This week is Back to Laundry Basics at Mama’s Laundry Talk. If you were never taught the proper way to wash laundry or if you just need a refresher, this week is for you!
The next subject we’ll tackle: Choosing the Best Water Temperature
Using the right water temperature can have a huge effect on the outcome of your clothes. Keep in mind that the three factors involved in getting laundry clean are: agitation in the wash cycle, detergent, and water temperature. How clean your clothes are depends on each of these three aspects.
(Please forgive the bright flash in the middle of this picture. I knew nothing about taking pictures at the time…)
So how do you know which water temperature is best for which items of clothes?
The hotter the water, the better the cleaning potential.
Now I didn’t say it was the most energy-efficient…but it will give your clothes the best wash.
The goal is to choose the hottest water that the fabric can withstand without fading, shrinking, or being damaged in some way (like sequins falling off).
Hot(ter) water definitely has its pros: it sanitizes and kills germs better, it dissolves detergents more efficiently, kills dust mites, helps remove built-up grime so clothes look brighter and less dingy.
And Hot Water has its cons as well: it can cause shrinking and fading in some fabrics, hot water can set in some types of stains (blood and other protein-based stains), it’s expensive.
All of that said, how then do you choose the water temperature for each load?
This is a great little guide, assuming that the fabric and dyes are appropriate and the fibers are strong enough to withstand washing:
Use cool water for:
- Items washed on the delicate cycle, such as pantyhose, lingerie, washable silk, wools.
- Items with a delicate construction, such as an antique fabric, or a lacy fabric
- Any item that you think is going to bleed or the dye will run
- Items that have a protein stain, such as a blood stain, dairy-based stains or bodily fluids
- Items that aren’t exceptionally dirty – those that are just lightly soiled
Use warm water for:
- Dark colors
- Items washed on permanent-press (synthetic materials, etc)
- Items that are moderately soiled
Use hot water for:
- Bath Towels, sheets and all other bedding
- Kitchen Towels, dish rags, pot holders
- Heavily soiled items (sweaty work-out clothes, etc)
- Items of sturdy fabric, such as white cotton t-shirts or underwear
- All cloth diapers
- Cleaning rags and cloths
- Any item that is stained with grease or oils
What about Cold Water?
Honestly, I don’t know the last time I washed a garment in cold water. I believe it is best used for the rinse cycle. Keep in mind that ‘cold’ water is considered 75 degrees or below. And that, my friends is some chilly water. I don’t think it can be effective in dissolving detergent and laundry boosters and getting clothes adequately clean.
If you do choose to use cold water in the wash cycle, make sure to use an ample amount of detergent and to use a longer wash cycle. By increasing the other two parts of the washing triangle, you might can skimp by with cold water.
All Water Temperatures are Not Created Equal
A ‘warm’ water setting on a top-loader and on a front-loader are not going to be apples and apples. A top-loader uses water from your home’s hot water heater. So if your hot water heater maxes out at 120 degrees, then that is the hottest your water in your top-loader will get.
If you have a front-loader, it probably has its own built-in water heater and the maximum temperature it reaches is set by the manufacturer.
Interestingly enough, manufacturers do not disclose the gallons of water their machines use or the temperature settings the machine defaults to. So there is no data readily available on what the temperature settings are on the newest model washing machines. Again, I find that fascinating that they don’t readily disclose that information.
A Few Notes About Water Temperature
There are several detergents on the market formulated specifically for Cold Water. And yes, I am sure they do a better job in cold water than your average detergent. However, all detergents are enhanced by warmer water.
I know there are many of you out there who won’t wash in anything but cold water for money saving reasons. If this works for you, then by all means continue washing your laundry as you have been! No doubt, there is a huge cost savings for washing in cool/cold water most of the time. Do what is best for your family!
Back to Basics Laundry Series:
- Laundry Basics: How to Sort Clothes
- Laundry Basics: How to Choose the Washing Cycle
- Laundry Basics: Size of Loads and Starting the Washer
I am pleased to link this post to WFMW over at We are THAT Family. Washing laundry the proper way definitely works for me!