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Do You Really Need Hot Water to Get Clothes Clean?

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For many years it was believed that the only way to really get clothes clean was by using hot water. While no one really knows where this myth came from, it certainly didn’t do any harm for those presenting the idea of the first washing machines to people accustomed to washing only with cold water.

When it comes to the question of whether or not you need hot water to get clothes clean, the short answer is “no”. Hot water is not necessary to get clothes clean. Cool or even cold water can work just as well, especially if you use a specially formulated laundry detergent that matches your needs.

Even the ancient Egyptians washed their clothes in streams and canals and allowed them to dry in the sun. They didn’t even conceive of heating the water first.

clothes in washing machine

The Problem With Hot Water

Cold water is very effective at cleaning clothes, and in most cases, hot water is simply not needed. In fact, hot water can do more harm than good. Here are a few more reasons why you should avoid using hot water to get clothes clean unless it’s absolutely necessary.

  • Shrinkage

Hot water is known to shrink some clothes, especially those made of more delicate fabrics.

  • Stains

Some stains, particularly protein-based ones like blood or sweat, will actually set into your clothes further if you wash the items in hot water.

  • Energy Usage

When you wash in hot water some machines will take cold water from your supply and then heat it before washing the clothes. While it does this surprisingly fast, it uses even more energy. And that is energy that doesn’t need to be used as cold water is just as effective.

In fact, estimates suggest that the average household could save up to $200 per year simply by washing their clothes in cold water instead of hot.

  • Colors Spread

Many colored clothes can’t be washed in hot water as the colors will run out of the clothing and into others. We’re all familiar with the white laundry turned pink thanks to one red sock.

Even if the effects of the color leakage are not so obvious, hot water will remove the color and reduce the brightness of your garment, effectively shortening its life.

  • False Safety

Most people believe that hot water kills germs, making the hot water cycle on your machine the best option if you’re washing bed linens for someone who is sick.

However, even the dreaded bed bug can survive the washing machine, although the dryer may kill them. Many bacteria are resistant to heat as well, so washing in hot water alone is not going to get rid of the bacteria on those sheets.

The Bottom Line Getting Clothes  Clean

Next time you are doing the laundry remember, getting clothes clean and removing all bacteria is about using the right detergent, not increasing the temperature of the water. Even if you’re not worried about the cost of washing with hot water, you should be concerned about getting your clothes clean; and with the right detergent that’s not an issue. So turn the temperature of your water down next time you do your laundry.

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