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laundry temperature: hot, warm, or cold?

What laundry temperature is best for your wash loads? Hot, warm, or cold?

Should you wash stains in hot or cold water? Why can't you wash everything in cold water?

Let your fabrics determine the water temperature if the label doesn't tell you: sturdy fabrics, such as jeans and heavy cotton shirts, get the normal or regular cycle; combinations of synthetic and natural fibers need the permanent-press cycle; sheer and delicate fabrics do best in the gentle cycle.

Here's what you need to know when choosing a laundry temperature for your wash-day loads.

Why the Right Laundry Temperature Matters

How important is the right laundry temperature?

The water temperature directly affects the performance of your laundry detergent, the wrinkling of fabrics, and the life span of your clothes - so follow the care labels.

If a label is not legible, remember that hot water works well on ground-in and hard-to-remove dir on sturdy fabrics.

Still, few labels recommend regular hot-water washing.

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

This is one time you don't want to mix lights and darks, as a hotter water temperatures can cause some fabrics to bleed. (Whites warrant the solo treatment no matter what the temperature.)

When to Wash Clothes in Warm Water

A  warm water temperature (90 degrees F.; 32 degrees C.; or the permanent press setting on your washing machine) minimizes color fading and the wrinkling of clothes of regular weight and sturdy fabrics. 

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

When to Wash in Cold

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

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; 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 any water temperature. 

Always Chill on the Rinse Cycle

For the rinse temperature, cold water is excellent for all types of loads. So use it! Another benefit: A cold water rinse saves energy per load by up to one-third, and helps 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 now a thing of the past!

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› Laundry Temperature: Hot, Warm, or Cold?