Should I wash my clothes in hot or cold water?

Real Mom Problem

“My mother-in-law told me she washes ALL her clothes in cold water. I want my undies sanitized in hot water! What do you ladies do? ”

by bloodytears1986 bloodytears1986

Quick Tips

  • 1. Run heavily soiled clothes through a rinse cycle before washing
  • 2. Read your detergent's instructions; some are specially formulated for cold water
  • 3. Consider using hot water when you need extra cleaning power
  • 4. Adding white vinegar to your rinse cycle can soften your laundry, help neutralize odors, and kill germs

Real Mom Solutions

Do you wonder if washing in hot water is worth it? See what these moms have to say about the best temperatures for getting clothes clean.

Hannah Keeley Hannah Keeley

Our Expert Mom Says...

Cold water saves money. Hot water cleans better. Use cold water on all dark or gentle care items. Use hot water when you really need to clean up a mess or get rid of odor. Also, if the laundry is really bad, like pee-soaked sheets or muddy shirts, make sure you put them through the rinse cycle first before washing. Most any detergent can be used with hot or cold water, but if you want to save money, you can always use less detergent with warm and hot water because the higher the temperature, the more cleaning power it packs.

If any garment is a new purchase, make sure you always wash it in cold water (says the woman with the white cotton sweater that turned pink when she washed it with her daughter's new red Christmas dress). Warm water has a tendency to make colors bleed more than cold water.

And, just like nutritionists tell us, we all need to become label readers. Many materials are meant to be washed in cold water, so read the label and follow directions. If it says "wash in cold water," then do it. Warm and hot water often shrinks materials such as wool, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And there is no cure for a wool sweater that has shrunk in the laundry, except that now our daughter's baby doll has something new to wear.

Hannah Keeley is the producer and host of the national television series, "Hannah, Help Me!" She is also the author of "Hannah Keeley's Total Mom Makeover," founder of the mom website,, and the mother of seven rambunctious kids! Hannah has appeared on the "Today" show, "Fox and Friends", TLC, and has been a frequent guest on the "Rachael Ray Show". She has also been featured in "The Wall Street Journal," "Better Homes and Gardens," and "Real Simple" magazine.

The Moms of CafeMom Say...

  • specialwingz

    For me, darks get washed in cold water, lights in warm water, whites and linens in hot water, and delicates get washed in lukewarm water. But there are also certain brands of detergent that are formulated for cold-water cleaning and sanitizing. My boyfriend used to always wash everything in hot, thanks to the Navy. It took me a couple of years to break him of that habit!

  • PEEK05

    I wash our clothes in warm water because I read that warm water is good for hard water. For diapers, I do a warm pre-rinse sometimes with vinegar, a hot wash with detergent, and a cold rinse, with a second warm rinse. My diapers are super clean.

  • LindaClement

    I've been washing all my clothes in cold since I stopped washing diapers. The purpose of detergent is to wash things (dirt, body oils, skin cells, bacteria) off clothing. The hot water to the washer has been shut off for about 18 years now.

  • HollyHawk333

    Our underwear, towels, and bedding get washed in hot water. Everything else gets washed in cold. I also wash delicates in cold water.