Why You Shouldn't Actually Be Washing Your Clothes With Hot Water

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Woman Doing Her Laundry

Image by PeopleImages / iStock

Hot water is often the default setting for most laundry cycles, and many people believe it's the only way to ensure a thorough cleanse. But experts say those hot water cycles can be damaging for your clothes and the environment—and turns out, they're not even necessary. 

A recent study published in the journal Dyes and Pigments said reducing time and temperature of laundry cycles can have major environmental benefits. 

What are the environmental impacts?

"When selecting a warm or hot wash, 75% of all energy required for the load will go toward heating the water," said Theresa and Corinna Williams, co-founders of the eco-friendly laundromat Celsious.

Reducing energy used per load can decrease your energy bill and your carbon footprint. It also allows you to get more wear out of your clothes. 

The study proved washing with cold water can increase the longevity of fabric. After comparing 85-minute hot water cycles (104 degrees Fahrenheit) to 30-minute cool cycles (77 degrees Fahrenheit), researchers found clothes on the cool cycle maintained their vibrant color and lost fewer microfibers. 

Microfibers are released from clothes during each wash, and they "account for more than a third of all plastic reaching the ocean," said Richard Blackburn, Ph.D. "But microfibers from cotton and other natural sources are found in even greater numbers in the sea."

More than that, "hot water can be harsh on fibers and cause shrinkage for certain items," Williams said. Preserving the quality of your clothing through cold washes can save you money on shopping and keep clothing from ending up in a landfill. 

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So when is it OK to use hot water? 

"We recommend hot washes only for heavily soiled items due to illness or very gross stains," Williams said. In those instances, hot water can kill allergens and bacteria.

If that is the case, be sure to do shorter loads. If the materials are delicate but still need a good wash (like sweaty workout clothes), consider hand-washing the garments instead.



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