Action Guide

Wash 'em Cold

Difficulty: Difficulty: 1 Expense: Expense: 1 Savings: 385 lbs CO2 / $35 Bookmark and Share

Wash clothes in cold water to save money and preserve your clothing.

Why You Should Do It

90% of the energy your washing machine uses is for heating the water, so if you use cold water to wash your clothes, it can make a huge difference.  If you use cold water, you will not only save money, but also make your clothes last longer and prevent color bleeding.

What It Costs


How to Do It

  1. Select “Add to My Challenge” and pledge to wash your clothing in cold water.
  2. Put a note on your washing machine to remind yourself (and others) to use cold for clothing.
  3. Congratulate yourself for saving energy and money and making a difference for Minnesota!

Make It a Family Activity

Have your family choose a special sticker, like a smiley face, to put on the washing machine near the cold setting, as a fun reminder for everyone that you are saving energy and money!

Make It a Group Activity

Get your office members, neighbors, or friends to pledge to wash at least every 4 out of 5 loads of laundry in cold water.  Use the money that you saved to go out to a nice dinner together at the end of the month or year.

Common Misconceptions

Cold water is not good for my clothes

This used to be correct, way back when washing machines were just getting their start.  But now laundry detergents and the washers themselves are much higher quality, making it unnecessary to use hot water.

Using cold water will not get my clothes clean enough.

Again, huge advances have been made in laundry detergent and washing machine technology, so your clothes will still be squeaky clean if you use cold water.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q.

    Are you telling me to wash my sheets and towels in cold water, too?

    No, we recommend washing linens like towels and sheets in warm or hot water as a sanitary precaution and to kill dust mites.

  • Q.

    I don’t do laundry very often. Can it really make a difference to use cold water?

    Yes, every bit of savings and reduced energy use helps, especially when you are saving 90% of energy used for your washing machine when you use cold water.

  • Q.

    The label says “wash in warm water.” Can I still use cold water?

    It is up to you whether to follow the label or not, but cold water is always the safest for all clothes, especially delicates.  Your clothes will not shrink or bleed in cold water, and if you air dry them after that will make your clothes last longer too.

  • Q.

    If heating the water uses 90% of the energy, what is the other 10% for?

    The only energy you will use to power your washing machine will be electricity to spin the motor.


  • purple.star84 says:

    I'm not from Minnesota, but the only way you'd let me leave a comment was to register. I agree with this but there are a lot of misconceptions about cold water. It irritates me when people say cold water doesn't clean. You said that technology has allowed it to clean just as well now.That is not true. Cold water cleans and Hot water does not! Hot water DISINFECTS and Cold water CLEANS.So yes now with the different 'technology' we can use cold water to DISINFECT and not just CLEAN. But cold water has always been better at cleaning.I've never used anything but cold water on my clothes, but there are clothes that it is harsh on. Anything that has that plastic type lettering or pictures on will get ruined by it. It cleans and therefore will clean those letters right off. They first begin to crack and then will just peel off. That is because of the cold water. So if you want these to last you can't use cold water on them nor can you use too much heat.My husband had some of these for years that still looked brand new and then I washed them a few times and they're ruined. Like I said I've never used anything but cold water. The best way to wash those would be just to do it by hand, or at least lay them out to dry after using warm water. The drier can ruin them too.

  • geer0007 says:

    In my experience sheets and towels are fine washed in cold--it's shirts and socks in our house that come out still a little smelly if they're washed on cold. But this might be because we only use plant-based detergents. These detergents work great but I wonder if they need warm water to really get sweaty clothes clean.

  • says:

    and I'm clean too

  • coolhandluke says:


  • packrat1271 says:

    Would washing in cold stop bedbugs?

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