Washing machines: Using your washing machine Program guide
Washing machine temperature guide
At the moment this is the lowest possible wash temperature using modern detergents that contain enzymes. Around 20% of Which? readers have already followed the advice of the Energy Saving Trust and switched to washing at this cool temperature.
By washing at 30°C instead of 40°C you can save on bills and help to lower emissions from power stations. For best results, washing machine manufacturers recommend you buy special detergents that work at lower temperatures. Our lab test review reveals the best laundry detergents to use in your machine.
This is the most common wash temperature. It’s suitable for cotton, linen or viscose, acrylics, acetate, wool mixtures and wool/polyester blends – in other words, most everyday items.
This wash is suitable for polyester/cotton mixtures, nylon, cotton and viscose, but with modern detergents most people find 40°C adequate for their needs.
A 60°C wash is good for bed linen, towels and heavily soiled garments such as baby clothes. Many people only do a 60°C wash once a week.
This is the hottest wash program you’ll find on most machines. It’s only suitable for white cottons and linens that show the dirt. The introduction of modern detergents and synthetic fabrics means most people rarely use this program.
Commonly used washing machines programs
Washing machines often have as many as 20 programs for washing, rinsing and spinning. Here’s our guide to the most commonly used ones.
Most washing machines have a useful time-saving quick wash cycle of 50 to 70 minutes. A quick wash is best for clothes that aren’t too dirty; fine for running kits but not for rugby shirts.
A short wash sometimes takes as little as 30 minutes but usually you’ll have to reduce the amount of clothes in a load. Typically a quick program will take between 1kg to 3kg of clothes – roughly the difference between washing two pairs and six pairs of jeans.
In reality, these programs don’t make much difference to the amount of ironing you have to do.
Some machines do reduce creasing by using a slower spin speed on the easy-iron setting. But there isn’t much difference between a load washed on this program and one washed on the standard cycle.
Delicates and woollens program
This is the program for cleaning materials such as silk or wool-mixture clothes, which can bobble on normal programs.
Only items marked as ‘pure new wool’ and ‘washable’, ‘pre-shrunk’ or ‘non-matting’ should be washed using the wool program. You should wash all other types of wool with a handwash program.
This program is for items such as cashmere or angora jumpers and silk garments. Much like the delicates program, it washes more gently than the normal setting, so clothes don’t snag, matt or shrink.
Some washing machines have a special option for clothes that aren’t really dirty but need freshening up. It’s suitable for clothes that smell of smoke or have been in the wardrobe for a while.
However, the freshen-up cycle isn’t really different from setting any machine to the rinse and spin part of the cycle.
Economy wash or half load
This program can be used to reduce running costs by using less water and electricity for smaller wash loads.
If a model doesn’t have an economy wash or half-load option then it might be fitted with a sensor to determine the amount of laundry in the drum instead. The sensor automatically adjusts the amount of water and electricity.
Some Bosch washing machines have a superquick program that washes around four pairs of jeans (2kg of clothes) in 15 minutes. It works well for removing sweat and freshening clothes and is bound to appeal to those with busier lifestyles.
Sportswear manufacturers are always attempting to push the boundaries of fabric technology. This program is designed to wash synthetic sports fabrics in a quicker time, and with reduced risk of creasing.
See our review of washing machines to find the best washing machine for your needs.