washing machine - should you wash clothes in cold or hot water?

Cold vs. Hot Water for Laundry: Does It Really Matter?

Most people have developed their own systems for doing laundry over the years. Some folks swear by using bleach with every load of whites, while others simply won’t touch it. In like fashion, certain people will only air-dry their clothes, while others use dryers with dryer sheets. The age-old question, however, is cold vs. hot water for laundry – does it matter?

Cold vs Hot Water for Laundry

Debates surrounding whether to use hot water or cold water for your laundry are related to environmentalism, as well as the ability for different temperatures of water to get your clothes clean. To this end, while hot water does consume more resources, you need to hit a certain wash temperature threshold for your detergent to work effectively.

Do Natural Laundry Detergents Work Better at Certain Temperatures?  

While many follow the accepted parameters of washing whites with hot water and colors with cold, getting the most out of your detergent is more nuanced than this. Many people don’t realize it, but most laundry detergents only work within specific temperature parameters.  

For starters, the phrase “cold water” refers to any temperature between 32-60 degrees. The problem is that surfactants don’t generally work well in water temperatures below 55 degrees. Therefore, detergent brands that claim to work in water temps below 55 degrees only do so with the help of perfumes, brighteners, and additional enzymes

If you use a mainstream detergent brand, odds are it will only work effectively between 60-75 degrees. This might come as a surprise to many, but even “hot” and “cold” loads that are run with standard detergents shouldn’t vary more than 15 degrees on either end. This small gradient in the temperature of the water doesn’t give people many options to get their clothes clean. 

Cold vs. Hot Water for Laundry Temperature 

Charlie’s Soap Natural Detergent is formulated to work in your washer at a wide temperature range – so you can use it on even the toughest stains. In fact, Charlie’s Soap is highly effective at cold water temps down to 55 F and hot water temperatures up to an astounding 120 degrees. 

Because Charlie’s Soap natural laundry detergent works well at so many temperatures, the cold vs. hot water for laundry debate really doesn’t matter. Charlie’s will help you conserve resources with cold water washing if that is your preference. But warm water wash cycles provide energy savings, while still getting your load of laundry clean.

With such a wide temperature gradient of effectiveness, Charlie’s Soap natural laundry detergent works well to break down stains as diverse as grass and blood. 

Benefits of Washing Clothes with Hot Water  

Not every type of laundry detergent reacts the same in hot water. For example, certain people prefer to use powdered detergent for heavily soiled clothes as it is affordable and performs its best in hot water


Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules like “always use hot water on cotton when it comes to cleaning tough stains.” That being said, your best bet for getting stains out is to research precisely what types of stains should be cleaned with hot water.

Common stains that you should clean with hot water include:

  • Dirt
  • Grass
  • Tomato
  • Grease 
  • Sweat 

While hot water washing does leave a larger carbon footprint, it can be mitigated by only washing certain clothes at high temperatures. Even more, air-drying your clothes will help you save money on utilities and lessen your environmental impact.

Benefits of Washing Clothes with Cold Water

Especially during wintertime, certain laundry detergents don’t work well with cold water – mainly because powders and laundry packets won’t fully dissolve. They don’t get your clothes clean when this happens while also leaving a filmy residue on fabrics. Unless you use quality powder and packets like Charlie’s Soap, liquid detergents often work best with cold water

To get the best results with stain removal, washing laundry with warmer water is often required.


To clean difficult stains from your clothes, sometimes you need to take counterintuitive steps to your standard washing methods. This includes washing certain stains with cold water, even though hot water wosavingsuld seemingly work better. 

Types of tough stains you should wash with cold water include: 

  • Blood
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Urine
  • Coffee
  • Poop

Because cold water washing uses the least fossil fuels, many people feel it is the most eco-friendly option for cleaning dirty clothes. However, because the water below 55 degrees Fahrenheit doesn’t allow surfactants to work, you wind up having to wash your clothes more often with cold water. In turn, increased water usage largely offsets energy savings with cold water washing.

Cold vs. Hot Water for laundry: The final verdict  

As can be seen, many factors determine whether you should use cold or hot to wash your clothes. In the end, deciding which type of water is best is far more nuanced than simply using cold water for colors and hot water for whites. In like fashion, environmental questions of resource usage with different water temperatures are highly-nuanced and multi-faceted.


  • What type of detergent do you prefer to use? 
  • Do you own many fabrics that require gentle cycles?  
  • Would you rather preserve resources?  
  • Do you have young children that regularly soil or stain their clothes?
  • Are your laundry loads mostly synthetic fabrics or natural materials? 
  • Do you live in a cold climate? 
  • What types of stains do you most commonly deal with? 

In the end, you could be content with using cold water to clean certain fabrics and stains while using hot for others. It could also be the case that you always prefer to wash with cold water to lessen your dependency on fossil fuels.


Feel free to contact us with questions about Charlie’s Soap natural laundry detergent or get additional tips on all your laundry questions!  


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