Advice Guide

Washing machine jargon buster

by Adrian Porter Back to advice guides

There's a lot of jargon out there - so use this handy washing machine glossary to make sense of it all.

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A

Anchor bolts

Also known as transit bolts, are used to secure the drum in place during transport of the washing machine. Remember to store your transit bolts from your washing machine, in case you move house in the future.

Anti-crease

The anti-crease phase, more commonly found on tumble dryers, rotate the drum periodically after the wash cycle has finished to help prevent creases from forming in the damp clothes. The door to the washing machine can be opened at any time during the anti-crease phase for clothes removal.

Aperture

A term sometimes used to describe the opening into the drum eg the aperture is very wide, making it easy to load large items, such as bed sheets, into the drum.

Automatic dosing

Washing machines with automatic dosing units will determine how much detergent is needed to wash your clothes and add it automatically, from a reservoir you filled earlier.

B

Baby care

A wash program that's often quite intensive and is followed by several rinses to try and make sure as much detergent is removed from the clothes as possible.

Bedding

A wash cycle for washing large items such as bed sheets.

Brushless motor (also - inverter motors)

Several manufacturers use brushless motors, these have been designed to be quieter and more robust than conventional motors.

Built-in

Built-in is another phrase for 'integrated' washing machines. These type of washing machines are the type that you can build into your kitchen and are covered by an exterior door, to which you attach a furniture panel - so it looks like any other cupboard.

Buzzer

Some washing machines have a buzzer (or jingle) that sounds at the end of a cycle to signal the end of the wash has been reached. If the buzzer on your washing machine is fraying nerves at home, check your instruction manual or call the manufacturer's helpline - there is normally a way to turn it off.

C

Capacity

The capacity is a measure, in kilos, of how many dry clothes can be fit into the drum. Typically only the cotton washing programs are able to wash the drum's maximum capacity of clothes, while other programs handle a reduced load. An example of a kilo of clothes include four men's cotton shirts, or one shirt and a pair of men's jeans.

Care labels

These are the labels you find on the inside of your clothes, which instruct how best to wash/dry/iron the garment. For help on what the symbols mean, see our washing symbols guide.

Child lock

There are two types of child locks on washing machines. The most common type disables the controls on the control panel, which will stop children from being able to change the settings while you are not looking, or start a program. The second type is a device that stops the door from being closed, so your kids won't be able to 'accidentally' trap items such as toys, your valuables, or the cat, in the drum.

Cold fill

Almost all washing machines available in the UK are cold-fill models. This means that you only connect the machine to a cold water valve, and the water is heated inside the machine prior to washing.

Control panel

The control panel is the strip along the top of the machine with all the control dials, buttons and displays.

Cotton capacity

Often referred to in Which? washing machine reviews, the cotton capacity is the maximum amount of laundry the washing machine can clean using the cotton wash programs. Cotton programs typically allow the entire drum to be completely filled, while other programs are designed to wash a smaller load.

Curtains

A tailored wash program for washing curtains. You may be able to use the delicate wash program instead if your washing machine does not have this program, and your curtains are machine washable.

D

Delay start

This function allows you to postpone the start of your wash cycle, so you can program the washing machine to start later that day.

Delicates

A program suitable for washing mixed fabric, delicate items such as those made from rayon, acrylics, viscose and other synthetics fibres. May be suitable to wash curtains/net curtains using this program - if they are specified as machine washable - see your instruction manual to see what your machine is suited to wash. (Alternatively, your washing machine may have a special program just for washing curtains).

Detergent compartment

The individual compartments within the detergent drawer. Design changes between different models, but typically the compartment on the left is for the pre-wash cycle and marked as 'I', the middle compartment is for the detergent to add to the main wash (this is the drawer you'll use most often) and marked as 'II' and the detergent on the right is for softener (and other additives such as starch), and is marked with a flower symbol. Some washing machines will have a flap in the 'II' compartment to switch between using powder and liquid detergent.

Door seal

The rubber section around the opening of the drum. Make sure to wipe the seal occasionally after use to help prevent the build-up of mould.

Drain filter

The filter should catch fluff from the washing as well as objects such as coins that you've unknowingly laundered. The filter is typically found near the bottom of the machine, behind an access flap. In some cases, you may find the drain filter is accessed via the drum itself.

Drum

The metal drum where clothes are washed. Many manufacturers have patented styles of drums - such as Miele's Honeycomb drum, which has a hexagonal pattern that is designed to stop clothes from sticking to the side of the drum.

Drum bearings

When drum bearings are in good condition, the drum should turn smoothly. But if your washing machine is making a loud noise, open the door and try rotating the drum by hand - if you encounter resistance, or you notice the metal drum is out of line with the rubber seal, it's possible that your drum bearings have worn down and need replacing. Replacing the bearings (there are usually two - one outside the main drum and one within the assembly) will require a professional, see Which? Local to find an engineer in your area.

Drum paddle

The plastic paddles within a washing machine's drum, that help rotate the laundry during the wash phase.

E

Easy iron

An Easy Iron program should help to prevent creases from forming in clothes, typically by lowering the spin speed or shortening the spin cycle. Some washing machines will have an easy-iron setting that alters other programs, as opposed to being a standalone program.

Easy-care

The easy care program is another name for the synthetics program, and is suitable to wash non-cotton garments such as clothes made from polyester and viscose. Which? tests the 40°C synthetic cycle as part of our washing machine testing, as it is one of the most popularly used programs among Which? members.

Eco-mode

Eco-mode is not a program - but a function you can select to alter other programs on your machine. For instance, if you choose a 40°C cotton cycle, and then activate the eco-mode, the washing cycle should become more energy efficient. However, the drawback is that the program will typically take longer to complete. See also: Speed mode

Elbow 

The elbow is the horse-shoe shaped bit of plastic that you need to thread your waste hose through.

End delay

Similar to delay start. The end-delay function allows you to tell the machine when you want the cycle to finish eg you could program the machine to have your clothes ready in six hours from pressing the start button.

Energy cost

Separate to the Energy label, Which? calculates how much a washing machine will add to your annual bills. We base our estimates on the 40°C cotton program, as if it were run four times a week, every week, for a year. We have found several examples of an A+ machine being cheaper to run than an A+++ machine, as the Energy label is worked out differently. You'll find the Energy cost for each machine we've tested, in the Technical Specifications section of each review.

EU energy label

The EU Energy label shows the official energy rating for that washing machine. The current ratings are A+++ (the most efficient), A++, A+ and A (the least efficient). We test washing machines differently to the EU energy label, basing our costs completely on the 40°C cotton program - and have found A+ machines that cost less to run than an A+++ machine.

Express option/program

See - Quick wash

Extended warranty

Most washing machines come with a one or two year manufacturer warranty. But some appliances/manufacturers can come with extended warranties, either for free or at a cost, that increases the length of time that the washing machine is covered. If you've paid for an extended warranty but have decided you do not need it - you may be able to get your money back: see our guide on canceling an extended warranty.

Extra rinse

An extra-rinse function allows you to add an extra rinse, or set of extra rinses, to the end of a washing program. The extra rinse should help wash out more excess detergent, so could be of use to those with sensitive skin.

F

Feet

Washing machines have four feet underneath the model, which you can adjust to different heights to level the machine. It is important to make sure the machine is leveled when installing your washing machine to stop it from rocking around. For more help on this, or if you find your washing machines is rocking around quite a bit, see our video on how to fix a loud washing machine.

Freestanding

If a washing machine has been built into your cupboard, it's an integrated model. If the washing machine stands uncovered, as most do, it's a freestanding model. Freestanding models tend to have a large range of capacities and features compared with most integrated models, and some come in different colours.

Frontloading

Most washing machines in the UK are frontloading models - as you put your clothes into the drum via a door on the front of the machine. The alternative is a top-loading washing machine, which will have you add clothes via a lid on top of the model.

H

Hot-fill/Mix-fill

Almost every washing machine currently sold in the UK is a cold-fill washing machine - meaning you would only connect a cold water supply. The limited number of hot-fill washing machines also allow you to attach a hot water supply, so water is heated by your boiler as opposed to the machine.

Hygiene

A hygiene cycle is designed to remove allergens from laundry, typically by keeping the water temperature high or using steam, if your washing machine has a steam function. Our research shows you cannot just rely on the cotton 60°C program to rid clothes of allergens and bacteria - see our guide on Should I be washing at 60°C.

I

Integrated

Integrated washing machines, also known as built-in washing machines, are the models that you can build into the cupboards in your kitchen to help achieve a seamless look. A washing machine that is not an integrated model is known as a freestanding model.

Intensive program

Intensive programs are designed to boost stain removal - potentially helpful if you have clothes covered in tough to remove stains like grass, blood and chocolate.

Inverter motor

Also knows as a brushless motor, these washing machine motors are designed to be quieter and more robust than regular motors.

J

Jeans/denim

A wash program tailored to wash denim items.

M

Maintenance wash

See service wash

Maximum load

The maximum amount of clothes you can wash in one go, expressed in kilos of dry clothes. Typically it's only the cotton washing programs you can fill to a washing machine's maximum capacity, other programs such as the synthetics wash program, have a smaller limit. For instance an 8kg-capacity washing machine may only let you wash 4kg of synthetics at once.

Memory function

A memory function allows you to save a wash program with your favourite settings applied.

Mixed load/fabrics

A mixed load program can be used to wash items of different materials at the same time - cotton, linen, synthetics etc.

O

Outdoor

A wash cycle for washing water-repellent outdoor wear. If you want to add a water-repellent/hydrophobic coating to your clothes, see Proofing.

Overflow/leak prevention system

An overflow/leak protection system will cut off the water supply if a leak is detected.

P

Pause function

Some washing machines allow you to 'pause' the cycle, and open the door. This is a potentially useful feature if you've just started the wash and then found a rogue sock hiding at the bottom of your wash basket.

Pre-wash

For particularly tough stains, you may want to add a pre-wash to a cycle - if you use this function, remember to add a suitable detergent to the pre-wash compartment. Some washing machines no longer have a pre-wash functio, despite still having a pre-wash compartment in the detergent drawer.

Pre-wash compartment

Typically the left-most compartment of the detergent drawer, and marked with an 'I'. This is where you add detergent prior to running a cycle that uses a pre-wash. However, there are now many washing machines on the market that have a pre-wash compartment but no program that uses it - making it superfluous.

Programme selection dial

The round dial on the front of the machine that you can use to select a program. If you're buying a washing machine, check in the shop that you can read all the programs around the dial without having to kneel - it can be quite annoying when a program is listed directly underneath the dial.

Proofing

Proofing programs are cycles specifically tailored for treating clothes with a hydrophobic coating, making them waterproof ot more water resistant.

Q

Quick wash

Quick wash programs are usually designed to wash a very small amount of lightly soiled clothing - often just 1.5kg, which is equivalent to two pairs of men's jeans. A few washing machines, such as some from Beko, do offer a quick wash that is capable of washing a entire drum of clothing, but it is rare. See also: Speed mode

R

Rating plate

The rating plate will contain the serial number, and possibly more information like the model number. The rating plate can normally be found by opening the door, and checking the area where the door sits on the machine. It may also be behind the your washing machine's kick plate, if it has one. Alternatively, check the rear of the machine.

Rinse

The rinse part of the wash cycle is responsible for removing detergent from your clothes. Every machine we test is rated for how well they rinse out detergent - some do very well, whilst others are so bad that it can leave visible traces of powder detergent on your clothes, a machine like this will get one star out of five.

Rinse hold

The rinse-hold function may be of use if you do not plan to remove the clothes from the drum when the program has finished. It will hold the clothes in the final rinse of water. When you come to the machine you may be able to select between simply draining the water without spinning (which would remove some of the water form the clothes) or spinning and draining. Keeping the clothes in water like this should help prevent creases from forming.

S

Self-cleaning detergent drawer

Some manufacturers, such as Miele, have select washing machines with self-cleaning detergent drawers that flush themselves out to help stop the build-up of detergent and mould. While the self-cleaning helps, you will still need to occasionally clean the detergent drawer yourself - just less frequently than a detergent drawer that does not have a self cleaning feature.

Semi-integrated

Semi-integrated washing machines are a very small subset of integrated washing machines. They are still built into a cupboard in your kitchen, but the cupboard panel over the front will not hide the control panel at the top. This means you can alter programs and settings without having to open the outer door. If the machine has a time-remaining display, this should also be visible.

Service wash

A service wash, also known as a maintenance wash, is a wash cycle to help prevent the build-up of mould and bacteria in your machine - which is a common problem. A few washing machines have dedicated service wash programs, while others instruct you to run a hot temperature wash. In both cases, you will not add detergent or clothes to the drum. If you have noticed a musky smell coming from the drum, see our video guide on how to fix a smelly washing machine.

Silk/lingerie

Very gentle wash program for fragile items such as silk.

Softener compartment

Typically the third compartment in the detergent drawer, marked with a symbol that looks like a flower, to which you add softener. If you use the softener compartment, make sure that when you clean the detergent drawer, that the syphon at the rear of this compartment is cleared. For help on cleaning your detergent drawer, see our video guide on fixing a dodgy detergent drawer.

Speed mode

Speed-mode is not a program - but a function that alters other programs to make them quicker. For instance, if you choose a 40°C cotton cycle, and then activate the speed-mode, the washing cycle should become quicker. But the compromise is that it will be less energy efficient, so will add slightly more to your bills. See also: Eco-mode

Spin speed

The maximum spin speed is the revolutions per minute that the drum will rotate at to remove water from your clothes at the end of a cycle. Max spin speeds are typically 1000, 1200, 1400 or 1600rpm. Machines with the faster spin speeds may be more expensive to buy - but we've seen a 1200rpm machine do a better job of wringing water from clothes compared with a 1600rpm model - so always check our washing machine reviews before spending that extra cash.

Sportswear

A tailored wash program for sportswear. Some washing machines, including a lot of Indesit models, also have the option to wash trainers.

Stacking kit

A stacking kit will allow you to place a tumble dryer on top of a washing machine.

Steam refresh

For washing machines with a steam function: a steam refresh program can be used to remove odours from otherwise clean clothing. This is not an actual wash, but help rejuvenate those items that have been in the back of your cupboard for longer than you want to admit.

Steam wash

For washing machines with a steam function: adding a steam function to a wash cycle may have several intended effects - some steam cycles will be designed to remove creases from clothes, increases stain removal or remove allergens such as pollen and dust mites from laundry. Steam cycles differ from one machine to another, so be sure to check your instruction manual to see what your machine is capable of.

Synthetics capacity

This is the maximum amount of clothes you can add to the drum before running a synthetics (or easy care) program. Like almost all wash cycles outside the cotton programs, you will not be able to completely fill the drum as these programs have a limited capacity. For instance, a washing machine with a maximum capacity of 7kg (on the cotton programs) may only be able to wash 4kg of clothes using the synthetics program.

T

Time remaining display

A time-remaining display is a timer that will count down until your laundry is ready. Times shown are typically an estimate and can be affected by factors including the amount of clothes in the drum and the strength of the water pressure.

Top loading

Top-loading washing machines are models that make you add clothes via a lid in the top of the machine, as oppose to a door on the front. This type of washing machine is very rare in the UK, so choice is limited. You can get more information on these machines by reading our washing machine buying guide, or simply skip straight to our reviews of top-loading washing machines.

Transit bar

The transit bar is a large metal bar that will help secure the drum for transportation. If you have bought a new washing machine, you must remove the transit bar and bolts (see entry below) before using the machine. Make sure you store the transit bar away safely, as you will need it in case you move home and want to take your washing machine with you.

Transit bolts

Transit bolts are large bolts that help secure the drum of the washing machine for transportation. You must remove these bolts prior to using your washing machine and make sure you store them away safely, as you may need them in the future should you move home and wish to take your washing machine with you. See also: transit bar (directly above).

Tub

The tub is a large (typically plastic) tub that encases the entire drum. You will not see the tub unless you open up the machine.

Twin tub

A twin tub machine is a rare style of washing machine - where you have one 'tub' (drum) for washing clothes and a separate one for spin-drying.

U

Unbalanced load

An unbalanced load is a common problem, and can cause the washing machine to cease washing your clothes. It typically happens when you are washing a load of small items with a big heavy item such as a dressing gown or a towel. The towel can absorb water during the wash, increasing its weight, and then during the fast spin cycle it will become a heavy weight on one side of the drum, which can gradually unbalance the machine enough for it to enter an error mode and stop washing your clothes. To avoid this happening - if you are washing a heavy garment such as a towel or dressing gown, try to make sure you wash it other heavy items of laundry to balance out the load.

V

Valve filter

See drain filter

Variable spin

Most washing machines available today allow you to manually alter the spin speed on your washing machine. If you are finding shirts are coming out too creased, you could try lowering the spin speed (See also - Easy iron program/setting) or this could be used if you simply find the spin the spin is too noisy.

W

Warranty

There are two main types of washing machines warranties. The manufacturer warranty is typically one year or two and comes with the washing machine as standard. Extended warranties can prolong how long you are covered for and typically some at a cost, or sometimes for free. See the entry on Extended warranty, above. Some washing machines come with a ten-year cover as standard - but on the motor only.

Wash system

The wash system is the 'wash technology' unique to brands of washing machines. For instance, Samsung uses the Ecobubble wash system, Hoover uses the 8 Pulse technology wash system, select Zanussi models use the Jetsystem wash system and so on.

Waste hose

The hose that transports the used water from the washing machine to a drain/waste pipe in your home - typically the one under your sink.

Water inlet valve

The valves at the rear of the washing machine where the water enters.

Water supply hose

The hose between the water feed (the valve in your home) and the inlet valve on the machine.

Wool

A wash program that provides a gentle wash for woollen garments marked as machine or hand washable (see instruction manual to see which your machine is rated for). Temperature is typically 40°C or colder.