How To Wash Clothes In Cold Water (and still get a great wash)

Updated byPenny
How To Wash Clothes In Cold Water (and still get a great wash)

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I’ve been washing my laundry in cold water on and off for quite a while now.

When the electricity bills went sky-high last year, I started doing it full time and have saved so much money.

I realize now that I was a bit brainwashed before, thinking that warm or hot water was the only way to get clothes clean, but it simply isn’t!

Many detergents are designed to work in cold temperatures now, which means the switch to cold water is almost a no-brainer.

In my post today, I’m going to take you through my tips for getting the very best wash, even in cold water.

First off, if you aren’t convinced cold-water washing is for you, let me explain the many advantages of making the switch.

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Why do your laundry on cold?

You save a lot of electricity

Most of the power is used up heating the water. On a cold wash, all you are paying for is for the drum to turn, which is much less.

Colors don’t run

One of the most frustrating laundry mishaps is colors running from one garment to the next.

Cold water washing provides a solution to this problem by minimizing the risk of colors running or bleeding onto other clothes.

However, I still don’t recommend you mix whites and colors, even for a cold wash. Here’s why you shouldn’t mix whites and colors.

Clothes last longer

By avoiding the harsh effects of hot water and the agitation that comes with it, your clothes are less prone to wear and tear.

This means that your favorite pieces can maintain their quality and appearance for a longer period, ultimately saving you money.

Colors stay brighter

Cold water washing is a simple yet effective way to preserve the vibrancy of your clothes.

By avoiding the fading effects of warm or hot water, your garments can retain their original colors and look fresh and vibrant wash after wash.

The cycle is quicker

In addition to the energy-saving benefits, cold water wash cycles are often shorter than their warm or hot water counterparts.

This means you can get your laundry done faster, saving you time and effort.

You do your bit for the environment

Washing on cold simply makes me feel I am doing my bit to reduce the carbon footprint of our household.

Great for delicates

Delicate fabrics such as silk, lace, and wool require special care to maintain their quality and appearance.

Cold water washing provides a gentle and effective solution for cleaning these delicate items.

My tips for washing on cold

cold water washing

The best laundry detergent

The best type of laundry to use in cold water is one that is designed to be used in cold temperatures. Most detergents are these days, but it is always worth checking.

For short washes use a liquid detergent, and for longer washes it is fine to use powder. However, I don’t recommend short washes when you use cold water, so either is in fact fine.

Keep your washing machine healthy

When you wash mainly with cold or warm temperatures is it necessary to run a hot maintenance wash on your machine. I recommend doing this once per month.

This will keep your machine smelling fresh and free of gunk.

I have a great post here on how to clean your washing machine with natural ingredients.

Do this once per month to keep your machine healthy:

  1. Add one cup of baking soda or washing soda crystals directly to the drum. Or add half the amount of detergent you would normally use.
  2. Add a cup of distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment (or however much will fit in)
  3. Run your hottest wash.

When cold isn’t enough

Cold water washes are great for saving electricity, but sometimes it is necessary to use warm or hot water.

Here are the times I recommend you increase the washing temperature:

  • Quick washes: Cold water needs time to work on grime and stains. If you need an item quickly, use warmer water instead.
  • Someone is sick: If you have a sick person in the household or someone with compromised immunity, I recommend washing at warm or hot.
  • You have some very dirty laundry: A very grubby load might be better off washed in warm water, to save a second wash.
  • It’s very cold outside: For laundry detergent to work at its best, it generally needs a water temperature of at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit or 5 Celsius.

Killing bacteria in cold water washes

The big question I always get asked is whether cold water will kill the bacteria.

If you want to kill bacteria in your wash, you would need to set the washing temperature to at least 60 Celsius or 140 Fahrenheit. This may be fine for hard-wearing fabrics, but for most things it is too much.

Cold water is much gentler on your fabrics. Running a normal to intensive wash with a detergent designed for cold water should be all you need to get your clothes clean.

Here is what you can do to kill bacteria in your wash:

  • Use a detergent designed for cold water washing. These detergents clean more effectively in cold temperatures.
  • Run an intensive wash cycle. This gives the detergent longer to work its magic.
  • Add vinegar. Vinegar is naturally antibacterial. Add some distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment. It will sanitize your laundry, and keep your machine maintained.
  • Add oxygen-based laundry bleach. Adding a tablespoon of oxygen-based laundry bleach will help to kill bacteria and keep your whites white.
  • Add a sterilizing tablet. When I wash my microfiber cloths in cold water, I use a small amount of detergent, and I also add a Milton sterilizing tablet. This kills all the bacteria and makes them come out smelling fresh again.

Keeping whites white

white laundry on the line

Yes, it is possible to keep your whites looking great when you wash in cold water!

To keep them white, the same rules apply as for warm water.

Use a detergent that is designed for whites. Those types of detergent usually have some oxygen-based whitening agents in them. Or, add a tablespoon of something like Oxiclean or Napisan to your whites wash.

Here’s more on how to keep your whites looking great in cold water.

Dealing with stains

As long as I use the right amount of good quality detergent, I’ve found that stains come out just as well in cold water as they do in warm.

I recommend you spray your stubborn stains with a stain remover. My favorite thing to do is to use some diluted laundry detergent. Simply spray on, making sure the liquid seeps right into the fibers, and then wash as normal.

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Sparkling Penny

Penny | Sparkling Penny

Penny’s expert cleaning advice has been featured repeatedly by Homes and Gardens Magazine, and also at wikiHow, The Daily Express Newspaper, and Glam Magazine to name a few! was founded in 2019 and has since helped millions of people achieve a cleaner living space.

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Laundry tips on how to wash clothes in cold water and still get a brilliant wash.Laundry tips on how to wash clothes in cold water and still get a brilliant wash.