Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

Understanding The Difference Between Hot And Cold Water For The Best Cleaning Results

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While it’s universally understood that water helps clean things, it isn’t quite as common to know what temperature of water is better suited for the cleaning job at hand. Although room temperature water can help get rid of most dirt and stains, using hot or cold water could either enhance, or worsen your attempts at getting something clean. Ultimately, the difference boils down to the thing you are trying to clean. 

The simple knowledge that certain fabrics require warmer water than others could help speed up your washing process while ensuring your fabrics are cleaned safely, and last longer. This holds true for various areas of household cleaning and chores, and therefore, must be understood better as opposed to playing guessing games about using the right temperature of water. 

Hot or Cold Water - Which One Cleans Better?

Keeping the above in mind, let’s look into the science behind the difference between hot water and cold water, and then apply that science to our home cleaning requirements. 

Simply put, when water is heated, it becomes agitated on a molecular level. This agitated state means that it will move faster, making most detergents that mix with it, much more effective at doing their job. On the other hand, using something like bleach doesn’t require heated water since the active ingredient isn’t a detergent that can benefit from heat. In that scenario, heating water is just a waste of time and energy because it nullifies the effect of the bleach, rendering it useless.  

Today, however, we have products that are built with this understanding in mind, leading to many detergents not requiring hot water to perform well. While even in the cold, some products will deliver exceptional results, it’s worth noting that these cleaning products will specify that they are “cold water” detergents, so it’s best to look out for that if you require a cold water cleaner specifically.

When Should You Use Hot or Cold Water to Clean?

Now that we understand heated water can actually make a difference, it’s time to see where that difference matters. 


Regardless of whether it’s being done by hand, or whether you have a dishwasher at home, it should be quite obvious why heated water works here. Heat expands oils and fats, causing them to loosen their grip on things; this makes it extremely easy to get rid of greasy or oily substances. 

Soaking your dishes in hot, soapy water is arguably the best way to tackle grease and microbes building up. When you do this, the heat has more time to get into the grease and really loosen it up to be washed away. 

Kitchen Cleaning

Most kitchen surface cleaners are chemical-based cleaners. This means you will find a surprising amount of cleaners that have things like bleach in them. As we mentioned earlier, bleach and hot water don’t go together because the heated water can actively prevent the bleach from doing its job. So, for chemical-based cleaners like this, it’s advised to stick to room temperature, or cold water.

With that said, there’s no rule like this for homemade cleaners like vinegar and baking soda. While the heat won’t necessarily help these ingredients work better, the agitated water helps dislodge stains and dirt more easily. 

Bathroom Cleaning

It’s a fair argument that steam helps clean your bathroom by effectively killing germs and loosening grime and stains. For that reason, you will often find professional cleaners and some homeowners, too, using a steamer to help pull all kinds of dirt out of the bathroom. 

Though many people may not have such a luxury, there are ways to do this without a bathroom steamer. The trick is to get a piping hot bath going to ensure the whole room is full of steam, and then carry on with cleaning each surface with cold water and a dedicated cleaner product. 

After you manage to brush or scrub all bathroom surfaces, just rinse away the dirt using room temperature water. Follow this up by turning on the exhaust fan to air the room out, especially if you have used a chemical-based cleaner. 

Floor Cleaning

Most types of floors, whether tile, stone, laminate, etc. will actually benefit from using heated water since, as mentioned earlier, heat can help loosen up the dirt on most surfaces.

With that said, sealed wooden flooring is best cleaned with cold water because hot water will soak into the wood and warp it. To add to this, it is recommended to use pH neutral products for wooden flooring to prevent any kind of damage whatsoever. 


With laundry, the rules aren’t as hard and fast because, depending on the fabric in question, cold or hot temperatures will act differently on it. Keeping in mind how to wash each particular garment in different temperatures might seem like a daunting task, but it’s a lot simpler than it seems.

Thanks to fabric labels, wash care instructions are provided on almost all pieces of cloth, regardless of whether they are clothing or not, thereby making things a lot easier for us. 

The key to this is to locate the symbol on the label that looks like a tub with some dots in it. Those dots, specifically, indicate the temperature one must use to wash the fabric.

These are as follows:

  • One dot indicates an optimum temperature of 90°F/32°C
  • Two dots will indicate 105°F/40°C
  • Three dots indicate 120°F/48°C
  • Four dots indicate 140°F/60°C
  • Five dots indicate 160°F/71°C
  • Six dots indicate 200°F/93°C

While there are some general laundry rules like using cold water when washing wool or silk, and warmer water for fabrics like denim and polyester, the best thing to bear in mind with laundry is that the wash label will provide you with all you need to know to wash that garment right. Sticking to the instructions on the label means you’ll be able to clean your clothing effectively, but also ensure its longevity by not using the wrong temperature of water.


With all of this in mind, it should be fairly easy to understand whether hot water is a viable option to enhance cleaning, or if it’s just going to make things worse. While heated water helps with cleaning most things, there are some situations where it would cause more harm than good, making cold or room temperature water the wiser choice. So, when it comes to cleaning with hot or cold water, knowing the difference truly makes all the difference! 

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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