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CDA Buying Advice – Washing Machines: temperature guide

Many detergents are now designed to be used and clean effectively at lower temperatures. This is great for the environment as it saves on power to heat the water and hence energy; this will also save you money too. However, we still advise that you do a ‘maintenance wash’ every so often to clean any grease, mould or bacteria that has not been killed off by washing at 30° or 40°.

Here is our break down of what the temperatures are for and what you could wash effectively at each:


It has been legislation since 2013 for all washing machines to have a 20°C cycle, to help save energy. Washing at this temperature will dramatically reduce the cost of running a cycle of your washing machine. This programme is suitable for very lightly soiled garments that may just need freshening up or very delicate items like silk, boned dresses or bras.


With a good detergent to accompany it, there is not much that a 30°C cycle cannot handle these days. Many people use this as their regular cycle now to save energy. This temperature is best suited to wool, silks, strongly dyed fabrics or items prone to shrinking.


At this slightly warmer temperature you may be able to see better results when washing cotton, acrylics, acetate or blended fabrics like wool mixes and polyester blends. This is the temperature that most consumer testing boards use to measure the performance of the machine.


Specifically designed to clean out stains and dirt from blended or mixed material fabrics, this temperature would also wash cottons or linens very well.


You will notice a significant improvement in the wash results at 60°C. Be sure to check that your garments are suitable to be washed at this temperature before throwing them in. This temperature is perfect for killing bacteria, viruses and removing stains.


The hottest setting on the machine is not suitable for regularly washing your clothes in and it should be reserved for brightening whites, removing stubborn stains on cotton or linen, killing bacteria on heavily soiled items or performing a routine ‘maintenance wash’ on your machine.

More in the Laundry advice centre: