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Is soft white like warm white?

When it comes to light bulb color, there are many options to choose from. Two of the most popular categories are soft white and warm white bulbs. But what exactly is the difference between the two? And is soft white the same as warm white when it comes to light quality and color temperature?

The Difference Between Soft White and Warm White

Soft white bulbs and warm white bulbs are both meant to provide a cozy, inviting glow, reminiscent of natural incandescent light. However, there are some key differences between the two:

  • Color temperature: Soft white bulbs have a color temperature of 2700K to 3000K, while warm white bulbs range from 3000K to 3500K. This means warm white bulbs have a slightly higher color temperature, resulting in a more yellowish light compared to the whiter soft white.
  • Use: Soft white bulbs are popular for general everyday use in homes, as they provide a nice balance between the yellowness of warm white and the whiteness of cooler bulbs. Warm white bulbs are commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms where people want a cozier ambiance.
  • Energy efficiency: Warm white bulbs tend to be less energy efficient than equivalently bright soft white bulbs. This is because more efficient phosphors can be used to make 2700K soft white than 3000K+ warm white.
  • Brightness: For a given wattage, soft white bulbs often appear brighter than warm white. Warm white sacrifices a small amount of brightness for its more yellow/orange light.

Comparing Soft White vs Warm White Bulbs

Here is a detailed comparison of soft white and warm white bulbs across a few key factors:

Factor Soft White Bulb Warm White Bulb
Color Temperature 2700K – 3000K 3000K – 3500K
Light Appearance Slightly yellowish white Yellowish white, more yellow than soft white
Use Cases General purpose lighting Bathrooms, kitchens, accent lighting
Energy Efficiency More efficent Less efficent than soft white
Brightness Brighter Less bright than soft white

As you can see, soft white and warm white bulbs differ primarily in their color temperature and appearance, with warm white featuring more yellow/orange tones. Soft white is more versatile and brighter, while warm white creates a cozier ambiance.

Comparing Soft White and Warm White with Natural Light

It can also help to compare soft white and warm white bulbs to natural daylight. Here is how the color temperature and appearance compares:

Light Source Color Temperature Appearance
Soft White Bulb 2700K – 3000K Slightly yellowish white
Warm White Bulb 3000K – 3500K More yellowish white
Sunlight 5000K – 5500K Crisp, natural white
Candle Flame 1900K Yellowish orange

As you can see, soft white is closer to natural daylight while warm white begins taking on more orange/yellow hues. If you want lighting that closely aligns with the crisp bright white of sunlight, a soft white bulb is the better choice.

Choosing Between Soft White and Warm White

So when should you choose soft white bulbs or warm white bulbs for your lighting needs? Here are some general guidelines:

  • Soft white: This is the most versatile option suitable for nearly all general lighting needs. Choose soft white for rooms where you want a light appearance close to natural daylight.
  • Warm white: Go with warm white bulbs for bedrooms, living rooms, and other areas where you want a cozier, more relaxing feel. The yellow tones are soothing and work well as accent lighting.
  • Try both: Install soft white in fixtures where you need maximum brightness and visibility. Use warm white bulbs in table lamps, pendant lights, or other fixtures where you want a warmer ambiance.
  • Match existing bulbs: For consistency, match the existing color temperature of other bulbs in the space. This ensures all lighting fits together visually.

Beyond color temperature, also pay attention to lumens (brightness), bulb shape, dimmable capabilities, and smart features when selecting new bulbs.

Differences in Soft White from Different Brands

Keep in mind that the exact light appearance of soft white bulbs can vary somewhat between different lighting brands. This is because 2700K to 3000K leaves room for interpretation. Here are some of the differences you may notice:

Brand Soft White Appearance
GE Slightly whiter
Philips More yellow, almost warm white
Cree Clean, balanced white
Ecobulb Slight yellow tint
Sylvania Hint of pink, cooler tone

Some brands like GE skew closer to natural daylight in their soft white bulbs, while others like Philips have a more yellow warm white look. Test out a few brands to see which soft white temperature you prefer.

Differences in Warm White from Different Brands

Similar to soft white bulbs, warm white bulbs in the 3000K to 3500K range can appear a bit different depending on the brand. Here are some of the key differences:

Brand Warm White Appearance
GE Slight yellow tint
Philips Yellowish white
Cree Bright warm tone
Ecobulb Orange/yellow hue
Sylvania Yellowish with a hint of red

As you can see, warm white spans the range from slightly yellow to almost orange hues, depending on the specific bulb. Test out a few warm white bulbs to find the tone you prefer before installing throughout your home.

Soft White vs Warm White: Which is Better?

When it comes to deciding if soft white or warm white is better, there is no universally right choice. It depends on your specific needs and preferences. Here are some factors to help you choose between them:

  • Do you prefer a brighter, whiter light or a cozier ambiance? Soft white is closer to natural daylight while warm white has a more relaxing, vintage feel.
  • What color temperature do you have installed currently? Sticking close to what you already have will provide visual consistency. Make gradual changes rather than drastic ones.
  • What is the use of the room? Soft white works well for task lighting and visual clarity. Warm white adds a nice accent glow for living spaces.
  • Do energy costs matter? Soft white is typically more energy efficient for a given brightness than warm white.
  • Do you like variety? Install soft white in work areas and warm white in relaxing spaces for the best of both worlds.

There is no right or wrong when choosing between soft white and warm white bulbs. Take your individual needs and preferences into account, and you can create the perfect lighting environment for your home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is soft white the same as warm white?

No, soft white and warm white bulbs are not the same. Soft white bulbs have a color temperature of 2700K-3000K while warm white is typically 3000K-3500K. So while there is some overlap around 3000K, warm white bulbs produce a more yellow, orange-toned light compared to the whiter soft white.

Can you mix soft white and warm white bulbs?

Yes, you can mix soft white and warm white bulbs in the same fixture or room. This allows you to get the benefits of both. For example, use warmer bulbs for accent lighting and soft white in places where you need more visibility. The slight difference in tones is generally not too noticeable.

Which is better for bathrooms: soft white or warm white?

Warm white is generally preferred for bathrooms because it provides a soft, relaxing glow that works well with the warm tones of tiles, wood cabinets, etc. The yellow tone is welcoming and cozy. Soft white can feel a bit stark and clinical in a bathroom.

Is warm white good for reading?

Warm white can work well for reading lamps and bedroom lights. The warm yellow/orange tone provides enough light to read comfortably without straining your eyes. It also feels cozy and relaxing. Soft white is also suitable, though some may prefer the extra warmth of a warm white bulb.

Does soft white help with depression?

Some research indicates that soft white lighting can help improve moods and reduce feelings of depression. The light from soft white bulbs is brighter and whiter, closer to natural daylight. This can help regulate circadian rhythms and serotonin levels which influence mood.


Soft white and warm white bulbs have distinct differences in their color temperature and appearance. Soft white offers a bright, natural white light while warm white gives off cozier sunset-like vibes. Choose soft white bulbs for versatility, energy efficiency and visibility. Opt for warm white in places where you want a touch of vibrance and warmth. With their complementary characteristics, soft white and warm white bulbs can work together beautifully to create the perfect ambiance in any home.