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Laundry Temperature - Hot, Warm, or Cold Water?

Cold Water is the Best Choice in Most Situations

Cold water (80° F) is the best laundry temperature in most situations, according to Consumer Reports. Due to changes in laundry detergents and washers over the past few years, cold water will handle most of your laundry needs. New machines and detergents are designed to work at environmentally friendly cooler temperatures using less water. Cold water has many advantages:
  1. More gentle on fabrics
  2. Doesn't cause color fading
  3. Less likely to cause shrinkage
  4. Works best on certain stains such as blood
  5. More environmentally friendly

Cold water is the quickest laundry cycle, and also the one that uses the least amount of energy. It works well for more delicate fabrics that are more prone to shrinkage and fading. But if you have a stain or just a really dirty load, a cold cycle will not do the whole job. If a garment must be washed with cold water, you’ll have to pre-treat it to get out tough stains.

Also, if you choose to use cold water for the majority of your loads, make sure you get a detergent that works well in cold water.

Hot Water - (130° F)

If you need a deep clean, the best laundry temperature is hot water. This option is best when clothing is heavily soiled, and can stand the heat. Delicate fabrics and garments prone to shrinkage should not be washed in hot water.

If those types of items get really dirty, it’s best to pretreat them with a product such as Oxiclean, and avoid hot water. If you want to be environmentally friendly, hot water is not the best choice, as it uses the most energy of any type of laundry load. Use hot water for:

  • Whites
  • Colorfast underwear
  • Sturdy clothes that are heavily soiled

Be aware - hot water will not sanitize. For the type of clean needed when a family member is sick, or for those items that need a more thorough cleansing, you will need to use the sanitize option on your washer.

Another option is to add bleach to the wash - but make sure to test the fabric for colorfastness. More information on using bleach to disinfect laundry items is available here.

Warm Water - (90° F)

Warm water is a happy medium laundry temperature. I confess to using warm water on my colorfast work-out clothing. It will work better in older style machines, and doesn’t have the potential to shrink or fade clothes like hot water does. It’s great for towels, jeans, and other sturdy clothing that isn’t super dirty.

Make sure the colors you put in don’t have a tendency to run, and aren’t too delicate. Use warm water for:

    • Towels
    • Jeans
    • Moderately soiled clothes

Follow the Care Instructions

Do your best to follow the care instructions on your clothes, and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. If you have a tendency of just throwing in a load without really paying attention to water temperature, you run the risk of prematurely aging your clothes, or even ruining a favorite top!

Clothes will come out cleaner and last longer if you follow these simple guidelines on laundry temperature.

By Liz Smith. Liz has worked across the globe for many of the world's best known apparel brands, including Justice, Chico's, Victoria's Secret, and Hanes. She has worked closely with dozens of factories in more than 20 countries to ensure that production is of the highest standard. Liz has managed all aspects of garment production, from design through fabric development to sewing and merchandising - so she knows what it takes to make high-quality apparel. Liz is thrilled to share her knowledge about clothes to help discerning customers choose the finest products.