When it comes to how you wash your clothes, you probably learned growing up that laundry should be sorted by color and washed at different temperatures. But according to experts from Consumer Reports, the traditional rules of laundry have changed.

Washing machine energy efficiency has improved dramatically over the past decade, and ENERGY STAR- rated washers are designed to minimize the need for hot water. In addition, detergents are now formulated differently, allowing them to be more effective at cooler temperatures. Just what does this mean for you?

Cold water does the trick

According to Consumer Reports, for regular cycles, you no longer have to use hot water to get clothes clean. Even though newer machines use less water, they are much better at cleaning than machines made 15 years ago or longer. By using the cold cycle instead of hot or warm, you’re helping the environment by saving energy.

Even if you’re trying to remove a stain, cold water is still a better option as detergents actually become less effective once the water temperature reaches above 75 degrees. This means a hot-water cycle can actually help stains set into clothing, and may damage fabrics and colors. If your clothes are heavily soiled, a better alternative is to select the “Heavy Soil” option for longer washing times and multiple rinses. For brighter colors, try cold water with a bleach alternative. An added bonus – cold water reduces wrinkling and can make your clothes last longer, as heat breaks down dyes in clothes and can cause shrinkage.

Of course, there are still some uses for a hot-water cycle, as cold water doesn’t sanitize fabric. When a family member is sick and potentially contagious, it’s recommended to soak bed linens and towels in hot water mixed with chlorine bleach to reduce bacteria. The same goes for cleaning dirty cloth diapers.

As an ENERGY STAR partner, WASH Multifamily Laundry Systems is committed to conservation. That’s why we outfit our laundry rooms with high-efficiency machines that are specially designed to get clothes clean with cold water and reduce water usage.