Washing machine temperature guide

Washing machine temperature guide

by Adrian Porter

Improve your washing by finding out which program temperatures you should use. Plus, find out what happens to your clothes and bills when the temperature goes down.

Just want to see reviews of great washing machines? Sign up today for a £1 trial and access all our expert reviews and Best Buys.


As of December 2013, all washing machines in the UK will have to have a 20°C option visible on the control panel - but what happens to cleaning power and running costs at this temperature?

When we tested five machines on the 20°C-cotton program, we found that turning down the temperature from 40°C dramatically reduced running costs - by an average of 66%.

And we found that cleaning power is only slightly worse than at 40°C, with just our olive-oil-based stain not washing out as well.

Using 20°C instead of 40°C could reduce running costs by 66%


Over a quarter of Which? members are now using a 30°C program on a regular basis. When we tested the 30°C-cotton program, we found that running costs are reduced by about 46% compared with the 40°C program.

Similar to the 20°C-cotton programs we tested, it was the olive-oil-based stain that didn't wash out as well at this temperature. However, more soiling was lifted compared with washing at 20°C.


This is the most common wash temperature used by Which? members. It’s suitable for cotton, linen or viscose, acrylics, acetate, wool mixtures and wool/polyester blends – in other words, most everyday items.

As most Which? members we asked frequently use the 40°C temperature setting, we base our testing on the 40°C-cotton and synthetics wash programs.

Most Which? members wash at 40°C, so we base our testing on the 40°C cotton and synthetics wash programs.


This wash is suitable for polyester/cotton mixtures, nylon, cotton and viscose, but with modern detergents most people find 40°C adequate for their needs.


The 60°C program generally delivers slightly better cleaning than the 40°C program and is ideal for bedding and towels. We've taken a closer look at some washing machines' 60°C cotton programs, and discovered that two thirds didn't actually reach 60°C. For more on our findings and how it affects your cleaning, see our guide to washing at 60°C.


This is the hottest wash program you’ll find on most machines. It’s only suitable for white cottons and linens that show the dirt. The introduction of modern detergents and synthetic fabrics means most people rarely use this program.

Other commonly used washing machines programs

Washing machines often have as many as 20 programs for washing, rinsing and spinning. For more information on these other programs, see our washing machine jargon buster.