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How to Use Your Washing Machine: A Comprehensive Guide

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I have put together a comprehensive guide on how to use your washing machine.

You should use this article as a hub for learning about washing your clothes. I have written short summaries on how everything works, but I encourage you to watch the videos or click onwards to the linked articles to dive into more details on how each of the steps, settings, and programs work.

How to Load Your Washing Machine

Let’s start by loading cleaning products and clothes into your washer.

The Tree Slots in Washing Machines

What are the 3 Slots in Washing Machines? Detailed Explanation

One slot in your washing machine is for regular detergent, one is for pre-wash detergent, and one is for fabric softener.

Each dispenses at a different time of the washing process, affecting how the clothes react to them. The three slots are also set to release differently. 

Check out my full article for more details.

How To Add Detergent to Washer

You should add your detergent to your washer before the clothes go in if you have a front-loading washing machine.

If your washing machine is top-loading, you can add your detergent after the clothes are put in the drum. 

How to Add Fabric Softener to Washer

Here’s how to add fabric softener to the washer in three steps:

  1. Sort the clothes.
  2. Measure the correct amount of fabric softener for your load.
  3. Add the fabric softener to the washer at the appropriate time.

More Cleaning Products

There are a lot more cleaning products that you can use to wash your laundry. But I suggest you familiarize yourself with detergent and fabric softener first.

Once you’re ready, tap here to scroll down to the section where you can learn more about other cleaning products.

How to Sort Your Clothes

To sort clothes, you want to separate them depending on a few different factors:

First, separate the colors: Whites, brights, and darker colors are the three categories you want to aim for ideally. You can skip over the brights and just go for whites and colored if you want to do less loads of laundry.

Next, separate the delicate garments from the more sturdy and soiled ones. These needs to be done in separate loads as the delicates can’t handle as much agitation as the other clothes.

Learn more details over here.

How Many Clothes to Put in Your Washer

How Many Clothes to Put in Your Washing Machine

The capacity of the washer refers to how many clothes you can put in the tub in a single load without impacting the washing quality or performance.

The following chart illustrates this perfectly.

Washer CapacityNumber and Type of Clothes
5 KG (small)12 T-shirts, or 3 shirts and one pair of pants, or 6 towels
5.5 KG (small)16 T-shirts, or 4 shirts and one pair of pants, or 8 towels
6 KG (small)20 T-shirts, or 5 shirts and two pairs of pants, or 10 towels
6.5 KG (Medium)24 T-shirts, or 6 shirts and two pairs of pants, or 12 towels
7 KG (Medium)28 T-shirts, or 7 shirts and three pairs of pants, or one double duvet
8 KG (Medium)32 T-shirts, or 8 shirts and three pairs of jeans, or 2 bedsheets and 4 towels
10 KG (Large)40 T-shirts, or 5 shirts and two pairs of jeans and two towels, or 3 bedsheets, 3 towels, and 6 pillowcases
12 KG (Extra Large)50 T-shirts, or 7 shirts, 3 pairs of jeans and 3 towels, or 5 bedsheets, 4 towels, and 8 pillowcases
Table from my guide on loading your washing machine.

Settings and Functions

How to Use Your Washing Machine (All Programs and Settings Explained)
Here’s a full video I made that covers all the most important settings and programs on your washing machine.

In this section you will learn about all the different settings and functions of your washing machine.

Which settings there are on your washer is going to vary widely depending on brand, model, age, and production year.

So if your washer doesn’t have a particular setting, there is no cause for alarm. Just move on and find something similar, or skip over it altogether.

Water Temperature Setting

A Complete Guide to Washing Machine Temperatures

Here’s a basic guide to what temperature to wash clothes at based on their type.

TemperatureSettingClothes Type
130 degrees Fahrenheit or 55 degrees Celsius or higherHotHeavily soiled clothing, fabrics that need to be disinfected
60-80 degrees Fahrenheit or 16-27 degrees CelsiusColdBrightly colored clothing, delicate clothing, clothing susceptible to shrinking (i.e., wool), rinsing all clothes
90-110 degrees Fahrenheit or 32-43 degrees Celsius WarmAll other fabrics

Of course, it can be slightly more complicated than this, which is why I’ve written a complete guide for you to follow.

Pros and Cons of Washing With Cold Water

Washing in cold water can help you save money on energy bills, be more gentle on your delicate fabrics, and positively impact the environment.

However, cold water might not be the best choice if you wash clothing that needs to be sanitized rather than just cleaned, such as scrubs or reusable diapers. 

More on pros and cons of washing with hot water here.

Spin Cycle Speed

Spin Cycle Speed on Washers: What's the best speed?

The spin cycle of the washer dryer forces moisture out of the laundry to render it as dry or close to dry as possible.

The spin cycle speed determines how fast and efficiently the machine will get the laundry dry. But a high speed isn’t always a good thing, especially with delicate and sensitive fabrics.

Many machines have an anti-crease feature to prevent wrinkles.

More about spin cycles here.

Pre Wash Setting

Mastering Pre-Wash (Laundry Supercharge!)

Prewash in a washing machine is a short, cold water wash cycle that you run before the regular process. It’s for excessively soiled items or those with a care label that recommends prewashing.

The prewash loosens dirt and stains and gives your clothes an initial wash before the regular cycle starts.

More about pre wash here.

Extra Rinse Setting

Mastering Extra Rinse (Laundry Pro Tips)

The extra rinse cycle is a setting in the washer that allows you to give the laundry more time in clean water to get rid of all traces of the laundry detergent.

It can be necessary with certain types of laundry, such as towels, bed sheets, and denim fabrics. People with sensitive skin will need the extra rinse cycle to ensure that the laundry is detergent-free.

Quoted from my article on extra rinse.

Soil Level Setting

Soil Level on Washers: What is Best for Your Clothes?

The washer has different soil level settings to help you get your laundry cleaned while conserving energy and water consumption.

The three common soil level settings are Light, Normal, and Heavy. Each soil level has different water, energy, temperature, and duration settings.

Quoted from my full guide on using soil levels.

Soak Setting

Soak Setting on Washers: When and How to Use It

The soak setting on your washing machine is a setting that allows you to fill the tub with water and let it sit. This is great because you can use your washing machine to pre-soak clothes instead of putting them in a basin or bucket to pre-soak.

This setting is best to use on top-loaders, but it will work on a lot of front-loaders too. Just keep in mind that on front-loaders, there isn’t much room to soak compared to top-loaders.

Drain Program/Setting

What's the Drain Setting on Washers? (And when to use it)

The drain program removes water from the washing machine tub into the drain.

The drain mechanism involves the washer pump pushing out the water via the drain hose before it starts to refill in readiness for the rinsing cycle. 

More on how to use the drain setting here.

Delay Setting

Delay Start on Washers: Perfect if you like to plan ahead

The delay on the washer is a feature that allows you to delay the start of the washing process according to your needs. Many washers let you delay the washing by anything from one hour to 24 hours.

If you know the exact time when you’ll be free to take out the laundry, then load the washer and set it to start one or two hours before the time you’re free.

More on using the delay function.

Key Lock/Child Lock Setting

Key Lock on Washers: How to use it (Aka Child Lock)

Key lock is a washing machine functionality intended to protect the washing machine and the users during its operation. 

This symbol can take various forms depending on the washer model. But generally, it appears as a key lock or CL letters when it is activated.

Learn more about how to use it here.

Washing Machine Programs Explained

Below you can find all the most popular washing machine programs. I have written up detailed guides and made videos for most of them so that you can dive further into the ones that interest you the most.

Like the section above, which programs you have available is going to vary widely from washer to washer, but generally you will be able to find something that works for what you need on every machine.

Normal Program

The "Normal" Washer Program;: When and how to use it

The normal cycle on washing machines often refers to the cycle you use for everyday washing.

  • It uses fast agitation and moderate water temperatures between 120 and 140 degrees F.
  • It’s best suited for cotton and blended fabrics with medium soil.
  • The cycle averages 90 minutes to finish.

Learn more about the normal cycle. Sometimes it is also called regular, cotton, or Daily 60.

Quick Wash Program

Quick Wash: A Fast and Underused Washer Program

A quick wash setting often takes considerably less time to finish than other cycles. It also requires less laundry detergent and less water.

When you have a slightly dirty load of laundry, then you would want to use the quick wash cycle to save on water, energy, and detergent. It also protects the fabrics from unnecessary long exposure to the chemicals in the detergent.

Learn more about quick was here.

Heavy Duty Program

Heavy Duty Cycle On Washing Machines Explained (The most intense setting of them all!)

The heavy-duty program in the washer is reserved for heavily-stained clothes, sturdy fabrics, and activewear outfits. It provides more water agitation, longer washing time, and the highest water temperature.

This setting is suited for people who lead an active lifestyle or work in hazardous or unclean environments.

More on how to use the heavy duty setting.

Cotton Eco Program

Cotton Eco on Washing Machines: Better Than Regular Cotton?

As the name suggests, the cotton eco program is designed to optimize the usage of the main requirements in washing in the most ecological possible way. 

With this wash mode, washing machines use less water and power, contributing to the conservation of natural resources for a greener world.

Quoted from my article on the cotton eco setting.

Economy Program

Why Economy Wash Saves Money on Washers (How to save more)

Economy wash in your washer is a setting that addresses the problem of high water and energy consumption while still delivering good results.

It doesn’t use high temperatures, which saves electricity. And while it may take longer time to finish than other modes, it does a good job conserving water as well.

Tap here for my full guide on economy wash.

Bulky Program

Bulky Setting: The Ultimate Washer Program for Big Items

The bulky setting on washers is for bulky items that take up space and cannot be washed in the same load as other clothes.

These bulky items include blankets, towels, quilts, comforters, bath mats, and sleeping cases. The bulky setting uses more water and gentler spinning than other cycles.

Quoted from my article on the bulky setting.

Delicate Program

Mastering the Delicate Program (Washing Machine Setting)

The delicate wash is one of the gentlest cycles on the washer. It uses gentle agitation, low spin speed, and regular water temperatures to get delicate clothes washed in a short time.

It also conserves water and energy, which reduces utility bills.

Quoted from my article on delicate wash.

Hand Wash Program

Hand Wash Cycle on Washing Machines (Safe to use on delicates?)

Hand wash is a feature in modern washing machines designed for washing clothes with a hand-wash-only label. Due to their delicate nature, these clothes are not compatible with washing in the standard cycles. 

The most common clothes include ones made of fabrics such as wool, cashmere, silk, and chiffon, among others.

Quoted from my article on the hand wash cycle.

Synthetics Program

Synthetics Program on Washers (How to use it properly)

Your synthetic wash is a program in many washers for synthetic fabrics such as polyester, rayon, nylon, and acrylic.

These fabrics are thin, repel moisture and stains, and don’t require a lot of agitation or spinning to get them cleaned up in the washer. 

Quoted from my article on the synthetics cycle.

Wrinkle Control Programs

Permanent Press on Washers (No more creases?)

The wrinkle control or permanent press is a feature in some washers that prevents wrinkled laundry during the washing cycle.

With the help of alternating warm and cold water and in the drying cycle with controlled spinning, reverse spinning, and intervals of rest between spinning.

More on wrinke control here. This cycle is sometimes also called either anti-crease, easy iron, or perm-press.

Rinse Hold Program

Mastering Rinse Hold: Laundry Pro Tips

Rinse hold is designed to pause the program and hold the clothes before draining the final rinse water.

This stops the clothes from wrinkling if left in a dry washer drum. Usually, an indicator will be on when the setting is in progress.

More on rinse hold here.

Rinse and Spin Program

Washing Machine's Rinse and Spin Explained (When to use it)

Rinse and spin is as straightforward as it sounds; rinse the load and spin it. It is not envisaged to be a deep-cleaning cycle, so no detergent is required. 

Water flows into the drum, and clothes are agitated to rinse before they are spun at high speeds to remove a large part of the moisture to make the drying process easier.

Learn more about rinse and spin here.

Sports Wash Program

How to Wash Sports Clothes (Step-By-Step)

The Sports Wash Setting on your washer is shorter and uses cold water to protect synthetic fabrics.

Investing in a washer with a sports wash or outdoor setting might be a great idea if you’re highly active or have children in sports. 

Learn more about washing sports clothes here

Whites Program

How to Wash White Clothes (Step-by-step)

The whites cycle is usually long and strong, much like the heavy duty cycle. This allows it to remove stains more effectively.

This setting can also release bleach at the right time during the cycle in order to whiten fabrics. You shouldn’t use bleach every time you wash white clothes, but if you’re trying to get rid of a stubborn stain, this is a handy feature.

More on how to wash your whites here.

Baby Program

How to Wash Baby Clothes (Step-by-step)

The baby cycle on washing machines is an extended hot water cycle that’s gentle on baby clothing but effectively removes bacteria.

It rinses the laundry several times to ensure that all traces of detergent that can irritate a baby’s sensitive skin are removed. 

Full article on the baby cycle.

Casual Program

What's the Casual Cycle on Your Washer? Here's how it works

The Casual cycle is a short cycle that conserves water and energy consumption.

It’s the ideal setting for lightly soiled office wear, synthetics, casual wear, and knitwear. The cycle doesn’t put much strain on the clothes and uses warm water and slow-speed spinning.

You can learn more about the casual cycle here.

Mixed Load Program

Mixed Load: The Ultimate Washing Machine Program?

The mixed load setting on a washing machine is a wash cycle that cleans multiple fabric types in a single load.

It can wash several common durable materials (i.e., cotton, linen, polyester, denim, etc.) together without causing damage. However, you should avoid using delicate garments on this cycle.

More on Mixed Load here.

Color Program

Colors Program on Your Washer: Is it really worth using?

The Color program on washers should be used when washing colored or dark clothes that are more likely to bleed dye into the rest of the clothes and fade after every cycle.

This setting ensures that the rinsing water is cold and the spin speed is low to minimize the chances of the dye bleeding. 

Learn more about the color setting here.

Air Dry Program

Air Dry Setting on Washing Machines: Better Than Spin Dry?

The air dry in the washing machine is a function where vents within the drum run warm air over wet clothes during the spin cycle. As the drum rotates, it wrings excess water from the clothes.

Meanwhile, the vents draw warm air from the surroundings and dry the clothes without heat. 

More on air dry here.

Tub Clean Program

Tub Clean Program: How to use it properly

Many washers have simplified the task of cleaning the drum by including a tub clean setting on the panel. This setting allows you to clean the drum thoroughly with a push of one button. 

Here is how to use it properly.

Ready-to-Wear Program

Ready-to-Wear Program on Washer-Dryers: All you need to know

Ready to wear is a quick wash-and-dry program for small wash loads. It is specifically designed for lightweight synthetics averaging 1kg or less.

The cycle is designed to take less time and therefore takes up minimal energy and water requirements as well.

Learn more about the ready to wear setting here.

Anti Stain Program

Anti-Stain Setting on Washing Machines: Here's how it works

This program was created to balance the variables used in washing to ensure success in stain removal in one wash cycle. These critical elements include water, detergent, temperature, and drum rotations.

You will generally only find this setting in some modern washing machines.

Learn more about the anti-stain setting here.

Steam Programs

The steam programs can generally be found on a little more costly washing machine models. They have some great advantages but are not at all essential to wash your clothes.

I have separated them from the section with the other programs for navigation’s sake.

Steam Wash on Your Washer: How it works and when to use it

Steam Wash Program

Steam wash is a unique feature in some advanced washers. It brings the water to boiling temperatures and then launches jets of steam on the laundry.

This steam kills germs and fungi in the laundry and the tub, keeps the clothes wrinkle-free, and makes drying faster and easier.

Check out my article on steam wash here.

Freshen-Up Program

Freshen-Up: An Underrated Washing Machine Program

The freshen-up cycle is a quick cycle for clothes that are not soiled but might have an off smell or slight odors.

You can also use this setting for clothes that have been stored for a while and might look clean but need to be freshened up. This cycle is similar to the quick cycle and would finish within 15 minutes.

More about the freshen-up setting here.

Sanitize Program

Sanitizing Programs on Washers: Here's how they work

The sanitize cycle on your washer behaves as advertised. It uses steam or hot water to kill the laundry’s germs, allergens, dander, and parasites.

Although it’s not for everyone, some, like healthcare workers and those exposed to all kinds of bacteria at work, will benefit from the sanitize cycle.

Quoted from my Sanitize Cycle article. Sometimes this cycle is also called hygiene or allergy care.

Cleaning Products

There are a lot of cleaning products available for your laundry.

Depending on your needs, you can mix them with laundry detergent, or use them separately.

Oxygen-Based Bleach

How to Use Oxygen Bleach In Your Washer (Step-by-step guide)

One of my favorite laundry detergent products is oxygen-based bleach. Compared to “regular” chlorine this bleach is a lot easier to work with.

You can soak garments in this, or even mix it with regular detergent when you’re washing your clothes.

Enzyme Laundry Detergents

Enzyme detergents are all laundry agents containing naturally occurring catalyzers, also known as enzymes.

When added to detergents, the enzyme increases the reaction between soil and the washing solution.

This enables the breakdown of soil into tiny bits that can be easily cleared during normal laundry.

You can head over here to learn more about this awesome kind of detergent.

How Long It Takes To Do Laundry

Laundry takes about 30 minutes to over an hour, assuming you use a normal wash cycle.

The actual time varies depending on factors like the wash cycle you use, the amount of laundry, how dirty the laundry is, and the washer’s condition. You also need to account for pre-wash and drying times.

Quoted from my comprehensive article on how long it takes to do laundry.

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