hot or cold water for stains? which is best
Laundry

Hot or cold water for stains? Which is best

It's a big laundry dilemma - hot or cold water for stains? Follow this guide to help you determine when one temperature may be more suitable than the other.

Do you wash stains in hot or cold water? It’s a divisive topic! Many of us learned that hot water is the better option from our mothers, grandmothers, or home economics classes at school. Others believe that cold water does just as good a job at stain removal. There is, of course, a third category of people who have absolutely no idea whether to use hot or cold water for stains. But whether you’re in this third category or you’re just trying to settle a debate, the following guide should help you out. It covers the age-old question “Does hot or cold water get stains out better?” and explains when one temperature may be more suitable than the other.

When to Use Hot Water on Stains

If you’ve got the choice of cold or hot water for stains, hot water is going to work best in many cases. That’s because the hot water not only helps to activate your detergent (and is more effective at thoroughly dissolving powdered detergent), but also works to sanitise your clothing, making it look and feel clean and fresh. There are some cases, outlined below, where cold water is the better option, but generally speaking, hot water works best for removing stains.

Some types of stains that respond very well to hot water are:

  • Water-based inks
  • Chocolate or coffee stains
  • Wine stains
  • Oil-based stains

When to Use Cold Water on Stains

Most stains can be washed in hot water, and it’s the best option for many types of fabric. There are, however, a number of instances where hot water could actually make stain removal more difficult, or damage your clothing. When you’re wondering if you should use hot or cold water to get stains out, always ask yourself if you’re dealing with delicate materials, with stains containing a dye, or with stains that are likely to contain proteins. If the answer is yes to any of the above, then cold water will be the best option. ‘Cold’ water is considered to be about 30 degrees celsius. It’s recommended that you don’t set your washing machine temperature any lower than this, as colder water can affect the efficacy of your detergent.

Delicate Clothing Stains: Hot or Cold Water?

Regardless of the type of stain you’re dealing with, if you’ve stained a delicate material then you should always wash in cold water, not hot. Hot water can ruin some fabrics, wrinkling silks, shrinking woollens, and so on. Here are some types of clothing you should always wash in cold water, no matter how badly soiled they are:

  • Woolly jumpers
  • Silk lingerie
  • Satin skirts
  • Over-dyed jeans
  • Tie-dyed clothing

Protein Stains = Cold Water

Protein stains should always be washed in cold water, as hot water can actually cook the protein and cause it to be absorbed into the fibres of the clothing. This makes is very difficult, if not impossible, to remove, as it essentially becomes part of the clothing. Cold water can lift the stain without setting it. If you’re confused about what constitutes a protein stain and what doesn’t, here’s a handy guide.

The following stains contain proteins:

  • Blood stains
  • Dairy stains (including milk, cream, ice cream)
  • Some non-dairy milk stains such as infant formula
  • Egg stains
  • Glue stains
  • White marks caused by deodorant

I Don’t Know What Caused My Stain!

If you’ve found mystery marks on your clothing, you may not know whether to wash stains in hot or cold water. Of course, hot water does work better (and it helps to sanitise your clothing), but you don’t want to risk washing a protein stain in anything other than cold water. In these cases, always try going down the cold water route first. In many instances, this should be sufficient to lift the stain, and you can then wash in hotter water if you want a more thorough clean. If the stain doesn’t come out in cold water, move on to hotter water and you should see results.

Can I Wash in Cold Water Exclusively?

For many stains, hot or cold water is fine to use, so some homeowners are starting to switch to washing in cold water for their everyday laundry. This not only helps to conserve energy, but also cuts down energy bills in the long term.

So, is washing in cold water effective? Generally speaking, yes, it is OK to switch to cold water. Good-quality detergents, such as Persil small & mighty, are especially designed to wash effectively at lower temperatures, making it a viable option for most washes. But it’s important to keep in mind that some stains will require a higher temperature to get them out completely. It’s also worth noting that underwear and baby clothes should be washed at a higher temperature for proper sanitisation.

Still not sure if cold or hot water is better for stains? Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer. The truth is, it depends on the stain, the fabric, and your preferences for ‘going green’. Use the tips above to help you make the right choice when treating future stains.

Cleanipedia recommends


Not all stains are banished in the first wash, regardless of whether you use hot or cold water. Detergents like Persil Small & Mighty certainly increase the chances of successful stain removal first time, but the most important thing is to try and avoid allowing the stain to dry. Dried stains are harder to remove so keep the stain moist, and repeat the stain removal process as needed until the mark is gone.