I wouldn’t say that doing laundry is my favorite part of the weekend, but when you live on your own from age 13 (hello, boarding school!) you sort of have learn to love it–or at least, to not screw it up. And especially now that I do my husband’s and daughter’s laundry, too, it’s become somewhat second-nature for me to get through the whole process quickly and efficiently without shrinking anything or ruining my husband’s shirts or making my own black jeans fade in the wash.
Even though I’ve pretty much mastered it now, there was one huge mistake I was making for years–and that was over-using the hot water cycle. The truth is that very few items can actually handle the hottest temperature setting on your machine–hot water (130°F and above) is brutal on fabrics. It makes darks fade faster. It’s more likely to shrink clothes. It pull delicate fabrics apart. It’s also less energy efficient than warm or cold water, too.
READ MORE: How To Wash Your Jeans So They Last Forever
I know, I know, my inclination (like yours) was to use hot water for any white or light load that came down the line. I just assumed it was better at killing germs (it is) and I didn’t really understand what the Warm setting was for, if you had Cold for items that run and Hot for items that didn’t. The truth is that the Warm setting is where it’s at. Everything from mand-made fibers, to knits, and jeans, and light and medium-colored clothing is perfect for the Warm setting. At 90°F, you get a good thorough clean without shrinking or fading clothes.
And the truth is that the clothing labels will tell you that, too. If a piece of clothing can’t handle the heat, it will say “Wash cold” on the label. That’s another common mistake–not reading your clothing labels and following the cleaning instructions on them. Obviously, they were put there for a reason–and just like you would strictly follow the “Dry Clean Only” rule, you should follow the other clothing instructions, too. Garments that say “Cold” really should be washed on Cold. You’re just extending the life of your clothing–and isn’t that what we all really want?