Turn Down the Dial on Hot Water

 October, 2019

Whether it’s laundry or dishes, you don’t need hot water to get things clean. The perception that hot water cleans better than cold stems from the way we did laundry years and years ago. Back then, heat was useful because it sped up the cleaning process when detergents and machines were less efficient. Nowadays, detergents are formulated to be effective even in cold water. They no longer need to be “activated” with hot water. And they contain enzymes that literally cut up the soils and allow surfactants to move stains off clothing.

Cold water has additional benefits. It doesn’t set stains the way hot water does, and it’s gentler on fabrics, especially if you hang dry instead of putting them in the dryer. Combined with a bit of oxygen bleach and an extended pre-soak, cold water can work wonders on tough dirt.

The same applies to automatic dishwashers, where agitation and modern detergents are more than sufficient to clean dishes, no hot water or heated drying cycle needed. The hot water in a dishwasher usually tops out at 120 degrees F, which isn’t enough to sanitize dishes. You need 150 degrees F for that. When it comes to laundry, the only time you need to sanitize with hot water is when soiled clothes are harboring nasty bacteria, such as fecal matter or vomit.

The only time hot water makes sense is when you’re washing clothes or dishes by hand. Liquid detergents are formulated to need warm or hot water to kickstart their degreasing power. Otherwise, turning down the heat on your dishwasher and clothes washer can save you a boatload of energy. Three-quarters of emissions associated with a single load of laundry comes from heating the water itself, so a small tweak practiced over time can go a long way toward reducing your household’s carbon footprint.

Source: “Use cold water in your cleaning machines,” by Katherine Martinko,, June 4, 2019.


Green Your Laundry

By Linda Mason Hunter

February, 2018

    At eight loads of laundry a week, the average family uses both the washing machine and the dryer six hours each on average per week. Even with some of the more energy efficient models, the combined cost of doing laundry can add up to $115 a year for electricity alone. There is a better way.

    The best washing machine is a front loader, not a top loader with an agitator. The agitator is hard on fabrics, so they don’t last as long, and a top loader uses more energy and water, leaving far too much water in the clothes, making the dryer run much longer. Front-loaders get more of the water out of your clothes. 

    Wash only full loads of laundry and wash in cold water. Over 20% of a home’s energy costs is tied up in hot water. Unless you’re dealing with tough stains, fabrics get just as clean in cold water as they do in hot.

    Instead of using the dryer, hang clothes on a rack to dry, or outside on the clothesline when weather permits. If you do use a dryer, consider using wool dryer balls to shrink drying time. Depending on the make and model of your dryer, they decrease drying time by 30 to 50%, saving energy and money.

    Each ball weighs about two ounces. Use three at a time to absorb moisture, rotate clothes and provide better air circulation. There’s no static and fewer wrinkles, meaning less time ironing. And they’re safe for people with sensitive skin. To scent clothes, add a few drops of an essential oil to each ball.

    I use ULAT Pure Wool Dryer Balls, made in Canada but available in the US online at They’re made from 100% Canadian Merino wool from an Alberta sheep co-op.


LED Bulbs: The Smart Choice

By Linda Hunter

April, 2017

    After years suffering through the nightmare that was compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs)—which are expensive, don’t last as long as they’re touted to last, and contain toxic mercury (thus making disposal difficult, not to mention dealing with breakage)—we now have a safe, reliable, energy efficient, and fairly affordable option: LED (low emitting diode) bulbs. LED bulbs look and feel like a traditional light bulb, but use up to 85% less power and last 20 times longer. They cost more than traditional incandescent bulbs, but payback is one year or less depending on usage, according to manufacturers.

    When I tested LED bulbs, I found the light output and color to be virtually indistinguishable from a normal incandescent bulb. They fit into traditional electrical sockets and run cool, which saves on air conditioning in summer. (The energy provided by incandescent bulbs is 90% heat and only 10% light). LEDs don’t contain mercury and emit low EMFs (electromagnetic radiation). Perhaps best of all, as prices for LEDs continue to fall, replacing your light bulbs with LEDs makes good financial sense, making LEDs the smart choice this spring.