A Washing Machine Temperature Guide (for Most Brands)

Remember these suggestions for each clothing type.

closeup of washing machine dials

The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

In This Article

Most modern washing machines have several settings and can wash clothes using a range of water temperatures. There are various reasons to adjust the temperature settings, including clothing materials and stain treatment. For most clothing, the hotter the water, the cleaner the clothing will be. However, it might be necessary to use other water temperatures. Here's a washing machine temperature guide based on fabric types.

When to Use Hot Water

Most linens and white clothing can be washed in hot water. The high temperature is effective at removing dirt and contamination from fabric. However, hot water tends to make some fabrics shrink, wrinkle, and fade. Dyed fabric might turn out splotchy after using hot water. And other fabrics are delicate and don't respond well to high temperatures, so be sure to check label recommendations.

When to Use Warm Water

Most types of fabric can be washed with warm water. Warm water is a mix of hot and cold. Some machines mix the hot and cold water 50-50, though many newer machines mix it 60-40. Warm water is usually the best choice for permanent press materials and jeans. It allows good cleaning action without as much fading, wrinkling, and shrinking.

When to Use Cold Water

Cold water is usually used for delicate fabrics or items with instructions to be washed in cold water. It's the best option for clothing that has bright colors that can run or fade at higher temperatures. But if your cold water items are heavily soiled, you'll need to be diligent about pretreating for stains. They also might require a longer wash time or a presoak before washing to fully remove stains. 

Tip

Washing in cold water is also an environmentally friendly option. It doesn't require extra energy to heat the water.

water temperature illustration

The Spruce

4 Tips for Washing Clothes

Check the Tag

Most items have a tag with specific washing instructions. These directions are recommended not only to best clean the fabric but also to maintain its longevity. So always be aware of what the tag says, and group laundry loads according to their washing instructions.

checking the tag for care instructions
The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

Check the Washer's Water Temperature

Checking the water temperature of your washing machine will give you a good baseline on how well it is functioning and whether the temperature dials are accurate. To do this, run the cold, warm, and hot water settings in turn, and use a candy thermometer to record the temperature of each.

  • Hot water is generally 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius) or above.
  • Warm water is generally between 90 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 43 degrees Celsius).
  • Cold water is generally between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 27 degrees Celsius).

If the cold water is below roughly 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius), clothes are unlikely to be cleaned well.

testing the water temperature
The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

Treat Stains Prior to Washing

Pretreating stains helps to prevent the stains from setting into the fabric before you wash it. Taking the time to pretreat gives the fabric a better chance of coming out clean after the wash. But before you engage in any stain removal, make sure the product you're using is appropriate for your fabric type. It's a good idea to spot test the product in an inconspicuous spot before applying it to the stain.

pretreating stains
The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

Use a Cold Water Soak

Although washing with cold water isn't always the best for getting out stains, a cold water soak can be a lifesaver for certain types of fabrics that have a stain on them. Be patient. A soak can be anywhere from a few minutes to overnight. The tougher the stain, the longer the soak will need to be. 

garment in a cold water soak
The Spruce / Ana Cadena