The cold washing process is a technique that you need to learn and understand, 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. There are many things to consider to ensure you clean them well without ruining them.
Cold Washing - An Overview
You’ll find that most washing machines nowadays come with different temperature settings because different fabric types require specific water temperatures. Hence, clothes come with laundry symbols or care instructions that you always need to check and follow. Here are the symbols for cold washing that you might find on your garment tags.
With that said, cold water is considered the default and safest setting for items you’re unsure of their specific temperature requirement. That is unless a particular situation calls for warm or hot water.
Let’s learn more about laundering clothes using cold washing by differentiating tap-water and cold-cycle cold and knowing when and when not to use cold water.
Cold Cycle vs. Tap Cold
Keep in mind that cold washing doesn’t refer to using any cold or cool water. There is a difference between tap-water cold and cold water washing cycles.
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.
On the contrary, your washer’s cold water has an adjusted temperature based on the level you set your washer to. That means the washer automatically adds warm 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 instead of cold.
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
Although mentioned above that setting your machine to cold is ideal in most situations, 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 use cold water and when you shouldn’t use it to help you decide better.
When to Use Cold Washing
Setting your machine to cold washing cycle is best when you’re washing:
- Most Delicate Fabrics - Some of the most delicate fabrics, such as lace, require cold-cycle water for washing. Warm and hot water can cause permanent wrinkling that can make the fiber weak.
- 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 and dirt that might require a higher temperature for removal.
- Protein-Based Stains - Unlike hot water, cold water won’t let the stain set in, and not all stains are sensitive to heat. Cold-cycle water 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 to a quick cold-wash cycle first.
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-cycle 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 - Expert 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 from experts that you need to keep in mind each time you need to use cold water when washing your fabrics.
Purchase and Use the Right Detergent
Detergents were initially made to work with warm and hot water, but manufacturers started making varieties for cold washing. They 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 surfactants for better reactions, while special polymers help enhance their stain-removing properties. Other manufacturers also incorporate enzymes obtained from cold-water marine organisms that can help in removing stubborn stains and dirt.
Best Laundry Detergents for Cold Washing
With many detergents available in the market today, it could be challenging to choose which one to use for your cold-cycle washing needs. Below are some of the highly-rated detergents that work well in cold water.
- Tide 3-in-1 Laundry Detergent Pods - Being one of the most famous brands of laundry products, Tide develops some of the most powerful detergents. 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 costlier than others 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 manufactured 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 Ecover Zero in warm water.
Pre-Rinse or Pre-Wash Your Fabric
As mentioned, cold water 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. On the other hand, pre-wash too-soiled fabrics. Then, wash them completely with cold, warm, or hot water, depending on the fabric care instruction label.
Cold Washing - In Conclusion
Washing fabric-made items using the washing machine’s cold cycle setting is becoming more and more popular nowadays. It’s a laundering technique that will help make your fabric’s quality last longer and color brighter 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.