A more eco-friendly, low-cost approach to washing

Young black African American woman holding a basket of clothes to be washed in a automatic laundry

Around 60 percent of Americans use warm-water washing, but there is another much cheaper and more sustainable option.

Did you know that an average American household does between 5 and 6 weekly loads of laundry? This, according to government estimates, amounts to approximately 300 loads per year, which means consumers spend a sizable portion of their income on laundry products and energy bills each year. 

This is especially important today, considering that inflation has severely impacted Americans’ purchasing power and finding ways to save money at home and change spending habits has become a top priority.

Yet, there is a simple and effective solution to save money at home: cold-water washing

BASF answers the top five questions on washing temperatures

Shrinkage happens more frequently with hot water. In fact, in just one hot-water wash, fabrics such as cotton will reach their maximum shrinkage capacity.  Jeans, for example, shrink between 3% and 4%, according to Clorox, which means losing approximately “1″–1¼” in the length.

Warm-water washing will shrink them more gradually while cold water will not have any shrinkage effect on clothes whatsoever.

Cold water is especially recommended to prevent clothes made from cotton or delicate fibers such as wool or silk from shrinking.

White clothes can generally be washed in warm water, but they can just as easily be washed in cold water and get the same results.

However, fabric brightness isn’t only related to cleaning. There are some ingredients that ensure white and light-colored fabrics remain bright, such as optical brightening agents (OBAs), that enhance the appearance of fabrics. BASF has actually developed an OBA to brighten clothes in cold water, Tinopal CBS-X.

Colors are best suited for cold water. Warm and hot water opens up the fibers in clothing, which can lead to fade, bleeds, or transfers, which ultimately ruin clothes faster.

However, some articles of clothing are more prone to bleeding, like jeans. There are two different ways to tackle this issue: you can wash these types of clothes separately to avoid any potential transfers or find detergents that include dye transfer inhibitors, such as the one developed by BASF, to prevent it.

Stain removal is a major factor for many when it comes to washing temperature. Many believe that in order to effectively remove stains from clothes – especially those that are hard to remove such as lipstick, sauce, wine, or coffee – the washing has to be done in hot or warm water. 

Although this might have been true in the past, formulations have come a long way in the past 20 years, and nowadays, cold-water washing can be just as effective in stain removal as warm- or hot-water washing.

Some surfactants, a key ingredient in laundry detergents, don’t work as well with cold water as they do with warm. However, by combining them with other powerful ingredients such as polymers, optical brighteners and enzymes, detergents can now combat any kind of stain in cold water.

Protease and cellulase are two extremely potent enzyme types when it comes to stain removal and whiteness maintenance. BASF has developed cleaning and stain-removing solutions with such enzymes under the Lavergy trademark.Not only are these products environmentally friendly and biodegradable but they can also: 

  • achieve outstanding wash performance at lower temperatures
  • prevent greying
  • keep clothes looking new for longer

The best eco-friendly laundry detergents today use enzyme technology and renewable materials to ensure that their environmental impact is as low as it possibly can be, without compromising their cleaning capabilities.

Cold water washing is a simple yet effective way to save money at home. In fact, according to the Cleaning Institute’s Cold Water Wash Technical Brief, households can save anywhere between $60 to $200 a year by switching to lower temperatures.

Currently, around 60% of Americans use warm water to wash clothes. The problem is that about 90 percent of the energy used by washing machines during a warm- or hot-water laundry cycle goes to heating the water. So, by switching to cold-water washing, consumers can significantly lower the cost of their energy bills.

Green machine: fewer emissions, fewer microfibers

Cold-water washing is a great ally of sustainability. In fact, by changing to cold water, households can significantly reduce their carbon footprint. According to the Cleaning Institute, by switching out four of the five weekly loads from warm to cold water, household CO2 emissions will be reduced by 864 pounds in just one year!

Microfibers are a major source of ocean pollution today, accounting for up to 35 percent of all plastic pollution in the oceans, according to industry experts. These tiny plastics are often mistaken by fish and ocean creatures for food, negatively affecting the natural ecosystem.

A 2020 study revealed that by doing laundry with cold water (77°F for 30 minutes), consumers could significantly reduce the number of microfibers released in the water.

Another solution to reducing microfiber release is to purchase clothes with higher quality fibers or to select laundry products that prevent or reduce microfiber shedding from textiles.

Recently, BASF and Inditex, the parent company of brands such as Zara, Bershka and Pull&Bear, launched a more sustainable laundry detergent in Europe called The Laundry by Zara Home, which reduces microfiber shedding by up to 80 percent.

Cold-water washing is one of the easiest ways to quickly reduce household expenses without having to sacrifice washing quality. Keep textiles new for longer, save money and help the environment, all in one water temperature adjustment. 

Access BASF's Home Care and I&I website to learn more about the business and products.


Published on March 2, 2023 by Mariana Licio.

For media inquiries or to repurpose this article, please contact Lisa Brown.