Becoming Our Mothers


No matter how hard you may try to be different from your mother, sometimes it’s a lost cause. Old habits die hard (and reproduce). In my case, one of these habits is using cold water to do the laundry. I never really knew why my mom did this – I guessed it had something to do with shrinkage or saving money – but whatever the real reason may have been, she really was onto something and that’s one habit I hope to hang on to! (I won’t go into the ones I could stand to lose.)

About 90% of the energy used for washing clothes goes to heating the water. Unless you have heavily stained or oily items in your load, warm or cold water will clean your laundry just fine. Simply switching the temperature setting from hot to warm or cold can cut a load’s energy use in half. Just be sure to use cold-water detergents and lower the water level setting if you have a smaller load. If you’re in the market for a washer, look for Energy Star® labels. These washers are designed to use 50% less energy than standard ones (18-25 gallons of water per load instead of 40 gallons) and also spin your clothes better, resulting in less drying time.

I told you so.

Image: reinn