Washing machine

051: Limit your washing machine to 30 degrees

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ SAVES MONEY

There’s no need to turn up the heat on modern machines

All modern washing machines come with options to run your wash at anything from cold to 90 degrees, this highest temperature being equivalent to what grandma used to call the “boil wash”.

But she was laundering in the day where washing was done by hand, or using a top-loader if you were lucky. It was also in the day where washing powders were very basic, little more than soap flakes that needed heat and bleach to help get things white.

Modern fabrics need a much gentler treatment, and modern machines and washing powders (or liquids) are much, much more efficient than even ten years ago.

So there simply is no need – in fact it can do lots of damage to your clothes – to be washing at more than 30 degrees.

Washing machine

There are, of course, bound to be the occasional exception to this … not long ago I spilt paraffin on my jeans and it needed a hotter wash to get rid of the smell. But generally, it’s just not needed.

Most of the energy used by a washing machine is used to heat the water. If we reduce the wash temperature, we reduce energy use, which reduces the demands on our electricity systems, which means less demand for fossil fuels, which means less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas is emitted.

It also saves us money of course!

Independent tests have shown that:

  • Fast clothes washing programs (hotter cycles) increase energy use by 30–100%
  • Machine temperatures higher than 30°C increase energy use by 30–100%
  • 90% of a washing machine’s energy use is heating the water
  • Using a cold or low temperature wash will deliver significant energy savings

General laundry advice to use less energy and save carbon emissions

  • Choose a machine with A, A+ or A++ energy rating
  • Use the ECO options by default
  • Wash only full loads
  • Limit the wash temperature to 30 degrees maximum
  • Clean your machine regularly
  • Use an effective modern detergent (ideally an eco-friendly brand)
  • Use half portions of detergent (it will work just as well, we promise!)
  • Use delay timers to make use of off-peak tariffs
  • Front loading washing machines use much less energy and water than top loaders
  • Avoid a tumble dryer if you can, line drying can be a massive saving in good weather
power station polluting

Why is this important?

Reducing energy use is paramount if we are to get carbon emissions under control and have any chance of limiting global warming. The reduction in energy demand from an action like this, especially at peak times, reduces the need for our electricity companies to generate power using fossil fuels, thus limiting the emissions of CO2, methane, and pollutants.

Other benefits

As well as saving on energy use and so carbon emissions, this action will:

  • reduce your electricity bill
  • reduce wear on your appliance, so it will last longer
  • reduce wear on your clothing, so it will last longer
  • protect the colours in your clothing

It’s another no-brainer really, wouldn’t you agree?

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