The Best Temperature To Wash Whites To Keep Your Laundry Crispy Clean And Bright

While it's common knowledge that whites should always go separately in the washing machine, choosing the right temperature isn't easy. You need to consider the type of garment and fabric, as well as whether there are stains on your laundry. For example, polyester and other fabrics can shrink when washed in hot water. Similarly, a white linen shirt requires a different washing temperature than a white towel.

Given these aspects, it makes sense to check the garment's care label. After that, sort your laundry by fabric type and choose the optimal washing temperature. Generally, you'll use warm or hot water to wash whites, depending on the fabric composition. If you're dealing with tough stains, then you'll most likely need hot water. However, some detergents can eliminate stubborn stains even at low temperatures, such as 68 degrees Fahrenheit. For most garments, warm water should be enough to activate the detergent and remove dirt, marks, or light stains.

Wash your whites in hot or warm water

Hot water (194 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) is best for brightening your whites without bleach but can shrink certain fabrics, such as cotton, linen, or silk. "During the manufacturing process, fabrics and garments are put under stress and tension, so when shrinkage happens after you get garments home and wash them, it's because they're trying to return to their fully relaxed and un-stressed state [sic]," explained scientist Sammy Wang in an interview with Byrdie.

You'll also use hot water to remove tough stains — if the garment allows it. An example would be a kitchen towel stained with oil or a pair of socks covered in sweat and dirt. Choose a washing temperature of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill bacteria and viruses and get rid of most stains. On the other hand, warm water (around 104 degrees Fahrenheit) will work for most garments as long as they're not heavily soiled. This option is safer for the fabric and less likely to cause shrinkage than hot water.

But what if you want to wash a white silk shirt or other delicate garments stained with wine, lipstick, or grease? In such cases, it's best to pre-treat the stains with a product designed for delicate fabrics. After that, choose a gentle washing cycle and set the water temperature according to the instructions on the care label. Use a mild detergent and avoid bleach or other harsh chemicals that could ruin the fabric.