Using Low Wash Temperatures? (what you must know about cold water washes)

We’re all told we need to reduce our carbon footprint nowadays which has led to washing machine manufacturers developing cooler wash cycles. These cooler cycles are not only good for the environment, they also save money due to the lower energy usage.

But how low is too low? In other words, what are the best temperatures for getting our clothes clean? If these are questions you have, keep reading.

Why Use Low Wash Temperatures?

The main reasons for using low temperatures when washing clothes include;

  • Better For The Environment
    Using low water temperature wash cycles when washing your clothes reduces electricity usage which lowers your carbon footprint. Plus the clothes will last longer which means less waste as you won’t need to replace clothes as frequently. Added to which synthetic clothes are less likely to shed harmful microplastics at cooler wash temperatures.
  • Lower Electricity Bills
    Washing clothes using low temperatures cuts down on your electricity usage which in turn, saves money.
  • Clothes Last Longer
    Cooler washes are gentler on clothes which means they will last longer.
  • Clothes Remain Vibrant
    Clothes are far less likely to fade or colours to run using cooler wash cycles.
  • Better For Delicate Clothes
    Cooler wash cycles are gentler on clothes which means delicate clothes will benefit from a cooler wash.
Washing Machine

What Clothes Should Be Washed At 20 Degrees C?

The clothes that should be washed at 20 degrees C include;

Lightly Soiled Clothes

Washing clothes at 20 degrees C is only really suitable for clothes that aren’t too dirty to begin with. You should avoid washing heavily stained or particularly muddy or grass stained clothes at 20 C.

The 20 degree wash cycle is ideal for refreshing dusty clothes that weren’t particularly dirty to begin with.


Delicate items like wool or silk can be successfully washed at 20 degrees C, as long as you select the delicate cycle!

What Clothes Should Be Washed At 30 Degrees C?

The clothes that should be washed at 30 degrees C include;

Sportswear & Gym Wear

Most sportswear and gym wear is made from synthetic man made materials that can easily be cleaned at low temperatures. If they are particularly dirty however, they should be washed at a higher (40 degree) temperature.

Coloured Clothes

Many coloured clothes can be washed at 30 degrees to prevent the colours from fading or running.


Delicate clothing can be washed using a 30 degree wash temperature as long as the delicate cycle is selected.


Man made synthetic materials often only need a short 30 degree wash cycle to remove any light soiling. 

As these fabrics are made using a form of woven plastic, washing at 30 degrees helps to reduce the shedding of microplastics that has a detrimental effect on aquatic life.

What Clothes Should Not Be Washed At Low Temperatures?


There are certain types of clothes that need hotter wash cycles. These include;

  • Towels
    To remove all bacteria from towels they need a hotter wash cycle. White towels should be washed at 60 degrees C and coloured towels should be washed at 40 degrees C.
  • Bedding
    Bedding needs higher temperatures to remove germs and bacteria.
  • Pet Bedding
    To remove dirt, germs, bacteria and insects from pet bedding it is recommended that a higher temperature is used to wash them.
  • Underwear
    Underwear is worn directly on the skin which makes it the ideal place for bacteria to breed. If you were to wash underwear in a cool wash that bacteria would remain.
  • Heavily Soiled Clothes
    To remove dirt and germs from heavily soiled garments you need hot water to loosen the fibres which then release the dirt.
  • Whites
    To keep whites white, they need to be washed at relatively high temperatures.

How To Get The Best From Washing At Low Temperatures

As you can see, it’s not always possible to remove all of the stains and bacteria from clothes when washing them at low temperatures. To help get the best from using lower temperature wash cycles you should;

Always Consult The Wash Care Label Before Washing Your Clothes

Clothes display the recommended wash temperatures in the wash care label. Look for a symbol depicting a bucket with water in with a number in the centre. That number indicates the correct recommended temperature for washing that garment.

If the symbol has 30 in it, it indicates that the garment can be washed at 30 degrees C. A 40 indicates it can be washed at 40 degrees C and so on.

Use A Detergent Designed For Low Temperatures

All of the major washing machine detergent manufacturers make detergents specifically for use at low temperatures. You should use a specially designed detergent to ensure your clothes get clean at low temperatures.

Use A Laundry Sanitiser

To remove germs and bacteria at low temperatures, you should use a laundry sanitiser in conjunction with a temperature specific detergent.

Only Wash Lightly Soiled Clothes 

Clothes that are heavily soiled will not get clean at low temperatures. You should only wash lightly soiled or slightly dirty/dusty clothes at low temperatures.

Can You Wash Everything At Low Temperatures?

It can be tempting to wash all of your laundry at low temperatures. But there are many items that need high temperatures to ensure they remain clean and bacteria free.

You should use your discretion and determine which items can be washed at low temperatures and which cannot. In this way you will always get the best from your washing machine and ensure your clothes are always clean and germ free.

SEE ALSO: Washing At 90 Degrees Celsius? (what you need to know)

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you wash at a lower temperature?

If you wash your clothes at a lower temperature, they will keep their colour longer, last longer and you will save money on electricity.

Does 20 C kill bacteria?

Many bacteria can survive a 20, 30 or even 40 degree wash cycle. Which is why we recommend using a laundry sanitiser when washing clothes at lower temperatures.

Is 30 degrees C a cold wash?

Even though many washing machines have a 20 degree wash cycle, in the UK a 30 degree wash is considered to be a cold wash.

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