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Does a Washing Machine Need Hot Water?

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If you look on your washing machine, you will probably notice there are settings for water temperatures which you can manually select, or which correspond to a specific cycle. Generally, they list hot, warm, and cold.

In the interest of saving money and energy, does a washing machine need hot water?

Washing machines can operate without hot water. Running cycles with only cold water may not get tough stains out as well, but some clothes and other items specify cold-water washing.

On most washing machines, warm cycles will still run even if you don’t have hot water hooked up.

However, you justmight not get the results you’re looking for when washing with only cold water.

woman Preparing the wash cycle

Washing machines don’t heat the water, despite what some people think.

Almost every modern washing machine has cold and hot water hookups connecting to your home’s hot water heater or another heat source.

When you select a warm or hot cycle, the water enters the washing machine already hot.

If you don’t have hot water, you can still run your washing machine with just cold water.

People regularly use cold water cycles to prevent clothes and other delicates from shrinking, which is something that happens more when the water is hot.

Here’s what you need to know about working a washing machine with just cold water.

Do Washing Machines Need Hot Water?

The answer is, no, they don’t. Typically, whites and lighter colors are washed in warm or hot water to keep their colors bright and blemishes out.

Hotter water also kills any germs or bacteria on your clothes.

For example, if one of your children catches lice or your dog has fleas, sticking their laundry in the very hottest cycle increases the odds that you’ll kill the bugs, and your clothes will come out clean.

Technically, washing machines don’t need hot water, but most people prefer having the option to clean their clothes in hot water.

Water splashes in washing machine drum, close up

Can You Run a Washing Machine with Just Cold Water?

Yes, running a washing machine on cold water is very common. For example, people who want to reduce their energy consumption will keep their washing machines on cold water only.

If your water heater runs on gas or electric power, skipping the hot water can save you money.

Some clothes require cold washes to keep them in better condition.

If you wash new red clothing in hot water, it can cause the red to bleed onto other garments in the wash with it.

If you wash the red garment with whites, you’ll end up with a bunch of light pink items once you take them out of the machine.

Do Clothes Get Clean with Just Cold Water?

Typically, modern washing machines do a fine job of cleaning clothes, tablecloths, towels, and other items with only cold water.

A good washing machine will go through a couple of wash and rinse cycles to get all of the dirt out.

Most of the time, the clothes we wash are only mildly dirty anyway.

For example, wearing something to the office all day while you’re sitting in air conditioning and not exercising doesn’t make them all that dirty. A cold-water wash is fine for these kinds of situations.

Hotter water or multiple cycles in the cold water may be necessary for soiled clothing like gym items or something that has a stain on it.

However, you can also use pre-wash cleaners to blot the stain and remove the debris before you throw it in the wash.

Close Up Of Man Choosing Cycle Program On Washing Machine

Does Hot Water Damage a Washing Machine?

Newer washing machines are built for hot water use. To say that hot water will damage your washing machine is a bit of a stretch.

However, hot water is certainly more intense than cold water, and it could shorten the lifespan of a washing machine, albeit marginally.

Using only cold water may extend the years that you can use your washing machine, but at that point, you’ll probably want a newer model even if you’re using hot water as well.

Some people choose not to use hot water to wash their clothes to reduce energy consumption or in an effort to be more environmentally friendly.

Others wonder whether they can still use the washing machine when the water heater goes out.

In either case, using your washing machine with only cold water will generally do just fine. If you’re waiting for a repair, you can wash your clothes without worry.


You should give washing everything in cold water a try if you’re curious about how things will go.

Put your clothing in the washing machine and select a cold-water cycle. It’s something people have been doing for decades to prevent items from shrinking or bleeding colors.

It won’t harm anything, and you can adjust how you wash your clothes based on how things come out.


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