Laundry Room Basics: When to Launder on Warm or Hot

Choose the wrong time to wash on hot, and you’ve got a load of ruined laundry. Because of this risk, a lot of people end up washing all their laundry on cold. 

“Why run the risk? Besides, washing in cold water is essentially the same thing as washing in hot… right?”

Wrong! Warm and hot water is best for your ‘lived-in’ laundry — laundry that’s like to be a hotbed of bacteria. This includes underwear, socks, bedsheets, and kitchen towels, and more. Most kids’ clothes also do well in warm water, as it helps to release dirt and damage viruses and bacteria. 

Hot water kills many germs, microbes, fungus, and bacteria. It’s also great for killing bugs (like head lice). Turns out, there’s a good reason that hot water is used to sanitize medical supplies and sheets! Hot water is a decidedly unfriendly environment for harmful microbes. Sometimes, that’s exactly what you need on laundry day. 

We’ve compiled a list of the times it’s best to twist that temp dial up a notch or two. 

When to Wash on Hot

Socks and Underwear

Socks and underwear tend to be our stinkiest clothing items. They also tend to harbor a significant quantity of bacteria. These items are always best washed on hot. For families with extra stinky laundry, Super Powder with a splash of All Sport Athletic Laundry Detergent is your best bet for eradicating odors and deep-cleaning.

Master Tip: If you’re noticing your kids have particularly fragrant socks, the trouble might be their shoes. Sprinkle some Sink Scrub into those smelly sneakers to help control odors. 

Bath Towels 

Bath towels can quickly and easily build up stink and bacteria. Towels hang in hot, humid bathrooms where they get wet every day and are not always able to dry completely before being used again. Wash these on hot using our Super Powder!

Master Tip: Spritz bath towels with our Linen Spray to help keep them smelling fresh between laundry days. 

Kitchen Towels and Linens

Even the cleanest kitchens contain potentially harmful bacteria. Those kitchen sponges and washcloths are wiping away food particles, then sitting in warm water. It’s easy for kitchen linens to quickly get stinky and filthy, so they need to be laundered on hot. 

The same goes for cloth napkins — hot is best! For kitchen linens, such as flour sack towels, we recommend using Oxygen Whitener to help get rid of stains, brighten whites, and revitalize colors. Set your washer to soak in hot for best results.

fluffy linens out of the dryer

Bed Sheets

It’s important to wash bed sheets regularly. Sheets collect oils, sweat, and dead skin cells from your body as you sleep. For kids bedding, sheets are also often subjected to an array of urine, feces, saliva, vomit, and more. We recommend always washing bedding on hot. Choose our Super Powder or our Original Laundry Powder for bed linens and crank up the heat. 

Master Tip: Exceptions for some types of fabrics would include silk or satin sheets and wool blankets. Check manufacturers’ labels for instructions first. 

Cloth Diapers and Baby Linens

Always wash cloth diapers separately from all other dirty laundry. If the cloth diapers have feces on them, scrape any excess off do a pre-rinse before throwing them into the washer. Launder on the hottest setting with one scoop Unscented Super Powder and one scoop of Oxygen Whitener. You may want to follow this with an additional rinse cycle. 

For baby linens such as burp clothes, blankets, and clothing, it’s best to launder on warm. If an item has been the victim of a spit-up or blow-out, it’s best to launder on hot if it’s safe for the garment to do so.

Laundry That Needs to be Sanitized

Any laundry that needs to be sanitized must be washed on the hottest setting of your washer.  This includes items that have been exposed to bodily fluids, such as vomit, urine, feces, and blood. 

It’s Flu Season 

If the flu is going around school or your household, or if you’ve just been somewhere that germs abound (public play areas, airplanes, or public transportation), you may want to bump up the temp to warm for your clothing. 

The seasonal virus has already flattened your family? Now is the time to sanitize sheets, bath towels, and any other dirty laundry used by sick family members. You can combine linens from sick family members with anyone left standing. The hot water will get rid of any germs. 

Don’t forget to check care labels first!

Master Tip: Remember, wash laundry with vomit, feces, or urine on them separately using Super Powder

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When to Avoid Hot Water

Hot water is harder on your electric bill and it’s unnecessary for most of your recurring laundry. Do NOT use hot/warm water on the following:

  • Any item with a care label that suggests cold water
  • Delicate garments, including lace, wool, silk, and more. 
  • Lingerie (includes bras and sports bras)
  • Most stains – check out our stain guide for more info