What are the differences between washing machine programs?

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Inspired by another washing machine post.
I’ve often wondered what the difference is between the washing programs like delicate, lightly dirty, sports clothes, shirts and what not.

I mean, no matter how smart a washing machine is, the only movement i’ve seen one do is spin. Is spinning so important or am i missing something?
What does it do differently?

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4 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

I’m pretty sure it just comes down to how it agitate the clothing. Delicate clothing, i.e. something that you may should wash by hand, but don’t feel like it, is going to be lightly agitated, i.e. either the agitator in the middle, or on the bottom of the drum is going to move very lightly back-and-forth or is not going to do as many cycles. Compared to sports clothing that may have grass and mud stains on them. You want more agitation so the agitator is going to spin faster and go back-and-forth in quicker motions. Newer washing machines that do not have a dedicated agitator that sticks up and down rely on agitation from the bottom of the drum as well as the sides and the other clothing that’s in the machine. There’s usually less water, so there is more friction and contact with the clothing

Anonymous 0 Comments

Different programs have different default settings for each part of the cycle.
> Part 1 — Washing. The machine agitates the clothes in a mixture of water and detergent. Heavy duty cycles typically spin or shake the clothes fast, and delicate cycles do it slowly. Temperature also plays a role here: heavy duty cycles often use hot or warm water (although this can sometimes be adjusted manually).

> Part 2 — Rinse. Delicate cycles usually have one rinse. Heavy duty cycles often do multiple rinses (separated by quick spin cycles). The rinse portion almost always uses cold water.

> Part 3 — Spin. Delicate cycles have shorter spin periods, and the speed of the spin is relatively slow. Heavy duty cycles spin longer and faster.

In addition to these, newer washers can also offer specialty settings, like soak, pre-wash, and sanitize (which just uses steaming hot water).

Anonymous 0 Comments

There is a few settings that can be changed using these presets. Firstly there are different water temperatures, higher temperatures dissolves more dirt and faster but takes more energy and can end up damaging the clothes. It also tumbles the clothes during the wash which also helps clean them but can damage them, for example by creating creases in shirts. There are also rinse cycles at the start to get rid of most of the lose dirt. Most washing machines can also use two different types of soaps. And then of course you have the spin cycle at the end.

I do not know what exactly all the different presets does. But for example sports clothes and some t-shirts use a lot of plastic which start softening up and loosen when exposed to heat. So you can not tumble them while hot. Wool is famously shrunken by hot water but even heavy tumbling can damage it.

Anonymous 0 Comments

AFAIK – the cotton program is special because it’s always longer and sometimes it consists of 2 stages of washing. It’s because cotton is a little harder to wash (the dirt sticks better to it than to synthetics) and it’s a little tougher, so you can use greater temperature and more agitation. In my washing machine synthetic program limits the temperature to 60, that can be too high for some fabrics anyway. My rule of thumb is use 40, max 50 if it’s not very dirty. Using 60 is risky with fabrics other than cotton.

So – basically you have main programs for cotton (hardest, longest, hottest), synthetics (moderate), and delicate (you know, for really delicate stuff). IMPORTANT: delicate program often does not have the final fast spinning part. So after washing the things will be soaked.

Then those programs can be divided into more and less intense, as “very dirty” and “not very dirty”. The difference is mainly in time of the program. If you set “very dirty” it will wash longer. If it’s not very dirty, use the lighter program – it will end quicker.

For cotton – use cotton program or it can be not washed well enough. Especially white things. For the synthetics and sportswear – never use the cotton program or you damage your clothes. The t-shirts will deform. The prints on sportswear will be destroyed. Tiny plastic thinigies damaged.

For mixed things – use synthetic program. Some cotton clothes will probably be washed well enough and you don’t risk damaging other clothes.

Oh, and there’s wool program in some washing machines. Some kinds of wool are very delicate and after washing on sub-optimal settings it becomes rougher and looks worse. I figured out wool program is just really slow and delicate. There’s a catch though. When a sweater is really dirty – the wool program won’t do its job. So it’s your choice – either make the thing a little rougher and uglier, but clean, or… just send it for chemical cleaning.

Most of the time I use the synthetic program for everything, including cotton, for mixed laundry. Every once in a while I wash white cotton things on cotton setting. Once every year I wash “special things” (mostly wool, winter wear) on either wool or synthetic setting. I’d use the wool setting only for new and very fancy things, it’s a waste of time to wash old sweaters or caps like this.