We spoke with about 30 customers about washing machine habits, and discovered a pattern consistent with our own. We generally dabble with about three settings on our washing machine, and in the spirit of being creatures of habit, we simply ignore the rest.
There’s the ‘most-of-the-time setting’. Commonly ‘Cotton’ or ‘Mix’ ‘Regular’ or ‘Eco’.
There’s the ‘When-you-don’t-want-to-damage-clothes’; ‘Wool and Silks’, ‘Hand Wash’ or ‘Delicate’.
And there’s the ‘When-you’re-in-a-hurry’ appropriately named ‘Express’ or ‘Quick’.
There’s nothing wrong with using these settings, but we question, if there was a more appropriate choice, would you be interested in it? If so, read on.
Four factors interact in any one wash cycle; temperature, agitation, spin and cycle length (including number of rinse cycles).
Hot water aids wash effectiveness, as it opens up the fibres in your fabric - loosening the hold they have on any grime. Hotter temperatures are also most likely to kill bacteria, as bacteria thrives between 4 - 60 degrees.
The downside of hot water is that it uses more energy, and it is much harsher on the fabric (wools and delicates cannot survive temperatures above 40 degrees) It'll cause your darks to fade more quickly, and cottons to wear through far faster than in colder washes.
Much of the wash process depends on friction. The detergent will find the grime on your clothes, but it needs friction to help lift it from the fabric. More friction equals a more rigorous the clean. The downside of friction is that it grates at the little fibres on the outside of your fabrics, wearing them down. If your fibres are delicate, excess friction can be deadly. Protection from friction is the reason wash bags were invented.
Spin is a great function, as well spun clothes will take a far shorter amount of time to dry because they’re wrung out in the machine. But, as with agitation, spin cycles can pull and grate on clothes, so if the fabric isn’t designed to take it, excessive spin speeds’ll ruin your clothes. Also, if you leave fast spun clothes in the machine, they’ll be fairly wrinkly by the time you pull them out.
The cycle length is determined by the combination of above factors, whether or not you’re pre-soaking or adding an extra rinse cycle at the end (great for people who are sensitive to detergent residue) and whether or not you use fabric softener.
There is a fifth factor in determining the best wash settings - the detergent you’re using. We’re going to go ahead and assume that everyone reading this is a smarty-clean pants, already using world’s best detergent Dirt, and spare ourselves the keystrokes.
So, now that we’ve got the foundation, here’s a brief run down on each of the cycles.
👕 Cotton, normal or regular:
Mid temperature (40 or 60), high agitation, fast spin cycle, and long cycle. Great for heavily soiled loads.
🍃Eco-cotton, normal or regular:
Lower temperature and less agitation, to reduce energy consumption. Longer cycle length because increased soaking periods are necessary to get the same ‘clean’.
👖Darks or colours:
Lower temperatures to maintain colour brilliance. Otherwise the same as regular.
Very confusing. Primarily used for synthetic fibres. Has the same temperature and agitation settings as regular cycles (necessary for sports clothes), but a slower spin which ensures they don’t wrinkle.
Longer cycle lengths, low-mid temperature (as not to damage microfibre), regular agitation and spin.
Low temperatures, low agitation, and low, short spin settings. Also has a short cycle length to minimise potential damage. Note: always use a proper delicate detergent on wool’s and delicates - here’s why
A shorter version of ‘Regular'.
💧Rinse and Spin:
Wont take any detergent from the detergent draw. Will simply rinse with medium agitation and spin dry.
Although different machines will have different names and gloss for each of the above cycles, we hope you've learnt something to take away. If you have any other questions related to this, please don't hesitate to send them in - we enjoy the research challenge. For now, as always, happy washing.