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How to get the best from your 30 degree wash

Discover how to do lower-temperature laundry with confidence.

Updated

A 30 degree wash uses less energy while treating clothes to a gentler cycle. Because modern detergents are designed to work well at low temperatures, setting the washing machine to 30ºC can save you money while protecting fabrics, such as wool and silk, from the stress of hot water. It’s also a good choice for items that have strong dyes or aren’t colour fast.

Washing machine temperature guide

Washing at 30ºC

As a general rule, it’s more energy efficient to wash at 30ºC, which will help to reduce your carbon footprint – according to Which, if the UK switched from 40ºC washes to 30ºC, it would be the equivalent of taking almost 400,000 cars off the road. It's also a good temperature for washing delicate fabrics that may shrink or be damaged by too much heat (think woollens or baby clothes), and it works well at preserving fabric colours. If you are doing a wash of mixed colours and fabrics, it’s probably best to use 30ºC to prevent colours from running.

Washing at 40ºC

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While 30ºC works great for everyday washing, a 40°C wash is better at tackling tougher stains. Most clothes, including cotton and a lot of acrylics, are made to be washed at 40ºC. 40ºC is also usually the maximum temperature you can wash denim at, if you want to avoid shrinkage and prevent colour fade.

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Washing at 50ºC

Though suitable for a wide range of fabrics, including cotton, nylon and polyester, most stains can be just as easily shifted on a 40ºC wash, which uses less energy.

Washing at 60ºC

Shifting up to 60ºC will use more energy but it is better at removing heavy stains, and especially good at cutting through greasy ones. It’s also the minimum temperature you need for removing germs from your laundry, so is a good setting for washing bed sheets, towels and underwear (especially when combined with a bio washing powder). However, it is energy intensive, costing up to twice as much to run compared to a 40ºC wash.

Washing at 90ºC

The highest temperature on most machines is 90ºC, and it’s only suitable for a handful of items. You will need to make sure your fabrics can take the heat, but it is the ultimate wash for getting rid of stains. Deciding what temperature to wash your clothes at should depend on how dirty they are and what maximum temperature the care label recommends. It’s also worth learning what symbols on a washing machine mean to ensure you use the correct settings.

6 tops tips for an effective 30 degree wash

1. Organise your laundry

Laundry sorted by colour

Before putting a load into the machine for a 30ºC wash it’s important to sort your laundry to avoid any mishaps. Separate light from dark clothes and try to wash like with like (keep towels together and away from delicates, for example).

2. Read the care label

Laundry care label

The clothing care label will tell you the maximum temperature an item of clothing can be washed at. It’s okay to wash at a lower temperature than recommended, but don’t go any higher. Our guide to what washing symbols on wash care labels mean will help you decipher the tags.

3. Pre-treat stains

Apply washing up liquid

Heavily-stained items can be washed at 30ºC, provided you pay them some special attention. Pre-treat any stains by applying liquid detergent or a dedicated stain remover directly to the stain and leaving for a few minutes (for more, check out our guide to removing stains from different fabrics). Once you’ve tackled the stain, you can place your item in the wash as normal.

4. Use a good laundry detergent

Laundry powder on top of a basket of laundry

A good quality detergent, like Persil, is key to getting good results at lower temperatures. You’ll have to decide whether to go for a bio or non bio detergent, though in general bio detergents are more effective than their non-bio counterparts when washing at 30ºC. Make sure to follow the instructions, taking into account water hardness for your area (hard water generally requires a higher dose) and avoid using too much detergent (this is especially important with highly energy efficient washing machines, which use less water).

5. Pick the right wash cycle

A washing machine set to 30º

Choose a cycle that matches the type of fabric, for example silk, cotton or polyester. Different types of machines have different programs – some can have up to 20, including very specific ones for things like baby clothes and even a setting that can be suitable for many ‘handwash only’ clothing items. Read the manufacturer’s manual to find out more about your machine and what it can do. If you have clothing that is extra dirty, it might be a good idea to set the machine for a pre-wash/soak. If anyone in your household has sensitive skin, an extra rinse cycle at the end can help remove any traces of detergent.

6. Load your washing machine correctly

An overly full washing machine

Put on a full load to maximise energy efficiency, but make sure not to overload the machine either – if it’s packed too tightly your clothes may end up only partially clean (this is often one of the reasons why clothes can still smell after you wash them). As a general rule, your laundry should not fill more than three quarters of the drum. Read more about how to use detergent properly in your washing machine.

Answers to your 30-degree wash questions

Is 30 degrees a cold wash?

No, a 30ºC wash is generally considered a warm wash. A cold wash is below 20°C and is usually reserved for clothes that are very delicate. Washing at 40ºC is also considered a warm wash, while 60ºC is a hot wash and 90ºC is a very hot wash.

What does wash at 30 degrees mean?

‘Wash at 30 degrees’ is a direction found on laundry instructions on clothing. It means you should set the temperature on the washing machine to 30°C.

Does washing at 30 degrees kill bacteria?

A 30ºC wash isn’t hot enough to rid clothes of germs. According to the NHS, a minimum temperature of 60°C is required for preventing the spread of germs (and it should be paired with a bleach-based product for maximum effectiveness). For more information, see our tips on how to wash clothes properly to help ward off viruses.

How long should a 30 degree wash take?

That will depend on your machine and what setting you have it at. A quick wash can be done in 15 minutes, whereas a deeper clean cycle could take a couple of hours.

Originally published