What temperature should I wash my clothes? [Best answer!]

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We all agree that washing machines are a godsend-  who even still has the time to wash dirty clothes by hand these days?

But do you know that most people get the temperature setting all wrong when washing everyday clothes (Most use cold on practically everything!)?

Now, if you happen to be in the group that has been asking “What temperature should I wash my clothes?”, this piece of advice could just be what you have been looking for.


What temperature should I wash my clothes?

Different fabrics (and materials) obviously endure different temperatures (and washing programs).

Here are a few general guidelines to point you to the right temperature setting depending on the laundry you’re doing (remember you should sort the laundry by washing temperature, fabric weight, and color).

  • Cotton shirts, jeans, and more can safely be washed at hand warm temperatures(30-40°C).
  • For socks and underwear, we recommend you wash at 60°C. Also, you can wash towels at 60°C though you could even wash towels at 90°C if you usually use them longer (meaning they’re dirtier).
  • Fine cotton fabrics, for example, shirts, jeans, and more should be washed clean at 30-40°C while your sturdier cotton fabrics tend to need warmer temperature (60°C to even 90°C).
  • Wool must be washed cold -and in some extreme cases, by hand! The good thing is that most washing machines feature special wool programs so these are your best bet (check its owner’s manual).
  • Synthetic materials are washed (usually) at lower temperatures because washing at higher temperatures can make the fabric lose shape.

Essentially, what you need to do is separate the laundry (all of it) according to the indicated washing temperatures.

Next, you should separate clothes that are intended for special programs such as “delicate” (the washing program spin-dries more gently).

Also, you must be extra careful when washing colors and white clothes together.

Now, all the important information you’ll need to get everything right is written down on each laundry item’s washing symbols so you should always check the care labels to be sure of the temperature to set.


What temperature should I wash my clothes? More general tips

Hot- items that are super dirty but items that aren’t delicate like coveralls and towels (other dirtiest things that aren’t delicate). Basically, the dirtier or the sweatier (if you have been exercising) it is, the warmer/hotter you are supposed to wash it.

Cold- items that are typically not delicate like lingerie, lace, pantyhose, wool, etc. Also, any items that bleeds such as red socks. In addition, anything having bodily fluids on it, for example, blood or semen. Finally, for most dark colors, use cold water to avoid fading.

Warm- any item that typically needs permanent press as well as synthetic fabrics (spandex, polyester, rayon blends etc.). Also, warm is recommended for nearly all moderately soiled clothes.


When else to use hot/warm

Heavy work clothes often need hot water+biological solvents to get them perfectly clean.

Hot can also be used for washing sheets (if there are allergy sufferers in your family who rub faces on them).

For most clothes that can carry germs (mites, bacteria, mildew, etc.), wash them in warm/hot water (You could use 50°C / 60°C temperature setting for these and even 90°C for items like kitchen/cleaning rags).

For kids’ undies, the best temperature is again hot.

Further advise

Don’t overload the washing machine- The washing process is indeed a mechanical procedure(where the fabrics rub against each other) and this won’t happen if you have stuffed the machine…

Also, use the correct detergent –there might be specific detergents (in some instances) for each different temperature and washing program. For example, there are detergents specially made for cold water (only).

If there are stains on items like underwear, you can try to pretreat them with Oxiclean (or something similar) – it helps make the job easier for your washing machine (and you might avoid hot water).

For loads of pure whites (towels, undershirts, etc.), you can use bleach + hot water.

For lacy fancy ones, you can soak them first in cold water (+ laundry soap) for a couple of hours before going ahead to wash them at a low temperature- and never put them in a dryer. With that, a hot wash won’t be necessary.

You may buy laundry sanitizer and use it on anything that could get damaged when taken through a hot wash to kill bacteria. The product can also help to keep your washing machine clean!

For disinfection, you can add white vinegar too- it will disinfect properly as well.


Just so you know

  • Hot water temperature setting is normally 130 degrees Fahrenheit(54.4 Celsius) -or above.
  • Meanwhile, warm water temperature setting is between 110-90 degrees Fahrenheit(43.3°C -32.2 degrees Celsius).
  • Cold water temperature setting is between 80-60 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7°C -15 degrees Celsius).


What temperature to wash clothes- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What temperature kills bacteria in washing machine?

Higher temperatures typically kill off germs on clothing items best.

Specifically, 60°C is adequate to kill off germs on household linens, underwear, and towels.

What temperature to wash dark clothes?

For dark clothes(very strong/bright colors too), use a cold temperature setting (80 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent fading or bleeding.


What temperature should I wash my clothes – Recap

Here is a quick answer: Whites = Hot (whites on hot), Lights = Warm (colors on warm), Darks(very strong/bright colors) = Cold (blacks on cold)

That said, try to go with the specific temperature settings I have indicated above for different laundry items.

The bottom-line is: most people do not usually soil their clothes terribly enough to need the kind of washing temperature and programs we make our clothes go through.


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