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
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?
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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