How to Choose the Correct Temperature for Washing Clothes


To achieve the best results for washing clothes it is recommended to use the hottest water possible that the article of clothing can withstand without shrinking, fading, or otherwise damaging the item. While this may not be the most energy efficient, it is often the best choice to get the maximum benefit from the laundry detergent.

Things You'll Need

  • soiled clothing
  • washing machine or basin (in the case of hand laundering)
  • laundry detergent

These steps should be taken when choosing the correct water temperature for washing clothes

  • Clothes should be pre-sorted into piles according to color. Whites and nearly whites should be washed in the hottest water possible. Chlorine bleach may also be used. Clothing that is mostly white with some color should be washed in a separate load with like items. These items should not be washed with chlorine bleach to prevent fading. Mostly white clothing with some color can also be washed in hot water unless fading might be an issue. In this case use warm or even cool water.

  • Pastel colors, light prints, cloth diapers and heavily soiled baby items can also be washed in hot water to effectively remove dirt and germs. It is also best to wash towels, sheets, and linens in hot water for effective removal of microorganisms and dust mites. Sheets and linens that have been exposed to illness and bodily fluids should also be washed in hot water. Any remaining microorganisms and dust mites should be eliminated by a hot dryer cycle.

  • Dark colors, permanent press, and colorfast brights should be washed in warm water. Warm water has less cleaning power than hot water, but is the best choice for colors, as most colors bleed. Bleeding is caused when colors from the clothing dye leaks into the water causing other items to discolor. This type of damage is sometimes irreversible.

  • Cool water should be used for delicate items, lingerie, and fabrics that tend to bleed or run. Cool water is also recommended for soaking protein stains such as blood, and for fabrics that are lightly soiled.

  • Lastly, in most cases, cold water is best used for rinsing. Warm water may be used on occasion for removing extra suds or dirt.For people with sensitive skin and for baby items, a second rinse is recommended to remove all traces of soap.

Tips & Warnings

  • Cold water is usually not recommended for washing clothing as it is not as effective in removing dirt. Most powdered detergents do not dissolve well in cold water and often leave behind a white soap residue.
  • Warm or cool water will usually keep bright colors brighter
  • For grease and oil stains, hot water is usually recommended.
  • When in doubt, when choosing a temperature, it is best to check the care label for the manufacturer's recommendations.

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