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The rising cost of energy is one of the most critical external factors affecting home laundering today. Successful laundering requires three forms of energy in the right balance to remove soil from fabrics.

Thermal energy supplied by hot or warm water.
Mechanical energy supplied by the washer's washing action.
Chemical energy supplied by the detergent and other laundry additives.

As energy is reduced in any one of the three energy forms, another energy input must be increased. This is necessary to restore a balance to the total washing system in order to achieve the same level of laundering performance. Considering all the energy used for laundering, the amount to heat water is much higher than that used to operate either the washer or dryer. Therefore, it may be desirable, from a cost point of view, to reduce water temperature. If thermal energy (water temperature) is reduced, chemical energy (laundry product) should be increased by adding more detergent. It should be pointed out that the colder the water, the more difficult it is to accomplish cleaning. The effectiveness of laundry products is reduced as water temperature decreases. The performance of all laundry products is seriously diminished if they are used in the extremely low temperature range, below 60 degrees F (15.6 degrees C).

Hot water 130 degrees F (54.4 degrees C) or above should be used for heavily soiled loads, diapers, or if there is illness in the family. Other loads normally washed in hot water may be washed in warm, or those washed in warm may be washed in cold. Some consumers may be satisfied with results at lower temperatures, others will not. Each person is the final judge.

When using lower temperatures for washing, follow the instructions provided on the detergent package. Soap products and powder laundry detergents should always be added to the washer before the clothes and especially when using cooler water. Alternatively, these products may be predissolved in warm or hot water before adding to the washer.

Washing at lower temperatures in hard water with powder detergents may increase problems of residue on fabrics and washers. A liquid laundry detergent or a nonprecipitating water softener used with a powder detergent may help to overcome these problems. In addition, other variables besides water temperature and water hardness must also be considered. They include the amount and kind of soil, type of fabric and the amount and kind of detergent.

Other ways to utilize energy effectively and still achieve satisfactory results:

  • Read and follow directions carefully for all laundry products. Start with the recommended amount of detergent. Use more in hard water, for larger loads or for heavily soiled clothes.
  • Pretreat or presoak stains and heavy soils prior to washing.
  • Choose a wash time and cycle suitable for the type of load.
  • Wash a full load but don't overload washer. Overloading limits the cleaning action of the washer.
  • Match the water level to the load size. For example, with a smaller load use a lower water level setting.
  • If the washer has a water return system, reuse the wash water for additional loads. Start with the most lightly soiled items first and the recommended amount of detergent. Add more detergent for each additional load.
  • Rinse all loads in cold water. Use a high spin speed for highly absorbent items to help reduce drying time.
  • Separate lightweight and heavyweight items for faster and more uniform drying.
  • Dry full loads. Small loads waste energy.
  • Don't overload the dryer. The load should tumble freely for fast, wrinkle-free drying.
  • Don't add wet items to a partially dried load.
  • Don't overdry. Besides wasting energy, overdrying can give a harsh feel to some items and produce shrinkage in others.
  • When possible, reload the dryer while it is still warm from a previous load. This utilizes the residual heat.
  • Don't let garments remain in the dryer after it has shut off. This can cause wrinkling, especially in permanent press articles, making ironing necessary.
  • Clean the dryer's lint screen after each load. A lint build up can increase drying time by limiting air flow.