Many people consider their wardrobe an investment of sorts. What you wear is a reflection not only of your sense of style, but also your attention to detail. Whether you’re interviewing for jobs, hoping to climb the corporate ladder at your current place of employment, or hoping to attract a mate or land a date, you don’t want step out in apparel that’s wrinkly, pilly, smelly, dingy, faded, stained, or shrunken.
Even if you’re one who sincerely does not care about others’ opinions of you or your apparel, you probably do care about stretching your dollars. Whether your motivation is to make a great impression or to make your clothes last as long as possible so you don’t have to buy new ones, learning the ins and outs of washer water temperature will do wonders to help you achieve your goal.
Sometimes Hot Leads to Less-Than-Ideal Results
In some cases, a hot-water wash is really the smartest option. If you’ve been rolling around in the mud (or sliding into home plate repeatedly), heat will lift dirt more effectively than warm or cold water. Heat is also an effective disinfectant. For clothes that are heavily soiled or that have been exposed to germs and/or bacteria, hot water is your best bet. Just make sure to wash similar colors together so you don’t end up with a load of clothes that have become some hybrid, uniform, bleed-induced color.
In typical laundry scenarios, hot water is overkill and can speed the aging of your apparel. Just as heat releases dirt from fabrics, it also releases dyes from fabrics. The more dye that goes down the drain, the dingier and more faded your clothes will look. Hot water can also damage some fabrics. In short, hot-water washes have a place, but expect to use them sparingly.
It may seem counterintuitive, but for the toughest stains (such as blood and other protein stains), opt for a cold-water wash, at least initially. Hot water can cause stains to set.
Sometimes Being Lukewarm about Something is Decisively Smart
Not too hot, not too cold, warm is just right in many laundry scenarios. Warm water offers enough heat to release moderate amounts of dirt, grime, and odor-causing bacteria from your clothes, but isn’t so hot that it causes noticeable fading or shrinking. As a general rule of thumb, warm water is a safe choice for knit apparel, jeans, and manmade fibers that are not so dark and/or bright that they could bleed.
Sometimes Cool Helps You Pull Off the Calm and Collected Look
One of the most compelling reasons to wash your clothes in cold water is cold, hard cash (and love for the environment). Consumer Reports estimated that washing your clothes in cold water can reduce your energy bills by more than $50 per year. (Heating up water requires electricity, which you pay for!)
But back to the primary question: How does cold water affect your clothes?
The news here is overwhelmingly good, too. Clothes washed in cold water retain their color, size, and shape better than clothes washed in hot or warm water. The reason is simple: heat causes dyes to leach and fibers to degrade and some synthetic materials to wrinkle. Cold water keeps your clothes looking newer, longer. A cold-water wash can also prevent a blood or perspiration stain from setting.
There is at least one caveat to becoming a full-on cold-water devotee, though. Washing some clothes in cold water (such as baby onesies that have come in contact with fecal matter from a leaking diaper) isn’t sufficient to kill bacterial microorganisms. Hot-water washing has its problems, but it does win gold stars for its germ-killing ability.
Regardless of wash temperature (hot, warm, or cold), you can be confident about setting your rinse cycle on cold: your clothes will be less wrinkled. For laundry loads you wash in cold water, use a liquid detergent formulated especially for cold-water washes.
A Word on Dryer Temperature
Washing is just half of the laundry equation. The other half is drying. The safest way to dry clothes is naturally, by hanging them on a clothesline, for example. Unfortunately, it’s not always feasible. That takes a long time, requires lots of space, and leaves many fabrics wrinkled.
When air drying isn’t an option, keep this in mind: drying clothes at high temperatures can damage fabrics. Particularly cotton fabrics. In a pinch, on occasional hot-temperature dry probably won’t lead to catastrophic damage. But repeated high-temp drying causes cotton fibers to crack – reducing fabric strength by 25% or more!
Use the lowest dryer temperature possible. When you do use a high dryer temperature, remove clothes while they’re still slightly moist to minimize the damage. Doing laundry may not be fun, but it’s necessary. You have to do it, so you might as well do it the right way. Or, you could always hire a laundry service and let us take care of the details.
At The Laundry Butlers, we have provided wash and fold service to Concord, NH, for more than 16 years. We are excited to have introduced our new pickup and delivery services in 2016, and are currently expanding to other parts of New Hampshire. Our affordable, eco-friendly services focus on attention to detail and top-notch customer service. Sign up online today, or contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (603) 931-0995 for more information.