What Happens if You Wash Clothes in Cold Water Instead of Warm?

What Happens if You Wash  Clothes in Cold Water Instead of Warm
clothes ready for wash
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If you are like many in the world, you probably prefer hot to cold wash. And that is fine. In fact, hot wash has some advantages over cold wash. But have you ever wondered what happens to your clothes when you wash in cold water?

These are what happens when you wash with cold water. Or rather, here are some cool reasons why you should consider washing in cold water:


The clothes get cleaned

You must have heard that warm water is more effective at removing stains than washing in cold water. According to a research, this is probably the only noticeable advantage of warm wash over cold. 

But cold water cleans clothes too.

With a cold wash, you can achieve the same cleaning effect of hot water wash. This is because the bulk of the cleaning is not done, not by the water temperature, but by detergent cleaning properties, and friction generated during spinning and agitation of washing machine drums and agitators.

Although hot water helps in sanitizing laundry, it is not a cost effective method of sanitizing. Why spend a fortune on something that can be achieved with less? You can effectively sanitize laundry with cold water and other common cleaning agents such as bleach, vinegar and baking soda. In this area, there is no outstanding difference between hot and cold water wash.

They retain their tensile strength

Heat and fabrics have not always been best friends. Hot water wash is known to shrink clothes.

But this is not the case with cold wash. When you wash with cold water, your clothes retain their form. Retaining your fabric’s texture is not just about a garment’s fit on the body. It is directly related to clothes lifespan. Constant expansion and contraction of fabrics leads to breakage. Breakage means damage. Invariably then, cold water preserves your clothes.

They retain their color

Cold wash helps your fabrics to retain their colors. when you wash with hot water, your cloth colors take a beating and they become dull with time.

Hot water causes fabrics to discolor. It is owed in part by the leaching of cloth dye in hot water. But with cold wash you get just the opposite. 

Of Course you’ll need to use more detergent. But a little extra addition of detergent to preserve the life and looks of your garment far outweigh the tiny cost of extra detergent.

You save energy

Do you know that between 50% – 75% of hot water generated in U.S hospitals are used by laundries.

That is a whooping 10% – 15% of a hospital’s total energy consumption. The only argument to its use is that it helps in disinfecting hospital laundry.

But according to the Center for Disease Control, germs in laundry can be destroyed even at lower temperatures (22 – 25 degrees celsius) when properly mixed with detergents.

Of course, whether you use hot water or not, you’ll always apply a proper amount of detergents to your wash.

Washing at 60 degrees celsius does not kill all germs. A good amount of detergent is still needed to effectively kill germs. Only temperature as high as 90 degrees can effectively kill most bacterias, but you’ll achieve this at the expense of your fabrics.

So by washing in cold water, hospitals can save up to 15% of their expenses. Your ratio might be higher. But let’s assume this as what you’ll gain from doing a cold wash.


Of course, cold water wash has its own disadvantages. Below are some of them:

  1. More use of detergent: Because of the hard water properties of most cold water, it is difficult to form lather. To effectively do a cold wash, more detergent or soap will have to be used.
  1. Inefficient stain removal: Most stains are removed by detergent and agitation movement of washer machines (for top loaders). However, water plays a major role too. Hot water is effective at removing stubborn stains, and adds to the effectiveness of detergents. Cold water on the other hand, does not effectively remove stubborn stains. In this regard, sufficient application of detergent or other cleaning agents will more than compensate for the cold wash,


Yes it does. Cold water in itself does not kill germs. However when used with cleaning agents like bleach and baking soda, germs stuck in garments are effectively eliminated. 

Also, though, detergents and soaps do not directly kill germs. They help in washing them off. At any rate, whether they’re killed or not, the important issue is that your clothes come out of the laundry germ-free, whether you washed with cold water or hot.


This is a definite yes. Many households spend a good part of house-hold income on energy. It is reported that about 70% of the energy consumed by washing machines is spent on heating the water for washing. 

That means some 70% of the income spent monthly on laundering can be saved simply by using cold water.

Another point to keep in mind is the fact that cold washing prolongs laundry lifespan. So, in the long term, you spend less on clothing by using cold water, as there’ll be less need for replacements when clothes are in good shape and not damaged.

Warm water is known to increase mold and mildew in washing machines. This is not the case with cold water and can save you the extra cost of maintenance and fighting mold infestation.


What Happens if You Wash  Clothes in Cold Water Instead of Warm

That cold water shrinks clothes is a misconception. Fabrics need high temperatures to shrink. So what actually shrinks clothes is hot water.

If, though, you find your clothes shrinking after a cold wash, you might need to look for the real cause. Far more often, the real cause is dryer temperature. If you do not use the right dryer setting, or you prolong the normal drying duration, your laundry might shrink due to hot dryer temperature for a long period of time.


If you’re contemplating shifting to cold water wash, you are properly part of a growing community. Experts are beginning to encourage the use of cold water in laundering, instead of the conventional hot water wash.

In addition to its cost-effectiveness, cold water has an enticing appeal to environmentalists, because of its positive greenhouse effect.

Every cold water laundry session you do, is a tiny victory in the fight against global warming. You probably did not give thought to that before washing, or maybe it’s not part of your priorities. But if you do your part in preserving this planet, you’d help save the earth for the next generation of laundrymen. 

Further reading:

Do You Wash White Clothes In Hot Or Cold Water? 

Does Washing Clothes in Cold Water Kill Germs?

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