I’d always heard that diapers needed to be washed in the hottest water possible. After two years of washing diapers in hot water, a post on Treehugging Family made me think about whether I could wash diapers in cold. Peggy writes about saving 72 pounds of carbon dioxide in one month just by washing four out of five loads in cold water. Keep that up for an entire year and you’ll save $60-100 on your energy bill.
But doesn’t washing in hot water kill germs and bacteria? Everything I read said no–unless your washer has a built-in heater, the hot water in your machine does not get hot enough to kill anything. Most water heaters are set to 120 degrees. You’d need a temperature of 160 to kill anything and 212 to actually sanitize your laundry. Jennifer (Peggy’s co-blogger on Treehugging Family) pointed out that the dryer does get hot enough to kill bacteria.
Armed with all this information, I figured it was worth a try. I loaded the diapers in the machine and set the knob to “cold.” At the last minute, I almost turned the knob back to hot. After years of believing the hot water I was using was beneficial–no, necessary–to the cloth diapering process, it was hard to make the change, even for investigative purposes. Then, in one of the most daring moves of my cloth-diapering career, I pressed the start button and let the cold water gush into the machine.
Now that you are all on the edges of your seats, I’ll break this amazing news: the diapers came out of the dryer white, clean, and fresh-smelling. Now, if anyone has some scientific evidence in favor of the hot-wash, please post a comment. Until I hear advice to the contrary, I am going to wash diapers in cold water. I just wish I’d had the gumption to take the plunge years ago!