Is it OK to Wash Whites & Colors Together in the Laundry?

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

We all love shortcuts — especially when they involve saving time doing repetitive, not-fun chores that we can’t escape …like, uhh, laundry.

With the more recent advent of washing machines and detergents that are said to wash clothes just as well with cold water as with warm or hot, the suggestion to flout convention and forego separating seems to be gaining popularity. Here’s why we say no to combo laundry loads and yes to doing laundry the way your mother taught you.

Whites should be washed in hot water

If new fangled detergents work “just as well” in cold water, this still doesn’t address two compelling reasons to wash your whites in hot water. First, dirt tends to redeposit on clothing that isn’t washed in hot water, and this shows on your whites, making them dingy — fast. Second, many whites are under garments, which should be washed in hot water for sanitary purposes. (Using bleach for sanitizing would require color separation as well.)

Darks should be washed in cold water

Attempting to wash unseparated clothing on hot so that you get your whites sufficiently clean and then guarding against color bleeding with a product like Shout Color Catcher seems to make sense at first. But this route will eventually leave your colors faded. Cold water keeps colors from bleeding by helping the dye stay where it should — in your colorful clothes.

There are other reasons besides color to separate clothes

Another reason not to toss all types of clothing in one load is that different types of clothes interact with each other in ways that could prevent your clothes from getting clean or that could harm more delicate items. For instance, washing heavy items like jeans with delicate thin cotton tops could create friction for the more delicate clothing that will ruin it, if not at first, over time.

Taking the time to do your laundry properly — that is, separating your clothing by color and type — ensures that your clothes are as clean as they should be and stay in their best shape for as long as possible. Ultimately, this saves you both money and time.