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Anyone who does their own laundry knows that there are a few inviolable rules you must always follow.
Never mix darks with lights.
Always clean out the lint screen.
Wash in hot or warm water to get stains out.
Right? Maybe not. It turns out your mom may have led you astray when she taught you rule number three. Washing in cold water might actually be just as effective—and will save you some money.
What To Know About Washing In Cold Water
Let’s start with some statistics about washing in cold water.
The average family washes about 300 loads of laundry each year. For every load of laundry, 90% of the energy used by the washer is for heating the water. By only washing in cold water, families can save up to $60 a year on energy costs alone.
Washing clothes in cold water also helps preserve the condition and appearance of your clothing. By washing in cold water, you don’t have to worry about damage to your clothes caused by washing in hot water such as the color fading or the fabric stretching.
Why does washing in cold water work?
Without giving an entire chemistry lesson, here are the basics of what happens when you wash clothes:
Detergent is made up of chemical chains and molecules; some that like water, others that absolutely hate water but love themselves and, most importantly, the stains on your clothes.
With these opposing forces, the molecules band together, form a chain, and lift the stain out of the fabric. That’s what makes detergents so powerful.
Older detergents work better in warm water, since thousands of these chemical reactions take place in a load of laundry, and warm water makes those reactions go faster.
Today, companies have developed cold-water detergents that have shorter chains containing enzymes, causing shorter reactions in cold water, but that happen as quickly as they would in warm water.
Read more about the chemistry and rather gross history of washing clothes here.
There are still some occasions when it’s wise to wash in warm or even hot water. If you have a sick child or dirty cloth diapers, use the warmest water possible to get rid of the germs (and the smell).
Cold-water washing has only just begun. Washing machine manufacturers are starting to build machines designed specifically for cold water. But even with so many machines available with the improved technology, only 38 perfect of Americans wash all of their laundry in cold water.
Procter & Gamble has set a goal that 70 percent of all Americans will wash their clothes in cold water by the year 2020.
Save Water And Money
One of the easiest ways to cut back on the amount of water you use at home is to flush less often. This is sorta gross for some people (understandably), so if you’re looking for an alternative solution, consider using the Tank Bank, a totally non-disgusting way to use less water when you flush.
These little blue babies cost less than $5 a piece but they can save you so much more than that over the long term.
“If you have an older, conventional toilet, you are probably using more water than you need to,” according to Tank Bank. “This Toilet Tank Bank displacement bag will reduce the amount of water in your existing tank by about 0.8 gallons.”
All you have to do is fill the Tank Bank with water, close its valve to prevent evaporation and hang the bag inside your toilet tank with the accompanying hook.
Older toilets can use between 3 and 5 gallons of water with each flush. By some estimates, these older toilets can cost you between $54.75 a year and $91.25 a year (assuming you flush the toilet five times a day).
Even newer low-flow toilets still use 1.6 gallons of water per flush, which equates to about $29.20 per year.
With a Tank Bank (or two) inside your toilet tank, you can reduce the amount of water you use in an older toilet. Over a year, you could save between $15 and $30, depending on how many gallons your toilet currently uses. If you install a Tank Bank or two on multiple toilets, you could be looking at even more savings.
If you installed two Tank Banks on two 5-gallon toilets, you would see a savings of $60 per year.
That may not seem like a lot, but coupled with other utility-savings methods, it could add up quickly!
Rebates For Low-Flow Toilets
If Tank Banks aren’t your jam, many communities offer rebates if you purchase and install a low-flow toilet. Simply search your city or county name with the words “toilet rebate” and you’ll likely find rebates up to $150.
In Denver, for example, you can get a $150 rebate for installing a 1.1-gallon toilet in your home, and they’ll let you install up to three!
You could also consider add a few pebbles to the bottom of a water bottle or milk jug (depending on the size of your tank) for a free way to use less water when you flush.