Washing Machine Cycles Explained - Clothes Doctor

Washing Machine Cycles Explained

What goes on inside our washing machines is a mystery to most of us, and you might just select the same cycle every time you do a laundry load. However, understanding washing machine cycles, intensities and temperatures is an important step in caring for your clothes, so we've brought you the ultimate guide to de-mystify your machine, and explain what those washing machine cycles actually do - here's washing machine cycles explained! 
Washing Machine Cycles
There are three main factors that differentiate properties of different washing machine cycles; agitation level, spin speed and washing temperature. Obviously, all washing machines are different, so you might have to use some discretion when checking out your machine cycles. However, most machines will have variations of these most common cycles: 
Cotton, Synthetics, Delicates, Quick Wash, Specialist Washes
Cottons: This is useful for durable cotton garments or fabrics that require a high agitation wash, like bed sheets and towels. This usually comes with a high-speed spin setting, which makes it a little harsher on clothes and is why it’s not recommended for more delicate fabrics. 
Synthetics: This cycle provides a medium agitation wash often coupled with a low-speed spin that’s best for synthetic fabrics, such as your favourite acrylic blended jumper or polyester gym wear.
Delicates: This low agitation cycle is ideal for lingerie, hosiery or lace, and the low spin speed makes it suitable for that lacy underwear, or silk blouse.  
Quick Wash: This cycle is perfect for when you need your washing done in less than half an hour, but it only recommended for lightly soiled clothing because the short timespan means deeper set stains may not clean thoroughly. This cycle has a high spin speed, which speeds up the drying process too, and a medium washing temperature (30-40 degrees), but is therefore not recommended for delicate items like silks or underwear. 
It's common for washing machines to have certain other specialist cycles too, for example 'Heavy Duty' or 'Sports Shoe' - these are normally self-explanatory. A 'Heavy Duty' cycle will have a high agitation rate and high spin speed to provide a really powerful wash for your heavy-soiled garments, but the converse of this is that the ferocious wash can, over time, have lasting effects on your clothing. 
Because washing machines can cause wear and tear on your clothing, we recommend you take some caution, especially with your most loved garments. Our latest product launch, our zipped laundry bag, is a great tool to provide some extra protection for your clothing while it's in the machine, especially for those high agitation washes. Furthermore, it collects all the microfibres and plastics shed by your laundry load and prevents them from being washed away and ending up back in our food chain. Simply pop your garments into the bag and machine wash as normal, easy! 
Washing Temperature
On most machines, the washing temperature is one of the easier things to see and control, from cold washes as low as 15°C to washes at up to 90°C. Some washing machine cycles also give you a temperature range for each setting. For example, cotton can range from 40°C to 90°C, and delicates can go from 30°C to 40°C. 
Now, at Clothes Doctor we usually say, the cooler the better! Cold washes are, for the most part, just as affective as warmer washes, whilst being much more energy efficient. Plus, less heat applied to clothing means less wear and tear, and less chance of shrinking or warping the fibres - better for your clothing, your energy bill, and the planet! 
While we usually advise to avoid hot washes, there are some scenarios where it may be necessary. 
Hot Wash (60°C and above): a higher washing temperature is useful for tough stained items or items that contain high levels of bacteria, for example clothes worn by someone who has been ill.
Warm Wash (40°C - 50°C): best for fabrics that have come into contact with bodily oils, like sportswear. Also, more durable, heavier-soiled items can be washed at this temperature, like cottons and synthetics. 
Cool Wash (15°C - 30°C): we recommend this is the temperature you should wash most items, especially delicates, silks and underwear. Washing on cold wash also protects brightly coloured garments from fading and prevents dye transfer.
Our top tip: Always remember to check the garment's care label to see the recommended washing temperature, feel free to wash below that temperature, but not above. To read more about how to best to take care of your fabrics while washing them, out our blog post here
Spin Cycle 

Selecting the right spin speed can be a juggling act between getting dirt out and caring for your clothes. Usually the spin speed is determined by the washing machine cycle you pick, but if you have to set the spin cycle on your machine, or you want to customise your cycle, then the general rule of thumb is:

  • More agitation (e.g. cotton cycles) = better cleaning and stain removal, but less fabric care.
  • Less agitation (e.g. delicates) = better fabric care, but less cleaning and stain removal power.
If you're looking for a more effective way to treat stains, try our Tough Love Stain Removal, the ultimate 'power powder' for any stain you throw at it!
Tah dah! Now you know anything and everything you need to know about washing machine cycles. You're welcome. If you would like to know more about what fabrics can do in the washing machine, check out our blog on what clothes you can machine wash.
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