We should never stop looking for ways to help preserve the planet we inhabit. Oftentimes this means reevaluating and ultimately changing the habits that have been with us our entire lives. From using less plastic to taking shorter showers, there are literally hundreds of small things each one of us can do to every day to reduce our personal carbon footprints. Sometimes it’s easy to downplay the consequences of our own actions, especially when we don’t want to give up a luxury or concede that something we’ve enjoyed since we were small (bonfires, for instance) is actually extremely harmful to our planet.
A recent study has given us something to think about the next time we put a load of laundry in the wash. I don’t know about you, but I grew up under the assumption that warm water was somehow necessary to properly clean my clothes. As it happens, I was dead wrong. In addition to using more energy, warm water is unnecessary and, according to a recent study, even reduces the lifespan of your clothes.
The study was published last December in Dyes and Pigments. Titled “Improved garment longevity and reduced microfibre release are important sustainability benefits of laundering in colder and quicker washing machine cycles,” the paper explains that warm water causes color loss and increases the amount of microfibers released during each cycle. Microfibers released by our clothes end up in the ocean, which are horribly polluted and getting worse. Plastic harms sea creatures and disrupts ecosystems. We have a responsibility to keep it out of the sea.
“The global impact of laundering clothing is significant, with high levels of water, energy use, and pollution associated with this consumer care process,” the study’s abstract states. “In this research, the impacts of washing temperature and washing time on garment colour loss (dye fading), colour transfer (dye staining), and microfibre release were evaluated using retail consumer clothing.”
According to the authors, switching from warm to cold water will help save energy, preserve fabric, and reduce the amount of dyes and microfibers entering the environment.
“Microfibre release was significantly greater for the 40 °C, 85 min cycle in comparison with the cold-quick cycle, and this effect continued with further washes. These results mean that reducing time and temperature in laundry could have a significant impact in terms of extended garment longevity and reduced dye and microfibre liberation into the environment, in addition to energy savings.”
In other words, there’s no good reason at all to use warm water to clean laundry. By doing so, we are wasting our money and doing serious harm to the environment. Go green: set your washing machine to COLD.