The cold washing process is a technique that you need to learn, especially if you wash your own fabric items. Some of you might think that it’s as easy as throwing your clothes, sheets, pillowcases, and more in the washer or wash them with your hands. However, there are many things to consider to ensure your items become clean when using a cold wash.
Cold Washing - Machine Wash Cold
You’ll find that most washing machines nowadays come with different temperature settings because different fabric types require specific water temperatures.
Cold washing water is considered the default and safest setting for items you’re unsure of their specific temperature requirement.
All clothes come with care labels with laundry symbols that you always need to check and follow. Here are the symbols for cold washing that you might find on your garment tags.
Tap Cold vs Cold Wash
Let’s learn more about laundering clothes using cold washing by differentiating cold tap water and a cold cycle.
- Tap water cold refers to the exact temperature of the water that comes out of your faucet or the hose attached to it. It will depend on many factors, such as the weather outside, so the temperature fluctuates.
- Cold water cycle in your washer has an adjusted temperature based on the level you set your washer to. That means the washer automatically adds water if the water introduced is lower or hotter than how you want it to be. Thus, you’ll find that most manufacturers use the term cool water instead of cold.
Cold Wash Temperature
Most washers will have a cold temperature setting ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 to 26.7 degrees Celsius. Anything below the minimum won’t clean your fabric items properly, while anything higher might destroy materials sensitive to warm or hot water.
Experts suggest that you use the lowest temperature when cold-washing your fabrics if you’re unsure of their exact temperature requirement. This way, you won’t damage any items just because of a five-degree difference in its recommended temperature level.
When and When Not to Use Cold Washing
Setting your machine to cold is ideal in most situations, however there are specific circumstances when you can’t cold-wash your fabric-made items. Again, this is considering that you don’t know the exact temperature requirement of the items you’re about to wash.
So, let’s discuss suggested situations when you can and can't use cold water.
When to Use Cold Washing or Washing Machine Cold
Setting your machine to a cold washing cycle is best when you’re washing:
- Most Delicate Fabrics - Most delicate fabrics, such as lace, wool, linens and silk require cold-cycle water for washing. Warm and hot water can cause permanent wrinkling that can make the fibers weaken.
- Colored Items - Compared to hot water, cold water prevents colors from fading, ensuring your fabric’s shade and brightness remain longer. Thus, it’s perfect for your light and dark-colored items.
- Lightly Soiled Items - It's best to wash the clothes you wear daily or on special occasions with cold water. That’s because they don’t have too much odor or dirt that might require a higher temperature for removal.
- Protein-Based Stains - Unlike hot water, cold water won’t let the stain set in. Cold washing is best for sweat, blood, makeup, and grass stains. If the fabric you’re about to wash requires warm or hot water, you must pre-treat the stain or run it on a quick cold-wash cycle first.
Does Cold Water Shrink Clothes?
The cold washing technique is also best when you want to prevent shrinkage.
Have you noticed your clothes shrinking when you always use the dryer? That’s because of the heat. So, for items that you want to retain their shape, such as your gym clothes, cold washing is an excellent choice. Just keep in mind that you need to soak them first before washing to ensure you remove sweat odor.
When Not to Do Cold Washing
At times, cold washing just won’t work, such as in the following situations:
- Washing Stronger Fabrics - You can clean some of the more durable fabrics better when you use warm or hot water. That includes nylon, spandex, rayon, and polyester.
- Sanitizing Used Fabrics - Most microorganisms can survive the cold washing water temperature, so it’s best to use warm or hot water when you need to sanitize your fabrics. A great example is when you or someone in your family is sick. The warm or hot water can help kill whatever germs or microbes are lurking in their beddings or clothes.
- Cleaning Too Soiled Items - Water with a higher temperature can speed up chemical reactions, so when the detergent mixes with it, its cleaning power gets enhanced. Warm or hot water can also penetrate fibers faster and deeper than cold water.
Cold Washing Tips
Definitely, the cold-washing technique has its limitations. Still, when you can’t use warm or hot water, like when you need to wash too delicate fabrics, or the label strictly states a low-temperature requirement, there is a workaround.
Below are tips to keep in mind each time you need to use cold water when washing your fabrics.
Detergents for Washing Clothes in Cold Water
Detergents were initially made to work with warm and hot water, but manufacturers have now started making varieties for cold washing.
Cold washing types of detergents contain enzymes that work well in temperatures ranging from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and become less effective at a higher temperature. Some of these detergents also contain chemicals to enhance their stain-removing properties.
Best Laundry Detergents for Cold Washing
With so many detergents available in the market today, it is challenging to choose which one to use for your cold-water washing needs. Below are some of the highly-rated detergents that work well in cold water.
- Tide 3-in-1 Laundry Detergent Pods - This pod-type detergent can clean dirt, remove stains, and protect colors effectively when using cold, warm, or hot water. It dissolves completely, doesn’t produce excess suds, has a gentle formula, is available in various scents, and is easy to use. Like other detergent pods, though, this product is sensitive to moisture. Make sure you store it well and handle it with dry hands.
- Persil ProClean - The Persil ProClean is available in liquid and disc varieties, which are compatible with most washing machines. You can also select from different formulas, including Original, Intense Fresh, Odor Fighter, and Sensitive Skin for the liquid type. For the disc, you have the Original and the Stain Fighter. All of these can deeply clean your fabrics, but they are quite costly and have a strong scent that might not appeal to everyone's preference.
- Tide Plus Bleach Powder Laundry Detergent - If a detergent with color-safe bleach is what you’re looking for, Tide manufactures a powder-based product for cold washing. It’s compatible with high-efficiency and traditional washers and effectively brightens colors, whitens whites, and removes stains.
- Ecover Zero Laundry Detergent - If an eco-friendly, all-natural detergent is what you’re looking for, the Ecover Zero is an excellent choice. This biodegradable, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free product contains mineral and plant-based ingredients. Although it doesn’t have optical brighteners and strong chemicals, it can work on light stains. For tougher stains, you can use Ecover Zero in warm water.
Pre-Rinse or Pre-Wash Your Fabric
As mentioned, cold water washing isn’t as effective as warm or hot water in removing stubborn dirt, sweat, and odor. Thanks to the cold-water formulated detergents, you can now do so effectively. Still, it’s best to pre-rinse or pre-wash your fabrics to ensure you clean them well.
For sweaty and odorous fabrics requiring cold water, you need to pre-rinse them within 20 minutes after exposure to sweat or unpleasant odor. If you can’t wash them right after, instead of pre-rinsing, soak them. Then, wash them completely with cold, warm, or hot water, depending on the fabric care instruction label.
Cold Washing FAQs
What does cold wash mean?
Cold wash is a setting on your washing machine that gives a standard cooler water temperature. It is not necessarily the temperature of your tap water that can vary with the outside temperature in your pipes.
Is a cold wash less clean?
When using a cold water specialized detergent, washing your fabric items in cold water can give great results and get your items just as clean.
Does cold wash remove germs?
Cold water washing does not remove germs, as well as hot water washes. However, there are sanitizers that can be added to your cold water washes for better germ control.
Cold Washing - In Conclusion
Washing fabric using the cold washing cycle on your machine is becoming more and more popular nowadays. It’s a laundering technique that will help make your fabric last longer without adding too many laundry agents.
Cold washing is also an eco-friendly and energy-efficient method of laundering. In fact, the amount of power your washer’s motor uses when using a cold-water cycle is approximately 80% lower than what it uses when you use a warm or hot cycle.
Additionally, washing clothes with cold water helps reduce wrinkles, so your pants, shirts, and more won’t require or will require less ironing.
Just keep in mind that dirt, stain, and odor removal aren’t only dependent on water temperature. The effectiveness also depends on your washer’s capabilities and the type of detergent that you use.