Washing machine settings explained – What settings or cycles are there?

Washing machines these days have lots of fancy functions and buttons that magically clean your clothes for you at the push of a button. Whilst its nice having all these different washing machine settings, do we need all the options? Do you know how to use any of the options available on your washing machine? And what makes each one different?

Basic types of washing machine cycles

The three standard cycles of all washing machine are:

  • Wash – The main and most important part of the journey. In this stage water enters the machine and travels through the detergent’s tray and then into the washing drum. The water fills up and the machine begins to rotate your clothes back and forth. The back and forth motion of the wash cycle is what does most of the cleaning work with the assistance of the detergent’s. On a “normal” setting this can be quite a firm and would not be best suited for delicate items of clothing.
  • Rinse – The rinse stage is pretty much as it sounds, during this stage the machine empties the soapy water out and adds clean water into the machine to rinse any leftover detergent’s or dirt out of your clothes, the machine rotates for a while to make sure that the clean water circulates enough and removes the dirt. Then finally the water is drained out of the machine.
  • Spin – The spin cycle’s main purpose is to remove more water from your clothes, which makes the drying process a lot easier when your finished washing your clothes.

Water temperatures- hot or cold?

On your washing machine you will see an option for the temperature of the water in your wash. Whilst most machines keep it simple with cold, warm or hot, some machines let you pick the exact temperature you want. But what difference does it make to the wash itself?

Hot setting: A hot wash is more often suited to white clothes as they do not contain dyes that could transfer to other items with heat. Hotter water helps to get those ingrain stains out of heavily soiled clothing. Sounds like a good setting to use but there could be a catch. Some clothes are susceptible to shrinking in hotter water, so make sure you read the labels on the clothing before you wash them.

Warm setting: The warm setting is a mid temerature setting which can be a good all rounder, dark clothes that are heavily stained or soiled would be suited for this setting. being a warm not hot setting the risk of colour running or transfer is lowered. It is always best to check the label of your clothes just to be on the safe side.

Cold setting: The cold setting is a preferred option for most dark clothes but can be used for any clothing, delicate items would do better in a cold wash. the cold wash setting is more suited for clothes that are not to dirty as it does not have the same cleaning potential as a hot or warm wash. For items that do not have cleaning instruction a cold wash is the safest option.

Different types of washing machine settings explained

Not every machine will have all the settings listed below but each machine should have a variant of these settings. With each listed setting I have also given a short description of the setting.

  • Normal setting – A normal wash setting has a fast back and forth washing cycle followed by a fast spin cycle. The normal cycle is generally the default or first option on your machines interface and most commonly used.
  • Permanent press – The permanent press setting has a fast wash cycle and a slower spin suited for synthetic clothes. The fast wash helps to remove any stains or odors and the slow spin helps to prevent wrinkles or creases in your clothes.
  • Delicate – The delicate setting consists of a slow wash speed and a slow spin speed. This setting is suited for items that may have sequins on them or thin material that needs to be cared for gently. Some machines do not use the spin cycle at all on a delicate setting.
  • Quick wash – A quick wash setting is as it sounds and suited for items that are not so dirty, to make this setting faster than the normal setting a few minutes are shaved from the wash cycle and the spin cycle is normally faster.
  • Pre soak – A pre-soak setting is an extra cycle in the process of washing your clothes. Water enters the machine ready for the wash cycle but once full the machine then holds the clothes in the water for a chosen period of time before commencing the actual wash phase. In some machines the load is agitated every few minutes to ensure the detergents reach all items in the wash. Pre-soak setting is generally used for heavily soiled clothes or stain removal.
  • Sanitize – The sanitize setting uses the hottest water temperature available to deep clean your clothes and remove any stains and oddours. This settin would be suited for heavily soiled clothes. Wash and spin speeds are the same as a normal wash.
  • Steam setting – The steam setting is not so much a washing cycle but more of a quick refresh setting that can remove wrinkles from your clothing and slightly freshen them up ready to be reused. this setting would not be suited for getting heavier stains out.

Do you need all of these settings?

It would seem there are lots of different settings available to wash your clothes, but how many do you actually need? This would really depend on your personal circumstances.

If you work a dirty job and your clothes are subject to mass staining or large amounts of sweat, then you may need a machine that offers a sanitize setting. If you perhaps work in an airconditioned office building where you are unlikley to get dirty you might not require a machine that could sanitize your clothes.

Whilst it is always nice to have the option and not need it, chances are you will have to pay more for the extra options. So think if you need it before you buy a machine with fancy extra functions

If in doubt read the label!

Whilst i have listed some details about what setting does what on your washing machine, not all machines are the same. Make sure you read your user manual for model specific information. Make sure you read the labels on your clothing before you wash them.