By PlanetLaundry staff | Sep 20, 2011
Newly formulated laundry detergents can wash most clothes perfectly well in cold water, manufacturers say, but customers are stubbornly refusing to turn down the temperature. Though these detergents have been available for several years, customers cling to the age-old advice that hot water washes best – thus, squandering energy and contributing to greenhouse-gas emissions.
Even in Germany, where consumers tend to be more environmentally attuned than those in the U.S., manufacturers have discovered that cold-water washing is such a hard sell that they have relegated claims about it – and the attendant green benefits – to the fine print, choosing to emphasize other attributes.
“For selling, it is much more effective to focus on stain removal and whiteness, performance and price,” said Thomas Mueller-Kirschbaum, a senior vice president for research and development at Henkel, the German company that markets cold-water formulas under the Persil and Purex brands. “In market research, when you ask consumers, they currently don’t see the immediate benefit of saving energy.”
About three-quarters of the energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions from washing a load of laundry come from heating the water – a practice that, scientists say, is often wasteful and unnecessary.
Procter & Gamble, makers of Tide, takes credit for the innovation in North America, which emerged from an evaluation of the company’s energy footprint in 2003.
After realizing how much energy was used to heat water for laundry, Procter set a goal to convert 70 percent of all washing machine loads to cold water by 2020; by Proctor’s estimate currently 38 percent of laundry loads globally are done in cold water.
Tide Coldwater was introduced in 2005. Several competitors followed with their own cold-water formulas, including Purex from Henkel, Wisk from Sun Products and Biokleen from a small company by the same name.
Sales data provided by Henkel shows that sales of cold-water detergents have declined by 16 percent in the last year in the U.S. Procter’s data shows a 5 percent increase, though company officials acknowledge some stagnation in recent years.
Despite the challenges, Procter & Gamble officials remain undeterred.
New advertising is promoting the virtues of Tide Coldwater, and the company is working with washing machine manufacturers to improve cold-water cycles in high-efficiency machines. Procter officials said they were encouraged by company surveys that showed more consumers were washing in cold water.
When Tide Coldwater was introduced in 2005, just 30 percent of laundry loads were washed in cold water. Today, that number is pushing 40 percent.
Source: New York Times News Service