Can You Wash Clothes In Cold Water?

You have to be very careful of the water temperature you use to do the laundry, so you always get the best washing possible with minimal ruination.

Which is where the question “what water temperature to use for washing clothes gets its root from”. Hot, warm, or cold? Which is best?

Let’s start with cold water.

Cold water can be used to wash clothes. In fact, cold water is the most delicate of water temperatures and as a result it cleans your clothes with the least amount of ruination. Hot water on the other hand is destructive to fabrics like polyester and silk and it can also cause dyes to run off from fabrics.

Warm water is in between the two. It does have some destructive properties while having the capacity to wash clothes like cotton and polyester perfectly. 

In the rest of the article, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using each kind of water temperature for laundry.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of washing clothes with cold water?

Washing with cold water has advantages and some disadvantages. Let’s see the advantages first and then talk about the disadvantages later.

Gentler on clothes

It’s no surprise, Coldwater is the gentlest of all water temperatutes. Ask your hands. 

When you submerge clothes into cold water, the fibers say a thank you prayer for you always. The opposite is true for hot water however.

Because of the gentle nature of cold water, the fibers that make up the fabric don’t get damaged, and thus clothes last longer. Cold water does not also release dyes attached to fibers, which means the aesthetic appeal of clothes would last longer! 

Detergents now work in cold water

It used to be the case that enzymes found in detergents must be activated using hot water only. But technology has come and made life easier for us even in the laundry! 

Enzymes in detergents now require a water temperature of nothing less than 60°F to function properly. And that’s cold water! 

Dosen’t sanitize

The biggest advantage of picking hot water over cold in the laundry is disinfection. 

Hot water naturally has disinfection properties, because it’s hot and it kills bacteria and other types of pathogens! 

Cold water on the other hand, is a nice temp for many bacteria to successfully survive, and so if you have anything you want to sanitize, like towels or clothes worn by the sick, you want to steer clear of using cold water, otherwise, you should use a laundry sanitizer alongside it. 

Conserve energy

Cold water doesn’t need to be heated, unless you live in a freezing environment where the water temperature runs below 60F. In that case, the water must be heated before it can be used in the laundry which would require a little bit of energy that would translate in the energy bills. 

May not be effective at removing stains, especially on whites

Because of the gentle agitation and movement of the molecules in cold water, washing action is reduced a bit more than in hot or warm water where the molecules are literally bombarding everywhere! 

That’s why stain removal is enhanced by hot water and impeded to a small extent by cold water. And in case you ever noticed, you’re mostly advised to combine bleach and other laundry products with hot water for serious stain removal issues. 

Powdered detergents or pods may not dissolve properly in it

One disadvantage of using cold water is that powdered detergent or pods might find it difficult to dissolve in it. Poor dissolution of detergent can result in staining of your clothes which can be an annoying experience to deal with.

What about warm to hot water?

So we talked about cold water and its good benefits and negatives when used in laundry. Let’s now see how warm water and hot water stack up to it. 

Provide sanitization

Anything that has a bit of heat in it can provide some degree of sanitization. Even though they may not be able to kill all types of bacteria, they’re still better than none at the end of the day.

Warm water provides mild disinfection whereas hot water provides a pretty decent disinfection especially when paired with laundry products that provide disinfection properties too, for example, laundry sanitizers and bleach. 

Dissolves all kinds of detergent

The thing about warm or hot water is that almost every kind of detergent can dissolve in them from liquid to pods and even powdered detergent that struggle to do so in cold water.

Can be harsh on garment

Despite the fact that hot water provides disinfection properties and is also the perfect medium to dissolve detergents, you’ll always run into the problem of fabric destruction when using hot water. 

This is especially true for garments like polyester and those that are on the delicate side like silk and wool. Hot water interacts with the fibers in a way that makes them weak. 

So when you continuously wash with it or when you use it to clean garments, you’ll discover that your clothes shrink, distort and in some cases melt.

Can remove colors

Aside from damaging and weakening fibers, there’s also one annoying caveat to using hot water for laundry, which is color loss in colored garments. Hot water releases the dyes from the fabric fibers and runs them into the wash water. As a result, the intensity of the fabric fades. 

And that is the reason why you find clothes fading more and more with continued washing in hot water. 

So when you have clothes that bleed for example reds or those that come in various shades of reds, always wash them in cold water because it preserves the color better than hot water.

Final Thoughts

Most of the time, washing clothes with cold water is your best bet. This is because cold water is the most delicate of all water temperatures and as a result, doesn’t weaken the fibers of the fabrics no matter how delicate they are, except they’re from wool which are natural enemies of water to begin with!

Use hot water to disinfect, sanitize, and flush out stubborn stains on clothes. Outside of these functions, always opt for cold or warm water to do the laundry job for you.