Office of Energy and Sustainability

Cold Water Wash Campaign

Why wash clothes with cold water?

Reducing energy consumption is an important step in Oberlin’s commitment to carbon neutrality. While many larger projects like the Sustainable Infrastructure Program are already under way, awareness of energy use in campus buildings represents one way we all can play a role. 

Heating the water in washing machines is responsible for 90 percent of the energy used in the washing process, meaning that washing on cold reduces energy use significantly. Cold water works with modern deturgents to clean just as well as hot water and extends the lifespan of your clothes. Hot water can fade dark and bright colors and deteriorate fibers, causing clothing to become worn-out, stretched, or shrunken over time.

How it began

In 2014-15, three students—Daniella Mostow ’14, Sarah Kahl ’16, and Cecilia Xu ’16—embarked on a study to observe whether Oberlin students use cold or hot water when washing their clothes. The study, a collaboration between the Psychology Department and the Office of Energy and Sustainability, ultimately recommended converting dorm washing machines to provide only cold water.

Read the original study.

The campaign today

Today, washing machines in the majority of dorm laundry rooms are connected only to cold water, with one washer in every dorm still offering the option of hot water.

Posters explaining the campagin were made and posted in every laundry room, along with stickers indicating which machines have been converted and which still offer a hot-water option.