How Does Hot Water Affect Clothing?
Whenever you do laundry loads, you’re faced with the decision of hot or cold water. But what difference does it make to your clothes? Let’s look at how hot water affects apparel and explore whether it can shrink clothing.
Hot Water vs. Cold Water
Using hot instead of cold water can deepen garment dye, which is great for colored clothing but not suited for whites and delicates. Hot water also has disinfecting powers, making it suitable for sheets, towels and clothes worn for exercising or playing sports.
How Hot Is Hot Water?
Washing machines get the water to between 90°F and 140°F according to the amount of laundry and the water pressure from your utility company. Hotter than 140°F temperatures can cause items to shrink, though not by much.
Shrinking Clothing in Hot Water
The main culprit causing garments to shrink is heat. For example, 100% cotton clothing shrinks in hot water because the fibers tighten up and become shorter, causing the fabric to create wrinkles, fold and appear smaller. Additionally, higher temperatures make the fibers even more rigid.
Can You Keep Clothes From Shrinking?
There are a few ways to prevent clothes from shrinking:
- Read the label. The label on any clothing item will let you know the recommended care instructions, such as the temperature and type of water to use for washing.
- Wash items in cold water. Use cold water for all laundry items, colored and whites. Heat makes fabrics shrink, so consider using cooler temperatures.
- Air-dry clothes. Air-dry clothes instead of using the dryer; this will prevent them from shrinking. You’ll want to turn delicates inside out before air drying to minimize wrinkles.
In conclusion, hot water can shrink clothing — but its effect depends on the fabric type and the water temperature. Check the care label before washing any items of clothing to ensure they survive the washing machine cycle unscathed.