Most people wash their clothes at 30°C or 40°C. Those are the safest temperatures for most types of fabrics.
However, if you look at your washing machine, you’ll realise it goes up to 90°C. So, can you turn up the temperature without shrinking and damaging clothes? And what’s the best temperature for removing tough stains and killing germs? Does washing at 60 shrink clothes?
Water Temperature and Cleaning Performance
Washing machines generally wash clothes at a warm setting – that’s 40°C. The water is warm enough to remove stains and allow the detergent to work well, but not too hot that it can shrink or damage clothes.
Increasing temperature generally increases cleaning performance. At 60°C, the washing machine (even the portable types) will easily remove tough stains and kill some bacteria.
At 90°C, the washing machine can remove the toughest stains from blood, dirt and food, while sterilising the clothes.
But just because hotter water cleans better doesn’t mean that you should turn up your washing machine to the highest temperature.
The best washing temperature depends on how soiled the clothes are and the type of fabric.
Washing at 60°C: Yay or Nay?
It depends. If you have heavily soiled clothes, then washing them at 60°C will produce better cleaning results.
The high temperature is very effective for removing stains from foods, oils, dirt, blood and other substances. It is especially good for greasy stains.
60°C is also great for bedding, towels, underwear and other clothes where killing germs is important. But you also need a good quality detergent to effectively kill bacteria. Temperature alone is not enough to sterilise all kinds of bacteria.
However, be careful which fabrics you wash at 60°C. Materials like linen, cotton, silk and wool shrink easily when washed in hot water.
To reduce the risk of shrinkage combine the high temperature with a delicate cycle (where the machine agitates clothes gently) and don’t leave the clothes in the washer for too long.
If you are very concerned that a delicate fabric will shrink, choose a lower temperature (30°C or 40°C) and use a stain-removing detergent.
Keep in mind that washing clothes at 60°C uses more electricity (50% or more) than washing at a lower temperature. So you don’t want to use it too often.
Reserve this temperature for heavily soiled clothes and items that need sterilising like towels and bedsheets.
This is the lowest and most energy-saving temperature most washing machines offer.
20°C is great for delicate fabrics that shrink easily. However, it does not remove stains and soiling as effectively as higher temperatures.
If you want to wash at 20°C, only put in mildly soiled clothes and use a good quality liquid detergent that works well in cold water.
30°C is the perfect balance between good cleaning performance and saving energy. You can use the 30°C cleaning program regularly for normal soiled clothes. 30°C is also safe for most types of fabrics. There’s a lower risk of shrinking or fading clothes.
Other situations where 30°C is ideal include when washing baby clothes and mixed (whites and coloured) clothes.
However, items like bedding, towels and underwear will benefit from a higher temperature to ensure they get clean.
40°C is also ideal for regular washing of normal soiled clothes. The water is warm enough to shift most stains, as long as you also use a good quality detergent.
But be careful with delicate and dyed fabrics. If the cleaning label recommends a lower temperature, follow it.
40°C is considered a warm wash. Beyond that, you start getting into the hot zone and need to be more careful.
50°C is safe for fabrics like viscose, nylon and nylon/cotton blends. However, only go up to 50°C if the clothes are heavily soiled.
60°C is a hot wash. 90°C is a very hot wash. You rarely need to wash clothes at this temperature. 90°C will shrink and fade most fabrics. It also uses a lot of electricity.
Select the 90°C for extremely soiled clothes that are stained with blood, dirt, grease and other tough stains. Make sure the fabric can withstand the high temperature.
If you want to disinfect clothes, 60°C and adding a strong detergent or zoflora is enough to kill germs.