in love with it because that means I can use liquid laundry detergent again because I have to add them to the same compartment in the washing machine.
pamcats picture
hlb0404 picture
you can actually kill dust mites by freezing your linens and pillows. we just started doing this recently, so we have to use our chest freezer right now. but once winter rolls around, we should be able to put them outside to get the job done. i learned this from a parent of a child with severe allergies/sensitivities, and this is how they handle her bedding. who knew?
ravenrex picture
Sometimes I will let the laundry soak in the washer for a few hours or overnight, if they are the whites (in bleach, I know, sorry). This seems to help get stains out, letting the clothes soak in soapy water. Every now and then, I let the machine wash them for a few minutes to get them moving, then let them soak some more. It works brilliantly!
Clucas01 picture
Connie I had a half a cup of hydrogen peroxide to my wash load. Works great. Gets the whites really white too without having to use bleach and doesn't "bleach" colors.
LockLyss Monster picture
LockLyss Monster
I have 2 little kids and feel very dependent upon toxic stain removers to keep their clothes clean. This is a habit I need to break, unfortunately I never learned an alternative. Does anyone have tips for naturally removing stubborn stains?
ravenrex picture
To Ibellini, You don't need to wash your sheets in hot as the water does not get hot enough to kill the dust mites. Drying them in the dryer, however, does get hot enough. Wash cold, dry hot.
tinarouleau picture
i agree with the baking soda. i use a cup of baking soda with every wash and i wash all our clothes in tap/cold water. we have a front loading machine so i put 1/2 cup in with the clothes and 1/2 cup in the soap despensing tray because a whole cup would not fit in the tray. it works great on stains and our clothes smell fresh and clean. i have been washing in cold water for over 5 years and have had no problems. if stains are really bad i make a paste with the baking soda, put it directly on the stain, and leave it sit over night.
5webs picture
I have been washing my family's clothes in nothing but cold water for almost six years, and have had no problems whatsoever. Our clothes look and smell fresh, and our bills are much lower than those of our relatives. I think the key is to use a good quality detergent (in liquid form only). Seventh Generation's detergent works for us!
jillhadden picture
I would do baking soda with a hot water wash to get the smell out. Baking soda does wonders and it's cheap! I use vinegar and baking soda for the majority of my cleaning.
jenniebond picture
We started using ONLY cold water about 20 years ago...never had any problem with odors, cleanliness, mites, etc etc. Now with the frontloader, it takes too long for the hot water to get to the machine, so it's still only cold water. Instead of bleach, use a bit of hydrogen peroxide, use vinegar, use 7gen detergent. Regarding sheets: putting them in the dryer will kill dust mites or hang them outdoors in the sun all day. We always hang all the laundry, except for towels and occasionally sheets. Just too cheap :)
lbellini picture
Note that you really should wash sheets in hot. You can't kill dust mites/etc without a hot cycle - at least from everything I've read.
Vidar picture
daughteryjessica, can you tell me what detergent you switched to? i have the same problem and adding 7th gen bleach hasn't helped with the smells picture
Sorry to promot a competitor on 7th Gens site but perhaps they'll come up with something similar. This really works.
daughertyjessica picture
Nothing got the smell out here, except to go to a different natural brand. If you're a die hard user of 7th Generation then try adding borax to the wash and wash in warm water (borax won't dissolve in cold). An enzyme odor remover can also be helpful, though it was less effective than changing detergent for us.
42cgroves picture
couple things to try: white vinegar added to the wash and borax or biz.
Glendaann picture
My kids have started exercising a lot and their clothes smell so bad. I usually use the free & clear but the sweaty, sour smell isn't coming out with this. My husband wants me to use the Tide with febreeze but I am highly opposed to this as I hate chemicals. Does anyone have any experience with how to handle this type of smelly problem?