Washing Temperatures

What is the best temperature for washing your whites, brights or darks?  In the ‘old days’ the answer would be, “hot for whites, warm for bright colors, and cold for darks, of course.”

Nowadays, you would probably not receive the same answer to that question for several reasons. Laundry detergents and technology have advanced over the years and as a result, detergents clean much better today than years ago. More efficient laundry detergents, especially those designed for cold water washing, along with better washing machines have drastically reduced the need for washing many items in the warmer temperatures.

The theory for most clothing is, the hotter the water - the cleaner the clothing will be. Most linens and white clothing are usually washed in hot water to remove allergens, germs and heavy soil. However, if we washed all of our clothes in hot water, they would not look nice for very long, since hot water wears out some fabrics quickly and shrinks others.

Another consideration we make today when deciding how to clean our laundry is the environmental factor. From which type of detergent or cleansers we choose, to the energy expended by the washer and water heater. Many people (myself included) wash the majority of their laundry in cold water.

Did you know that the energy used to heat water (gas or electric) for a load of wash makes up about 80% of the total energy used? And if you do a lot of laundry at your house, just think about how much energy you are consuming – and paying in utility fees - on that chore alone!

While there are probably valid reasons to wash some items in hot water only, there are plenty of reasons to consider reducing the temperature on others. Following are some laundry help tips to guide you in making the decision that is best for you!

First and foremost – always read the fabric care label!  This will help you to avoid laundry catastrophes!  There are plenty of white items that can only be washed in cold water, so color is not necessarily a determining factor.

Cold Water

Cold water helps to retain dark and vibrant colors longer, along with reducing color bleeding.

Using cold water reduces wrinkling, which is a great lead-in for my next tip.

Cold water is excellent for rinsing all wash loads, no matter what wash temperature you use.

I have no problem washing whites in cold water, however if you find that your whites do not appear as white as they should be, it could be due to the water temperature, so you may want to consider changing to hot or warm water wash for a load or two. Also make sure that you are using enough detergent, as that could also be a reason for a grey or dingy appearance in your whites.

Warm to Hot Water

Using the warmest temperature allowable by the fabric care label is best for removing grease and oil from fabrics.

Keep in mind the soil level of the items you are washing. If they are not heavily soiled, you can usually get away with cooler temperatures.

For heavily soiled wash loads, or loads containing sheets, towels, washcloths, underwear or cloth diapers (you get the idea), you should consider upping the temperature and adding a laundry booster like bleach or borax.

Using bleach can have the same affect as using hot water, so you may want to consider this when selecting your wash temperature.