how to wash white clothes

Should you wash white clothes in hot or cold water?

If you've ever pulled a pink shirt out of the washing machine when a white one went in, you know that washing whites can get complicated now and then.

By following basic sorting techniques, matching the right laundry products and water temperature to each white load, you can make such spotty moments disappear. 

Here's how to wash white clothes safely from the start to a bright, clean finish.

Choose the Water Temperature to Wash White Clothes by Fabric Type

Here's how to wash white clothes by fabric type:

  • Wash whites in hot water to clean seriously dirty duds (gardening or children's clothes) and to regularly disinfect dish towels, wash cloths, bedding, and pillow cases;
  • Wash white clothes in warm water if the fabrics are synthetic, a combination of natural and manmade fabrics, or  are moderately soiled;
  • Wash white clothes in cold water if the fabric is sheer or delicate (such as lingerie and swimsuits), is stained with blood, wine, or coffee (which may set if washed in warm or hot water, regardless of fabric), or is only lightly soiled.

But for the rinse cycle, cold water is excellent for all types and colors of loads.

Another benefit: A cold water rinse can reduce the energy used per load by up to one-third and minimize wrinkling in  synthetic or permanent-press fabrics.

Wash White Clothes in Hot Water if They're Made of Sturdy Fabric

The wash temperature for laundry is important: it will have a direct affect on how clean your whites get and is key to keeping the fabrics looking like they did when you bought them.

Wash white clothes in hot water if they're made of sturdy fabrics - such as towels, sheets, socks, and sweatshirts. (A hot water wash is 130 degrees F. and above; 54 degrees C.)

Washing clothes in hot water is essential for heavily soiled clothes, or those prone to mold and mildew growth (such as towels and washcloths.)

Using bleach in laundry loads is key to removing stains on white clothes.

The chlorine in bleach helps remove stains by converting soils into colorless, soluble particles which are easily removed by the laundry detergent, and then carried away in the wash water.

Bleach is also the best way to get white clothes white again, and helps remove stubborn, older stains.

Choose Warm Water for Moderately Soiled, Synthetic Blend White Clothes

Wash white clothes in warm water if they're moderately soiled, are lined, and if they're made of synthetic fibers or natural and synthetic blends. (Warm water wash temperature is 90 degrees F.; 32 degrees C.)

Use a laundry detergent with bleach alternative, which doesn't contain any chlorine bleach so it is safe for all washable fabrics, and is designed to keep white clothes white.

The easiest way to do this is to choose the permanent press cycle. What is a permanent press wash cycle? 

It is a setting that will wash clothes in warm water and rinse them in cool water, maintaining a mild agitation and spin. 

It's gentler than a regular cycle, making it a good choice for synthetic fibers like polyester, rayon, and knits. Because it doesn't use hot water, a permanent press cycle will also reduce shrinking and color fading. 

When to Wash Whites in Cold Water

Be sure to read the care label on delicate fabrics to check whether the manufacturer suggests machine washing. (Otherwise, you'll need to wash these items by hand to be safe.) 

Use a gentle laundry detergent without additives. Wash sheer whites in your machine's delicate or gentle cycle.

Dry white delicates in the machine on a low setting - or lay flat to dry. If possible, hang or place white delicates in the sun. It will help keep your delicates as white as possible.

› How to Wash White Clothes