Wash Temperature Basics: Hot, Warm or Cold?

by Vesna Petrova on March 17, 2014

Washer Temperature

Although it sounds simple, washing clothes can sometimes be pretty complicated. Let’s get real for a moment: how many times did you pulled a red or pink shirt out of the washer when only a white shirt went in? My point exactly. Sometimes even the simplest tasks you’ve done plenty of times before can get complicated every now and then.

If you’re wondering why can’t you just use cold water for every piece of clothing you have, I’m sorry to inform you, but things regarding doing a laundry are not that simple. I mean, yes, you can wash whites, darks and medium colors all in cold water, but is that the solution you need?

We all know that cold water isn’t effective when it comes to stain removal, unlike the warmer temperatures. Moreover, cold water can leave your clothes looking worn and dingy instead of clean and bright. However, there are some delicate clothing items that come with instructions for washing in cold water only. In addition, clothing in bright colors may be damaged in higher temperatures. And to make everything more complicated here, you need to check and pre-treat your cold water clothing for stains, which means you may have to soak them before washing if they’re heavily soiled.

You probably know the general rule: the higher the washing temperature, the better. But, is that true? How can you know when to use cold, and when to use warm or hot water? How to choose the right temperature? As you can see, it’s not that simple, but hey, it’s not quantum physics as well.

Choosing the Right Temperature

Courtesy of Paul Hudson / Flickr

Washing in hot water

  • What are the benefits of doing your laundry in hot water? It cleans heavy soil, kills insects (as a person who have insectophobia – yes!), and it sanitizes linens that are infected with fungus and bacteria.
  • Recommended for underwear, kitchen and bed linens, sick bed linens and sweaty garments.
  • Possible problems: may shrink some fabrics and fade colors.

Washing in warm water

  • What are the benefits of doing your laundry in warm water? It helps in dissolving powdered detergents, and it saves more energy. It also minimizes the wrinkling and color shading, and does a great job in getting grimy clothes clean.
  • Recommended for washable manmade fabrics like polyester, nylon, rayon blends and spandex, as well as light colors that won’t run, sturdy and regular fabrics, jeans, cottons, towels, sheets, and blends of manmade and natural fabrics.
  • Possible problems: may fade colors, can’t remove heavy stains and soils, and doesn’t sanitize fabrics.

Washing in cold water

  • What are the benefits of doing your laundry in cold water? It won’t shrink nor fade items, and simply put, it’s acceptable for all washable fabrics.
  • Recommended for bright and dark-colored clothes and delicate fabrics, like washable silk, active wear, lingerie and swimsuits.
  • Possible problems: less efficient in removing stains, and doesn’t sanitize clothes.

Don’t forget to check the care labels on every piece of clothing before putting it in the washer. If you’re a laundry-newbie or if the clothing item is new, you must follow the label’s recommendation because the water temperature, as well as the washing cycle is specified there. What if the label is unclear or missing? In that case, you should wash the item in cold water first. If the results are not as expected, you should try warm or even hot water.

 

About 

Unlike many people, Vesna enjoys spending time in the laundry room of her house. She is not a fan of strong perfumes, which is why she has learned plenty of smelly laundry tips and became a mad scientist when it comes to removing stains from clothing. In her spare time, you can find her drinking cappuccino on her balcony, watching French movies or eating chocolate when no one’s watching.

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