How to get the best out of your washing machine

Are you a ‘set and forget’ person when it comes to your washing machine cycle?

Many of us are just relying on the cycle that covers most eventualities. 

Certainly, it’s a ‘quick coloured cold’ wash almost every day at our house unless it’s the once-a-week load of whites and towels. I’d do a ‘normal’ but on our front loader that’s almost two hours and who can be bothered?

But matching your clothes to the right cycle helps them last longer, so here’s a quick guide to how to make that happen.

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Frankly, this is probably your go-to for most of your clothes. Depending how soiled the clothes are you can run it warm or cold. 

Suitable for everyday fabric such as cotton and natural fabric blends. 

We still separate our clothes into ‘light’ and ‘dark’ loads, but after a few washes with modern dyes and dye setting, it’s unlikely the colours will run, but we have got into the habit. Which brings us to …


This cycle will run cooler to protect the dye in your clothes and usually has an additional rinse cycle to ensure any colour in the water is thoroughly removed.

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This will probably be your hottest wash, so check any labels before you put the soiled item in the machine, you don’t want to shrink someone’s favourite white T-shirt.  

Also, I’d like to issue another public apology to my daughter for shrinking a brand-new white dress in the white’s wash two years ago. She’s still not over it, and neither am I.

Delicates or gentle

This cycle will use the lowest spin speed and cool water. 

Use a gentle wash liquid and only put the minimum in. 

While this cycle can be used on wool, sheer fabrics and silks, always read the labels first and if you are in doubt, leave out. Your delicate clothes are also often your most expensive, so treat them accordingly. 

Bras or items with a lot of embellishment such as sequins or embroidery should always be put into a washbag first.


This is the big hitter of your washing machine for heavily soiled clothes and textiles.

It will use a hot setting, high water level and high spin speeds and often starts with a soak. 

For heavily soiled items, it’s also always a good idea to use an antibacterial rinse such as Canesten if you can. As well as killing bacteria, it can also break the cycle of cross-infection that can occur when you wash clothes all together.


Suitable for just a few lightly soiled clothes. Or in other words, panic washes when you realise your favourite shirt isn’t clean for work tomorrow and you chuck a few more items in to assuage your guilt about wasting water and energy. 

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Rinse and spin

Does exactly what it says, a rinse and a spin.

Ideal for bathers that don’t take too well to washing detergents and for a wash that for whatever reason didn’t finish. 


Generally, a milder version of the normal cycle, so lower temperatures and spin speeds. 

Also, a good option for clothes that wrinkle easily such as work shirts or pants or fabrics such as silk, linen or loosely woven cotton.

And don’t forget to wash your washing machine. Simply scatter some bicarb soda in the drum and pour vinegar into the detergent dispenser and let it rip on a hot, short cycle. 

Are you a set and forget person or do you like to tailor your wash cycle every time you press the start button? Why not share your tips in the comments section below?

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