With laundry, smarter washing starts with cold water

Woman doing laundry

A little advice on how to keep clothes clean and help them last longer

Let's get this one out of the way first. While it's a tradition to wash whites in hot water – remember, our ancestors boiled clothes to get them clean – there's little or no advantage today in opting for hot water for all but the greasiest of stains.

So start by switching to cold water, and not only because today's washing machines and soaps combine to do a great job with cold water. It's also easier on your clothes, and it will significantly reduce your hot water costs. By switching from hot to cold water for an average of three loads per week, you could save up to $27 per year on your energy bill.

And don't forget that if you're a Team Power Smart member, you can log in to your Member Tool Box to enter to win a laundry prize pack of a drying rack, Nellie's All-Natural laundry detergent and a two-pack of dryerballs. Not a member? Join today.

How to get the most out of that front-load washer

If you still have a top-load washer, upgrade to a front-loader as soon as it's financially viable. And that's probably sooner than you think, as the most efficient front-load washers use half the water and electricity of standard top loaders.

Now, on to a few tips about front-load laundering...

  1. Always use high-efficiency detergent, and use the minimum amount. It's what manufacturers recommend, and there's a reason. It's concentrated and produces fewer suds, which will help you avoid potentially costly problems due to soap build-up in the drum of your machine. Look for the "he" symbol on your favourite brand of detergent.
  2. Consider a pre-soak for smelly sports gear. Sometimes, the stink of that hockey underwear or running top survives a cleaning. Yuck. The best option is to do a cool-water pre-rinse within 20 minutes after a workout. And never leave that stuff in the hockey bag or gym bag overnight.
  3. Consider liquid detergents over powders. If you wash in cold water, you may not be dissolving all of a powdered soap. Go first with the washer manufacturer's recommendations, then experiment to see what works best.
  4. Go easy on the fabric softener, if you use it at all. That front-loader doesn't need much soap and, arguably, doesn't need softener either.
  5. Load a full washer. Front-loaders can run longer than top-loaders, so use that water and energy to clean a full load. It will also save you time.
  6. Remove finished loads immediately. That's how you can avoid damp clothes breeding that musty odor.
  7. Don't miss that last sock. Check carefully after each wash that you've removed all items. Again, it's about avoiding mildew.
  8. Leave the washer door ajar when you're not using it. That air circulation will also limit mold and mildew buildup.
  9. Run the machine cleaning cycle regularly. Follow manufacturer's instructions on this, as it can help prevent mildew that leads to stinky laundry and possible problems with the machine.
  10. No machine cleaning cycle? Run an empty load with vinegar. Run the machine once a month with vinegar and without clothes to help keep it clean.