Polar Bear Dip


I learned something new today, and I’m pretty excited about it. Normally, I get worked up about finding an awesome band I’ve never heard of before, or the release of a new Urban Decay eyeshadow kit. Anything with dark chocolate tends to work me into a bit of a lather, too. Today, however, I’m enthusiastic about the laundry.

Okay, now that three quarters of my readers have departed, destined for more interesting blogs written by more interesting bloggers who have not decided to discuss the laundry today, let me tell you what I learned. Cold water does not get clothes clean in Canada.

“What!” you say. “But-but-but, what about all those commercials for Tide Coldwater? I want to save money on my energy bills like the man on tee-vee says I will.” Calm yourselves, people, while I explain.

I don’t have a crystal ball that reveals all the mysteries of the universe and fabric care; sorry to disappoint you, but it’s true. This afternoon I stopped into my art room at school to borrow a style of paintbrush I don’t have at home. I’ll be up most of the night working on my Halloween costume, and I needed tools. My art studio shares an adjoining office space with the foods lab, which also just so happens to house the school’s washing machine. Apparently, our washer was broken, so the man with the toolbox came to straighten it out. When I got there, he was discussing clothes washing and water temperature with one of my favourite custodians. Because I can’t say no to a riveting exchange about cleaning, I popped my head through the door and joined the fun.

Here’s what I learned: Canadian cold water is not universal cold water. According to the washing machine mechanic, the ads on television for Tide Coldwater or Purex Coldwater, or whatever, that promise they can get your clothes clean in cold water (and save you money on your gas bill) are referring to “cold” water in warmer climates, which is about 25 degrees Celcius. Based on the temperatures here, particularly in the winter, we fall about 20 degrees lower on a warm day. Since detergents rely on chemical reactions with the water molecules and whatever soils are in the fabrics, water that is too cold prevents the reactions and stops the detergent, no matter how much you use, from cleaning.

Further to that, since washing machines that don’t have an internal thermometer (like my old clunker) rely on an external mixer to blend the input from the hot and cold water lines, even our “warm” water is a very poor choice for doing laundry. If the mix from the two lines is 60% cold, and 40% hot, which is standard, the cold water (which makes up the majority) comes out at such a low temperature that the result isn’t “warm” at all. It’s the water on our “warm” settings that is what the man shilling for Tide on television is talking about. In Texas, that’s called cold.

I’ve never used the cold water setting on my machine, largely because I know how bloody cold that water is. A person could chill a six-pack of beer or Pepsi in a washer set on cold here. I suggest the “soak” function, though, or your beer will be foamy and your washer will make an unholy noise. I’ve always used warm or better water, since I have never been able to wrap my head around how clothing could come clean in ice cold water.

Think of it this way: no matter how much dish soap you add to the sink, you dishes will never come clean if you wash them in water from the cold tap. Further to that, the soap wouldn’t even rinse off properly in such chilly water. Clearly, cold water just doesn’t cut it, particularly when you think about the kinds of things your clothing comes into contact with as part of its daily experience.

Cold water is no match for armpit or butt crack, thank you very much.

This has been a public service message for Canadian people who wear clothes, courtesy of Blue Speckled Pup.

copyright 2011:  http://bluespeckledpup.com

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Yet one more reason I am thankful not to live in Canada. Of course, here in San Antonio we have a problem with “hard water”, which seems quite the oxymoron to me.

    1. We have hard water in Edmonton, too, and not just when it’s frozen. Perhaps I should take to beating my clothes on a rock in the river!

  2. Cinderella says:

    ha-ha, I almost always wash clothers and towels in hot water because that’s what my mom did. Now I know why:)

    You and Heidi Klum with her hand-painted on Halloween costume this year!

    1. I’ve a warm to hot person, generally, but The Electrician is Mr. Cold Water. I tested the water yesterday in my washer, and on the cold setting, the water was colder that water just removed from my fridge! Hopefully my “public service” in addressing water temperature will convince him to start heating things up a bit!

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