What water temperature do I use for washing clothes? Hot-Cold or Warm?

Every day a customer will ask me to wash their shirts in cold water. Lucky for them I learned how to break that law of physics a long time ago. What am I talking about you ask.

There will be a test at the end so pay attention.

Lets do some simple algebra:     WT+P=CS

It’s not Einstein’s theory but it’s important to know.

Water Temperature + Product = Cleaning Strength

The rule is every 15 degrees Fahrenheit increased in water temperature will double the strength of the product.

Example: Lets say you do a load of laundry using 70 degree (cold) water with one cup of detergent and that solution had a cleaning strength of one. If you increase the temperature of that same solution to 85 degrees you will have increased the cleaning strength to two. If you further increased that same solution to 100 degrees you will have increased the cleaning strength to four. An increase to 115 degrees will net a cleaning strength of eight stronger than the original solution and so on.

Something as simple as heat and water are powerful tools, knowing how to use it is the key to a successful wash and stain removal. You can easily see the advantages of changing the water temperature.

This is important to know for stain removal or bleaching purposes. If your clothes are soiled or stained you will need to increase the temperature of the water. If your wash load still has dirt or stains after you are done, before you dry it, rewash it and increase the temperature of the water.

As you can see, washing in cold water is not a very effective way to get your clothes as clean as possible with the minimum amount of product. Sure you can add more and different products, but that will increase the chance of problems(color fade, residue, yellowing, etc.)  If your load of clothes didn’t come out of the washer clean,  now you know why. So can I wash in cold water? Sure, anything you like.

Test question: How much should you increase water temperature?

Answer: The answer revolves around the garment. How dirty is the garment? Is the color on the garment colorfast? Will the material accept an increase in water temperature? Can you afford shrinkage?

The true answer is: use as little product as possible and as cold of a water as possible to achieve your results. Bleach is not the ultimate stain remover and it is extremely hazardous to your health so avoid it if at all possible.

Karl Huie

Pacific Heights Cleaners in San Francisco and Sausalito

is your resource for cleaning tips and garment care information.

A certified green dry cleaner by the Bay Area Green Business Program and the San Francisco Environment.

Your non toxic dry cleaning alternative serving you with an EPA approved Eco Dry Clean (Wet Clean) System that is safe for your health and is environmentally friendly.


Other Articles of Interest:

How do I prevent Shrinkage and Color Fade?

Can I wash these dry clean only pants?

How do I set the dye on a black jacket?

How to Care for Your Dark Color Garments

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