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Many people nowadays are claiming that washing at 30 degrees instead of washing at 40 degrees is the key to saving money, saving energy, and, in some extreme cases, to saving the planet. But does washing at 30 instead of washing at 40 really make that much difference? The team at ACE has done some digging, so you don’t have to.

washing machine dial

First of all, is it cheaper?

Yes, it is, but not by as much as you might think. According to the Energy Saving Trust, washing clothes at 30 degrees uses around 40% less electricity over the course of a year compared to higher temperatures. This would mean that the saving made on an average household’s energy bill is £13. As the average household electricity bill for a medium sized house in 2014 was £487, this £13 saving isn’t a radical reduction in cost.

You could go further and wash at 20 degrees which, will mean that even more energy is saved, as washing at 20 degrees instead of at 40 degrees can reduce running costs by 66%. According to This Is Money, if you also cut back the amount you use the washing machine by just one cycle a week you’ll save around £5 per year on your energy bills and £7 on your water bills (if you have a meter).

While it may save energy and be a little cheaper, is washing at 30 degrees (or even 20 degrees) still as effective?

After all, there’s no point washing clothes at a lower temperature if doing so doesn’t actually clean them. In tests, 30-degree programs cleaned better than 20-degree programs, but they still didn’t wash out some stains such as olive-oil-based stains as well as a 40-degree wash. Greasy stains lifted even better if put on a 60-degree cycle. A 30-degree wash is fine for clothes that need a general wash rather than targeted stain removal. However, the NHS website says that underwear, towels and household linens should be washed at 60 degrees to prevent the spread of germs. The increased temperature won’t kill all bacteria on its own, but when combined with a good detergent a 60-degree wash should get rid of bacterial spores and viruses.

And finally, will washing at a lower temperature help to look after your clothes?

Certainly washing woollen fabrics on too hot a wash may cause them to shrink when you’d rather they didn’t, and washing clothes in very hot water can cause clothes to lose their colour more quickly. You should always check the labels on your clothing, as these will suggest the maximum temperatures that you can wash at without causing damage to the items.

Overall, we’ve found that washing on a lower temperature does conserve energy and will save you money, but if you have fabrics which need a little extra stain-removal power then you might see a better result washing at 40 degrees.

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