Laundry care instructions on a label.

What Temperature Should I Use to Wash Clothes & Towels?

Often, different people will tell you different things about doing the laundry – until something that should be simple begins to appear horribly complicated. While we all know you’re supposed to sort your clothes by fabric and colour, where does volume come in? It can be hard to know what temperature to wash clothes when there are so many factors to consider, and different opinions around.

Even cross-referencing care labels with your washing machine settings can cause problems – especially since not all machines have the same cycles! At Persil, we want to make doing the laundry simple. We want it to be cost-effective and conscious of the environment, too. With this in mind, we’ve put this guide together to help you organise your weekly loads of washing and find out what is the right temperature to wash different types of clothes.  


The right temperature to wash clothes

The golden rule, before you start any load of laundry, is to check the care labels on all your clothes. This will give you an idea of the absolute maximum temperature you can wash your garments, and help you avoid disaster if you haven’t correctly identified the fabric on sight. Here are some general guidelines to help:

  • Bright and dark colours prefer cooler, quicker washes. Higher temperatures encourage the loss of dye and fade black and bright clothes by opening up the fibres, so a warm or cool wash is your best bet. To set dye, try using white vinegar instead of detergent when you wash new clothes for the first time. After the first wash, using Persil small & mighty will ensure you get a great clean even at lower temperatures.
  • The same goes for jeans. As long as your jeans aren’t truly filthy, cleaning denim at a cooler temperature (washing at 30 degrees or lower), and as little as possible, will help them last longer and look better.
  • Use a low temperature, gentle cycle, and mild detergent for anything woolen. Technically, wool doesn’t shrink in a hot wash; it ‘felts’. Like most animal hair, individual wool strands have cuticle scales. Once the sheep are shorn, the process of turning the raw wool into a jumper or cardigan lifts these scales, creating tiny ridges on the fibres that leave them vulnerable to snagging and becoming tangled with each other, fusing. Heat and agitation exacerbate the problem, causing your woollen clothes to shrink in a hot wash as the fibres cling tighter together. It’s best to think of wool as you would your own hair: a gentle, cool wash, and good conditioner will keep it at its best. Try Persil Silk and Wool and a good quality fabric softener like Comfort for softness and fragrance.
  • High temperatures (over 40 degrees) aren’t always necessary. You can find out more about what temperature to wash white clothes, but just because they can generally stand higher temperatures, doesn’t mean they have to be washed at 60. Labels indicate the maximum temperature to wash clothes, not the exact number. In fact, according to the UK Energy Saving Trust, choosing to wash at 30 degrees rather than at higher temperatures uses around 40% less energy. High temperatures are good, however, for sanitizing towels and bedding –read on for the best temperature to wash towels.
  • Clothes for babies and children should be washed differently. At this age, their skin can be very delicate and sensitive. Mostly that means using a non-bio detergent and a good fabric softener, though: you’ll have to vary the temperature according to your needs. Keep school uniforms bright with low temperatures, but you’ll need to wash baby’s soiled nappies (and clothes, in the event of a leak) at 30 degrees or above.
  • Use our laundry tips section for guidelines on different fabrics. We have a wealth of information on washing different stains, and on caring for different fabrics here on the Persil site. Our page on interpreting wash care symbols is a great place to start.

  Once you know which temperature you need to use, just follow these steps:

  1. Sort any delicates (wool, silk, or embellished or embroidered fabrics) into a pile for special handling. Follow manufacturers’ instructions for the right cycle to choose, and use appropriate detergents. Use a specialized detergent like Persil Silk & Wool for delicates.
  2. Divide the remaining clothes into piles of similar colours and according to how heavily they are soiled.
  3. Pre-treat and wash stained or heavily soiled garments separately from other garments, making sure to follow the advice on the care label.
  4. Choose your temperature. High temperatures aren’t always necessary: washing at 30 degrees is generally very effective. In fact, heat can set many stains – and as Persil laundry detergents are effective at lower temperatures, there’s often no need. Washing at 30 degrees is also much better for the environment and costs less per cycle in terms of energy than a hotter wash.


What temperature to wash white clothes

For years the advice for whites has been to wash them at higher temperatures, since they are colour-fast and show dirt very easily. In fact, you should be paying attention to the type of material and the temperature recommended on the care label, rather than the colour. White 100% cotton shirts, for example, might shrink in a hot wash, while wool needs a cool wash. Even with whites you can get great results washing at 30 degrees – just give it a try!  


The best temperature to wash towels and sheets

We spend a lot of time in contact with towels and sheets, so they tend to become heavily soiled quite quickly. Towels and sheets, along with any clothes that an ill person has been wearing, should really be washed at a fairly warm temperature to kill bacteria and potential mould. A good temperature for washing towels and sheets is 40 degrees, but a 60 degree wash will be better at killing germs. Be sure to change your sheets and towels once a week to keep things fresh.

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