The ultimate guide to using hot or cold water for stains

Should you use hot or cold water to remove stains? Wonder no more, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover our guide to choosing the right temperature and knowing when one is more suitable than the other.

Updated 18 September 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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Choosing whether to use hot or cold water to remove stains can be a divisive topic. Don't panic though, we're here to help. We've put together a guide to aid you in coming to your own conclusion. Read on to discover the best water temperature to remove stains.

Not all stains are banished in the first wash, and it's not just the water temperature that makes a difference. Using a good quality detergent like Persil will increase the chances of successful stain removal first time.

The Science of Stain Removal: Hot vs. Cold Water

The effectiveness of stain removal hinges on the interaction between water temperature and the nature of the stain. Understanding the science behind hot and cold water treatments can help you tackle stains more effectively.

Hot Water:

Hot water is particularly effective for removing stains caused by oily or greasy substances. The heat melts the oils and greases, making them easier to dissolve and lift from fabrics. When combined with detergent, hot water forms micelles, which surround and break down oil-based stains. This process, called saponification, enhances stain removal.

However, hot water can set protein-based stains, like blood or egg, as it can cook the proteins, causing them to bond with the fabric's fibers. Therefore, it's essential to avoid hot water for these types of stains.

Cold Water:

Cold water, on the other hand, is the go-to choice for protein-based stains. It helps prevent the proteins from bonding with the fabric and allows for more effective removal. Cold water also works well for stains like wine or fruit juice, as it prevents the pigments from setting.

In summary, the science of stain removal revolves around matching the water temperature to the type of stain you're dealing with. Hot water is ideal for oily stains, while cold water is the preferred option for protein-based and pigment-based stains. Understanding this science can improve your chances of successfully eliminating stains and preserving your clothing.

When to use a hotter water temperature to remove stains

If you’ve got the choice of using a hot or cold wash 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 it also works to sanitise your clothing, making it look and feel clean and fresh. Some types of stains that respond very well to hot water are:

When to use a cooler water temperature to remove 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 by setting the stains, or damaging your clothing. In these cases, the decision to use hot or cold water to get stains out sides with the cooler temperature. ‘Cold’ water is considered to be about 30°C. 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. Some types of stains that respond very well to hot water are:

Does cold or hot water remove stains faster

The effectiveness of cold or hot water in removing stains depends on the type of stain and the fabric involved. In general, hot water is more effective for removing oily or greasy stains as it helps to dissolve and lift the oils. However, hot water can also set protein-based stains like blood or sweat, making them harder to remove. Cold water is better for preventing colour bleeding and setting stains, especially for delicate fabrics. It's advisable to refer to the garment's care label and treat stains promptly. When in doubt, start with cold water and gradually increase the temperature if needed, following specific stain removal instructions.

So, now you know the answers to the question, "does hot water set stains?" and other information about whether you should use a hot or cold wash for stains you can make an informed decision when busting those unwanted stains on your clothing. For more tips and tricks, check out our top stain removal hacks.

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