Why Washing at Thirty Degrees May Not be the Best Option

There has been a great deal of publicity around the changing our clothes-washing habits to make 30 degrees the norm. Many modern integrated washing machines and free-standing models now come with a pre-programmed 30 degree cycle, making it easy for householders to bring the temperature down. But it is OK to wash clothes at 30° all the time, and if not, when should we switch it up?

The case for washing at 30°

Most of the push for washing at a lower temperature is related to energy consumption. Organisations like the Energy Saving Trust claim that users can use around 40 per cent less energy simply by switching from a 40 to a 30 degree cycle. This will save the user money and help the planet out a bit, too. Certainly, modern washing detergents are designed to work just as well at low temperatures, and some manufacturers are even asking people to switch to 15, but are there any exceptions?

When you might not want to wash at 30

  • If you have an older machine: while it is true that substantial savings can be made from turning the thermostat down, householders need to be careful that they are using a machine that is designed to wash at these temperatures. If you have an older machine and simply switch the thermostat down, it may not wash vigorously enough or spin fast enough to get your clothes clean.
  • If you are washing germy items: Things like cloth nappies, cleaning rags, bedding and other germ-loaded items should really be washed at a higher temperature to ensure the bugs are killed off properly.
  • If you are washing heavily stained items: Items with dried-on stains caused by mud, grass, grease or strong-coloured food should be washed at the normal temperature first time round, otherwise you’ll be wasting energy by washing them again.
  • If someone is ill: When someone in the house is poorly, you’ll need to raise the temperature up to at least 60 degrees in order to kill the bacteria that could be present on clothes, towels and bed linen. Washing infected clothes at 30° risks spreading the infection to other garments and potentially infecting other people in the household.
  • If someone has poor immunity: If you share a house with an elderly person, someone who has recently been discharged from hospital, or a young baby, it is a good idea to wash at 60 to kill bugs and bacteria.

Washing at 30 will certainly save energy, and for the majority of your wash requirements it will be fine. However, in certain circumstances it will be necessary to increase the temperature up ensure you are getting a hygienically – as well as a visually – clean wash.

Be sensible about the things you put in a 30 degree wash and avoid mixing things like underwear or bed linen with kitchen items or children’s clothes. Consider giving everything a good 60 degree or higher wash once or twice a year to kill off dust mites and other bugs. Washing at 60 now and then will keep your machine clean and fresh, too.

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