Wondering what temperature to use to wash white clothes? Here’s why it matters

A stack of white towels next to a cup of laundry detergent.
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Cleaning our clothes doesn’t need to be confusing yet sometimes it really seems to be! Many of us are still left scratching our heads when it comes to preventing colors from bleeding and wondering what temperature to wash white clothes in without fear of ruining them. Does it honestly matter or is it all just a ploy to get us to use more detergent?

It turns out that water temperature might do more than you think. It, essentially, determines the strength of the cleaning process, Gwen Whiting, co-founder of The Laundress, told Martha Stewart. “Selecting the appropriate water temperature for a particular fabric is essential to minimizing damage over time,” she said.

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Proper water temperatures act as safeguards, reducing damage like bleeding and warping and helping to clean the garment more effectively.

Can’t We Just Wash Everything at One Temperature?

The short answer is no, although when in doubt, use cold¬†water. You’ll use less energy because you aren’t generating hot water, and you’ll save money. It’s a great eco-friendly option, but there’s more to it than that. Fabrics consisting of densely woven fibers, such as cotton or linen, can be washed in warm water without worry of shrinking or fading.

Are you still wondering what temperature to wash white clothes in? The correct answer is warm water because it will leave them at their brightest. Cold water, which falls between 60-80 degrees, isn’t always effective in lifting odors and stains. While laundering in hot water, above 130 degrees, is best for heavily stained or germ-ridden items, it can also weaken and shrink certain fibers.

And the hotter the water, the more energy is generated, which means your power bill goes up. Factors like this are why it requires a little thought ahead of time when you’re sorting your dirty laundry.

Clean white towels in stack on the white table
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When it comes to what temperature to wash white clothes, warm water is recommended, which means between 90 and 110 degrees. The warm temperature helps powdered detergents dissolve more thoroughly. This temperature also helps clean clothes without shrinking or damaging them.

How to Prevent Color Transfer

Hot water and colorful clothes don’t mix, no matter what. Not only can it cause hues to run, it can also make dyed fabric look splotchy. Washing bright fabrics together in one load may result in color bleed. Use cold water to prevent color transfer, the same goes for delicate fabrics like silk or cashmere. Even if you’re tempted to toss in that black T-shirt to a load of whites, don’t. Just one item can ruin the entire load, according to Better Homes & Gardens.

Turning colored pants and shirts inside out can help maintain their vibrancy.

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Additional Laundry Tips

Don’t overstuff your washing machine. While it’s nice to get a large load done all at once, too many items cans cause the materials to twist or pull. You want clothing to have plenty of space to move around inside the drum. If you have stains on colored fabric, pretreat them with stain remover.

Don’t let laundry questions derail your cleaning habits. Use cold water for most loads, especially for color, warm water for whites and hot water for badly stained light-colored clothes.

Cleaning & Organization, Curiosity, Home, Tips & Advice

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About the Author
Emily OBrien
Emily O'Brien is a freelance writer based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. In addition to Simplemost, she also writes for Don't Waste Your Money and loves to shine the spotlight on products worth buying.

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