Washing at 30 degrees

30-degree-wash There’s been a lot of talk about washing at 30 degrees in order to save energy costs. However, there are some things you should know before jumping on this particular bandwagon. This page looks at whether you really do save any money and can your washing machine even wash properly at 30 degrees?

Claims of saving money by washing at low temperatures

Washing machine manufacturers are creating 30 degree wash cycles, and detergent manufacturers are making making attractive claims about how much money you can save. Here’s an example –

Save on average an astounding 41% on energy consumption


Beware of statistics

Statistics However, although using 41% less electricity by washing at 30° sounds impressive, as always with percentage figures, you need some perspective to be able to judge how useful they are.

For example, 2p is 100% more than 1p. So in such a case a 100% increase is not worth getting remotely excited about. High percentage figures quoted without context aren’t necessarily as significant as they can imply.

Advertisers routinely use percentages to give impressive sounding stats that don’t always stand up to scrutiny.

In the small print of the Ariel wash at 30 degrees promotion there is the qualifier I’m looking for –

At 30°C, the average energy consumed per wash was 0.284 KWh, while at people’s normal wash temperatures, this was 0.482 KWh


This means the saving in electricity by washing at 30 degrees was on average 0.198 KWh.

If electricity cost was 10 pence per KWh (10p for using 1000 watts usage in an hour) you will have saved roughly 2 pence.

The average energy costs used in the test for normal washing is 0.482 KWh. That’s just under half a KWh (5 pence). So the saving is only 41% of this 5 pence, which is 2 pence. (all figures are approximate and some people may be paying more per KWh, but even at 15p the savings would still only about 3p)

Any saving in energy use is good though?

Saving-money Fair enough, any saving is good, and small savings add up…


I’m just pointing out that the savings headline of 41% is slightly misleading. Dropping to 30 degree wash temperatures from 40 degrees is not going to save a fortune. My concerns are that that even if these 2 pence savings eventually add up to something you’d care about they can easily be more than wiped out by the potential disadvantages listed below.

However, if enough people do it, then the accumulated savings nationwide are far more impressive. It would do another small bit for the environment. It would also help the government’s carbon reduction targets.

Can your washing machine wash properly at 30 degrees?

Before trying 30 degree washes for “normal” washing you need to check your washing machine. Most washing machines will have a 30 degree wash programme but it’s not necessarily suitable for washing cottons, especially if not modern. Many programmes were designed before 30 degree wash detergents came out. For much of history only delicate laundry needed such a cool wash. As such, the wash action could be too gentle, and the spin too slow for anything other than delicate laundry, and therefore inadequate for cottons.


Washing machines are becoming available that do have a proper 30 degree wash programme, but many people do not yet have them.

If you want to wash many items at 30 degrees you need to check that is capable of washing normally at this low temperature. You need the ability to reduce the temperature from 40 to 30 on a cottons wash cycle.

Check the instruction book on your current washing machine to see if a proper 30 degree wash programme is available.

Check what types of laundry it is designed for and what spin speed the final spin is before deciding it is suitable for general 30 degree washes. Of course it may still be suitable for washing delicate items at 30 degrees.

A workaround: Manual temperature override option

If your washing machine doesn’t have a specific 30 degree wash cycle designed for normal washing you can do the following. If your machine has a manual override option for temperatures then you should be able to select a normal cottons wash and just reduce the temperature manually to 30 degrees. This should result in a wash action appropriate for cottons with a proper fast spin at the end.


Which is the best detergent for washing at 30 degrees?

Check out the latest Which? Best Buy detergent tests – (research all consumer related issues: trial offer available at Which? – What do I get when I take a Which? trial? )

Don’t ignore wash labels

Before reading on, it’s important to mention that despite everything said in this article, many of our clothes have wash labels inside instructing us to wash them at 30 degrees.

Always check the label in your laundry. If it says you should only wash it at 30 degrees, then that’s what is necessary. Otherwise you could ruin your clothes.

5 more things you need to know

Read my new article which gives you 5 things you need to know about washing at 30 degrees

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10 thoughts on “Washing at 30 degrees”

  1. What is added to washing powders (presumably all) to enable washing at 30? My husband (always had some eczema) now is covered with it and I have developed some for the first time in my life. I also know of some others who have recently experienced this – admittedly all in the “elderly” grouping. Would any new additive have caused this?

  2. We have the same problem with the 30 degree washing stuff. its needed expensive prescriptions from the doctor and we spend a lot more on cream etc than we save on washing. My two sons, aged 20 and 17 are the worst affected. It nearly cost one of them his career. It is getting better now I have started to use different detergent. The trouble is, soap is the best, but the machine doesn’t like it!

  3. I think they put in a special catalyst that enables the enzymes and bleaches to be activated at a lower temperature, where as old detergents used to be activated at 40*c for the enzymes, they add more accelerators to enable the detergent to work at even lower temperatures.

    Stick to using Non Bio Detergent, Persil Non Bio being really good for sensitive skin, and use less than what they recommend, most detergent companies recommend using way too much, to enable you to buy more.

    You only need to see a soft sudsy liquid when washing, its not neccessary to see loads of foam spinning around in the machine.

    I use about a heaped tablespoon of Persil Non Bio per full load of washing, and also had some bicarbonate of soda for extra power if i need it. My clothes are rarely stained, but just smell bad, and you can substitute less detergent with bicarb as that softens the water, removes odours and gives the detergent an extra kick.

    Less Dirt + Less Detergent = Better clear Rinsing

    Also if you use white distilled vinegar as a softener instead, it will help remove any soap residue in the clothes which causes skin irritation.

  4. I believe advice to wash at 30 degrees is a con trick.

    It may be the big businesses in washing powders feel they have to be seen to be “green”, and give out silly advice, which all everyday experience knows to be rubbish.

    This is too low a temperature to get clothes clean, and as the above wisely points out, does not really save any money- maybe a few pence, and you get dull dirty clothes.

    Very lightly soiled small items may wash reasonably at 30, but forget it for whites and everyday clothes.

    Go back to 60 and 90!

    But if you like dirty clothes use 30…..

  5. The savings are meant to be if everyone did it as a whole. Funny to see how many people only think of the savings they themselves can make. Personally I think that global warming is a load of rubbish but I do like the idea of things moving forward so I figured if you use one of the new washing liquids that is designed to be done at a cold wash and run it at 30 degress then it will wash better.

    A lot of the problem is the amount people put into their machines. No measuring they just chuck it in and wonder why it has not all washed out and they end up with skin irritations. Spending money on a doctor who will just sell you steroid creams and not work out the root of the problem just sounds like stupidity to me. I myself suffered from skin problems for years but when I left home I was able to work out pretty quickly what was causing them and address the issues. Maybe instead of this rant I should have just said people are stupid… plain and simple washing at 60 and 90 works in an old machine designed for that purpose but newer machines can quite easily wash at cold, 30 and 40 and 15 degrees.

    My clothes dont smell, dont have problems cleaning things (but then again I dont go rolling around in the mud) if anything is that badly stained I just pre-wash the offending item in the sink. Just think next time instead of moaning about things and poo-pooing change just take a step back and THINK.

    The enzymes in the washing powders themselves are the catalysts. There are not extra things added just new discoveries have made it possible for new enzymes to be made that work at lower temperatures. If memory serves me correctly a wierd cold lake was found with enzymes working at close to sub zero temperatures which has or will enable completly cold washing.
    People also rarely mention a problem until it has broken. A lot of the problems which people are blaming these new powders and liquids on can still be caused on older washing machines. People need to have their appliances serviced at least once every couple of years. Problems such as the spiders corroding can be spotted at a very early stage and averted with very simple and cheap steps but no… most people just wait until it is broken then wonder why (after doing no service wash etc) it doesnt work. You wouldnt just drive around in your car for years and years and years and just carry on until something just completly failed (at least I hope you dont :S)

    Anyway rant over… again just THINK before you act should be the moral of this little presentation ;)

  6. Come December 2013 ALL washing machines will have to be manufactured with a 20 degree wash cycle in a further attempt to make us reduce temperatures. In the USA they are making machines that use a tablespoon of water to reduce water consumption. In the UK we are being persuaded to wash in cold water to reduce energy consumption and reduce impact on the environment but the cocktail of chemicals required to get clean clothes is surely negating any positive affect????

  7. Yes I’ve heard that too Paul. I think many things done in the name of the environment don’t ultimately help, they focus on a specific thing like how much water something uses, or how much energy, but they don’t look at the big picture. A holistic approach is what’s needed.

  8. Exactly what I would say what ed typed about. People forget that technology and science has moved along since the days of ninety degree washing . Use excel and thirty degree washing and its a guaranteed winner. which magazine is your guide to what’s right and by our family washing we not notice any difference between old ways and new way. my son a footballer and the stains come out the same way when we did ninety degree washing. I admit its not perfect but it wasn’t perfect back then either. once a month do a clean machine cycle to obviously keep your machine clean.

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