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laundry temperature:
hot, warm or cold?

A Wash-Day Guide to Choosing the Right Water Temperature for all your loads 

How important is the right laundry temperature?

Very! The wash water temperature directly affects the performance of the laundry detergent, the wrinkling of fabrics, and the life span of clothes.

Don't feel guilty if you've forgotten the laundry basics that Mom taught you.

This refresher course will have you setting the wash water temperature like a pro.

Hot, Warm, or Cold?

Sure, the quickest way to do the laundry is to separate the whites, medium colors, and darks and to wash each load in cold water.

But the time you save in the short run may actually double your wash-day workload later. 

Cold water doesn't clean some dirty fabrics nearly as well as warmer temperatures; it can leave them looking dingy and worn instead of bright and clean. 

And, you'll be back in the store looking for new chinos or Oxford shirts sooner than if you had taken a few moments to wash them the way the manufacturers suggest.

Look to the clothing care labels on your garments for laundry temperature guidance. 

Today's international care labels often have symbols as well as, or instead of, words. Most are pretty self-explanatory. A cuplike icon with dots tells you the laundry temperature (one dot for cool/cold, three for hot). 

If the label is not legible, remember that hot water works well on ground-in and hard-to-remove dirt on sturdy fabrics. Still, few labels recommend regular hot-water washing.

Use it to clean seriously soiled garments (gardening or children's clothing), and to regularly disinfect dish towels, washcloths, bath towels, bedding, and pillowcases.

Don't mix lights and darks, however, as hotter temperatures can cause some fabrics to bleed. And whites warrant the solo treatment regardless of wash water temperature.

What to Wash in Warm Water

Warm water minimizes color fading and wrinkling of clothes. A  warm water wash temperature is (90 degrees F.; 32 degrees C.). Or simply choose the permanent press setting on your washing machine.

Choose warm water for washing synthetic fibers, natural and synthetic blends, and moderately soiled fabrics.

When to Choose a Cold Water Wash

Washing clothes in cold water (80 degrees F.; 27 degrees C.) will protect dark or bright-colored clothing from running and minimizes shrinkage of washable woolens.

An Ounce of Prevention

Don't overload your  washer. If clothes are packed too tightly, they won't circulate freely in the wash water and won't get completely clean.

Use it for lightly soiled clothes and those with blood, wine, or coffee stains (which may set if washed in warm or hot water), regardless of the fabric. 

If you're going to do a cold-water wash, check first for stains and spots and pretreat garments; laundry detergent doesn't clean heavily soiled areas as well in cold water.

If you do lots of cold-water washes, consider using a laundry detergent designed to work in all water temperatures. 

Always Chill on the Laundry Temperature Rinse Water

For the rinse cycle, cold water is excellent for all types of loads. So use it! Another benefit: A cold-water rinse can reduce the energy used per load by up to one-third and minimize wrinkling in synthetic and permanent press fabrics.

So now you know how to choose the right laundry temperature to get your clothes clean. Wash-day blues are a thing of the past!

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› Laundry Temperature: Hot, Warm, or Cold?