So many fabrics. Multiple wash temperatures. It’s not always easy to know how to mix and match the two come laundry day. If you find yourself often pondering what temperature to wash your clothes, you’re in luck! We’ve rounded up the most common fabrics and paired them with the best water temperature.

First, a temperature primer

There’s hot. There’s cold. And then there are a few temps in between. It may be helpful to start by getting the low-down on water temperatures and exactly what the difference is between washing clothes in cold water vs. hot water. For that, we suggest reading this blog on washing machine temperatures. For more on pairing temps with fabric, keep reading.

Finicky wool 

Washing wool items can be tricky. We’ve all heard stories about an adult-sized sweater shrinking down into child’s size because it wasn’t washed and dried properly. But with our tips, your wool items should make it through laundry day as good as new. 

If your machine has a wool setting, that makes wash day easy. If not, wash your wool in cold to avoid shrinking. If your label specifies handwashing, turn the item inside out before gently scrubbing in cold to lukewarm water (no hotter than 86°F). 

To dry, hang or lay flat. If you need it to dry faster, put it in the dryer using a no-heat option.

Common cotton

You may not think twice about what temperature to wash your clothes when they are made of cotton. And honestly, that’s OK.

If your cotton clothes are especially dirty, you can safely wash them in hot water. But if your cotton clothes don’t have stains or odor, washing in warm water can help them last longer. Turning up the heat can cause cotton fibers (and most every other type of fabric) to shrink. And it can cause bright colors to bleed.

Powerful polyester

As a synthetic fabric, polyester is one of the most shrink-resistant fabrics. That means you can safely wash it in higher temperatures. But just like most fabrics, washing your polyester clothes often in hot water slowly starts to break the fibers down. It’s best to err on the side of caution with warm water.

Cozy flannel

Perfect for cozying up to a fire with a good book and a hot drink, nothing feels as comfortable as flannel. Keep your flannels oh-so-soft by washing in cold or warm water, never hot. Hot water can cause fraying and shrinking.

Tough denim

Denim is the most versatile of all fabrics. From people whose jobs take them outdoors to urbanites out for a night on the town, we Americans love our denim. But not every pair of pants or denim jacket are made the same. Some denim is made from thicker fibers than others and can be washed in hot water, while more delicate denim material is best cleaned with cooler water.

Smooth silk (and satin)

Silk and satin are delicate materials. Some even require dry cleaning. They can burn easier than other fabrics, which can be nerve-wracking on wash day. But as long as you keep your cool, your fancy fabrics will look as sophisticated as ever. If the label says your silk and satin are machine washable, wash in cold. If you need to hand-wash these items, soak them for about three to five minutes, then gently scrub with your hands. 

Save yourself from landing in hot water because you washed your laundry on the wrong temp. Knowing what temperature to wash clothes can save your clothes, and your day. Save this handy guide the next time you need a refresher on washing clothes in cold water vs. hot.