Can You Wash Cotton at 30, 40, 60 and 90 Degrees?

When it comes to the washer, there’s a range of temperatures provided for washing your clothes. But which one is the best for your cotton? 

Can you wash cotton garments at any temperature of your choice without any consequence?

Let’s find out in the rest of the article. 

What does the care label on the cotton cloth say?

Typically, the best guide that you have concerning the temperature of water to wash your cotton clothes comes from the fabric care label. 

The fabric care label will normally have the recommended wash temperature imprinted on it, and also the wash settings as well as the chemicals to avoid.

You are expected to wash your cotton clothes at that specific temperature or pick a range just slightly above, though going very low is perfectly okay at all instances.

Going extremely high can severely damage the finishing, the structure or the specific type of weaving on the cloth. And you want to avoid using hot water when there is a specifc warning issued out against using it. 

What happens when you wash cotton at different temperatures

At 30

30 °C is considered as a slightly warm wash in the laundry world, and you can definitely wash your cotton garments at this temperature. Almost every single cotton garment will farewell under a 30 °C machine wash, including colored clothes.

Where problems might arise with a 30 °C wash is when you have a fabric that is heavily soiled. 

Even though cotton has special affinity for water and that makes soil removal a bit easy the moment it touches water, heavily soiled clothes would still require higher temperatures for efficient cleaning because the lower temperature would not provide satisfactory results. 

At 40

At 40°C, things start to get a bit aggressive. You now have a wash temperature that is decently warm, and would offer some of the benefits of a cold wash like color preservation to some great degree, as well as that of a hot wash i.e. sanitization and soil removal.

At this temperature also, powdered detergents readily dissolve and incorporate into wash water, making cleaning more efficient. 

Even though 40°C offers some of the benefits of a cold wash as well as that of a higher temperature wash, it will still not be sufficient to remove some types of soils such as the really aged stains as well as offer decent sanitization.

A 40° wash is typically safe for almost every single cotton cloth out there that doesn’t bleed. 

At 60

At 60°, the molecules of the water are now moving very rapidly. The wash temperature is now considered hot.

This temperature is perfectly suitable for clothes that are heavily soiled and stained and also require some form of disinfection, such as beddings, towels, pillowcases etc.

60°C wash temperature is also good at removing soiling because its molecules are in a constant rapid motion, which means they bombard the stain molecules hanging onto the cotton fibers and set them free right away. 60°C wash also offers disinfection which is by virtue of its hot nature.

A 60°C wash is not typically recommended for all cotton clothes. It should be used for cotton clothes that are not finished in a special way, not “dry clean” or “dry clean only”, not delicate, not structured, or basically those garments that require disinfection such as the ones we mentioned above.

At 90

Certainly, 90°C is not a wash temperature to consistently clean cotton clothes, or any cloth. This temperature is typically resolved as a go to temperature when you have really severe soiling on your clothes and also a fabric to disinfect. And this wash temperature can only be used when your fabric manufacturer does not warn against hot water wash. 

Garments normally washed at this temperature include towels, bedsheets, flat sheets, sports wears, socks etc.

The perks and downside of choosing higher or lower temperature when washing cotton

Going higher or lower with your wash temperature can be beneficial or have implications of different sorts. 

Let us go through these benefits and implications so you are well aware of how best to wash your cotton clothes henceforth.

Low temp is the safest wash

As obviously mentioned, going with a wash temperature like 30 and 40°C, which are considered cold to slightly warm, would satisfactorily wash all cotton clothes that are not heavily soiled or heavily dyed. 

These wash temperatures are also better for colored clothes in comparison to hot water as they do not cause their colors to runoff into the wash water. They’re also gentle on fibers in comparison to hot water, especially when paired with a low spin cycle. 

Low saves energy 

Another advantage of going low with cotton clothes is that you’ll be able to save a lot in terms of electricity bill because you would consume less energy trying to heat up the water for washing.

Lesser damage to structured clothes

Structured garments most of the time will have a tag that says “Dry Clean” or “Dry Clean Only”, and that’s because mere dipping them in the wash water and applying agitation is more than enough to cause structural disintegration, not to talk of the wash temperature. 

Adding wash temperature to the equation makes things a bit interesting. 

The lower the temperature of the water, the less defined the structural damage would be, and the higher the temperature of the water, the more distortion that occurs. 

So it’s evident that hot water increases or makes prominent the destruction of clothes in the washer. 

Cold temp can dissolve most powdered detergents now

One of the reasons why a lot of laundromats opt for a warm water wash is because they believe their powdered detergents will not dissolve properly in warm water. And that’d be true if we weren’t living 10 decades ago. 

With the kind of technology embedded in quality detergents nowadays, such a thing is no longer a problem, and cold water will easily dissolve quality powdered detergents, tending one towards using cold water for washing cotton. 

Cold may not remove stains as good as hot

And then comes the dagger to the chest of cold washing. 

While cold water wash offers the plenty and numerous benefits that we have outlined above, it still falls short on one important category which makes hot water triumph gloriously and become the preferred option by many. 

This is the fact the cold water wash will not get your really soiled clothes as clean as if you use hot water alongside detergent and bleach.

Coldwater also doesn’t have sanitization properties unlike warm or hot water that are capable of killing some populations of bacteria as well as destroying mold growth.

Does washing clothes at temperatures other than the recommended temperature shrink them?

If you have a cloth that says wash at, say 30°C, and you go ahead and wash it at 40°C, the fabric may not necessarily shrink because the difference in temperature is not that much. 

But if you go ahead and wash it in a much higher temperature, say 90° for instance, you may encounter a lot of problems such as shrinkage, running of colors, destruction of special finishes as well as wearing and tearing of fibers.

On the other hand, going with a lower temperature when you have a hot water recommendation will rarely affect the structure of the cloth, but instead, may only affect the cleaning performance of the laundry.