Hot vs Cold Water Washing Explained

Choosing to wash in cold or hot water is not just about saving money, there are several key aspects to consider when putting your load on. While hot water is best for heavily soiled items and grease stains, cold water provides an ideal temperature for delicate fabrics and the everyday loads. The label on your clothes is a good starting point to know how to wash a particular garment, but if you’re wondering why it says to wash in hot water, we bring you a guide on everything you need to know.

When to wash with cold water?

Cold Washing Machine Settings

All fabrics are cleanable in cold water. One of the main benefits of using cold water includes saving money on energy bills. Hot washes require water to be heated and a standard washing machine uses a minimum of 75L of water per wash. This means each time you wash your load using hot water, there’s an additional cost to you to heat up the water, whereas cold water doesn’t require any heating.

Aside from saving money, there are certain delicate fabrics that are recommended to be washed with cold water, including:

  • Silk
  • Wool
  • Dyed clothing
  • Protein-based stains

Both silk and wool fibres aren’t as strong as synthetic fibres, so hot water can break down their structure and decrease their lifespan in the wash. In addition, any dyed clothing or linen that has been dyed a dark colour can bleed in a hot wash, so cold water is recommended to keep colour intensity. Protein-based stains also need a cold wash to help remove their discolouration.

When to wash with hot water?

Hot Washing Machine Setting

Hot water washing is particularly useful in the following cases:

  • Heavily soiled items
  • Oil and grease stains
  • Whites
  • Removing germs

Choosing to use hot water for your washing primarily depends on the level of dirt on your clothes. Your ‘day-to-day’ dirt might only require a quick warm wash, while heavily soiled outdoor gear might require an intensive hot wash with extra detergent to get it completely clean.

It’s also advised to use warm water for any oil or grease stains to help lift it from the fabric. However, keep in mind that some fabrics can shrink and fade, so be sure to read your clothing label. To prevent a stain from setting, it’s recommended you first apply cold water. Pre-treatments are also a useful way to help get rid of stains on temperature-sensitive fabric like wool. According to Asko, a pre-wash soak will “give the detergent time to work its magic and absorb all the oils and grime, and then when you wash the clothing, the chemical reaction in the surfactant will already have been activated.”

In addition, if your household is battling off a cold or flu, you may benefit from a hot wash to help keep the family from being reinfected. Washing towels, bedding and face clothes in hot water helps minimise the spread of germs and the occurrence of allergy causing irritants such as dust mites.

Is it better to clean with hot or cold water?

Both hot and cold water washing can effectively remove residual dirt caught up in fabrics. The lower the temperature of the water, however, the more detergent you will need to use, as some detergents have a difficult time dissolving in temperatures below 15°C.

Should jeans be washed in cold or hot water?

Jeans and denim wash cycles

Unless your jeans are heavily soiled, it’s recommended you wash them in cold water. The higher the cotton content, the more likely they are to shrink in hot water or if you put them in the dryer. It’s also suggested that you wash jeans on a gentle cycle to help keep them looking newer for longer.

Should towels be washed in cold or hot water?

Towels Washing cycles

Towels should be washed in warm water to help kill bacteria and potential mould. Warm water is ideal for coloured towels, while hot water is best for white towels. However, hot water can decrease the life of your towels as it can weaken fibres, fade colours and contribute to shrinkage. So, to help improve the life of your towels, you might like to put them through cold-water washes instead.

The bottom line on washing machine temperatures

Understanding what clothes and fabrics to wash in cold water and what to wash in hot water is not an easy task. To help you look after your clothes better and get the most out of your wash, it’s important that you understand how each washing machine cycle works. So, before you decide on the temperature, it’s a wise idea to consider your washing machine settings first.


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