How to Use Your Washing Machine - dummies

By Gill Chilton

To ensure clean clothes, make the most of your washing machine. Research shows that practically everyone ignores most of the options available on their new machines and sticks instead with two: one programme for everyday washing and a hot-wash option for linens and heavily stained items.

Yet this is all such a waste. Selecting the correct wash cycle saves energy, saves water, and saves unnecessary wear and tear on your clothes. If you’re simply freshening clothes that haven’t been worn in a season, why subject them to an hour of agitation and hot water?

  1. Select a wash temperature that’s as close as possible to the maximum wash temperature on the care label.

    If you need that shirt this evening, you may need to select the quick wash programme (cycle), even if you know your garment could have got cleaner still on a full-length cycle.

    Many people fail to realise that you have to take in two bits of information on wash labels: the temperature of the water and the type of wash programme the item can safely withstand. These are not the same. So when you see the cotton symbol, you can’t assume that the fabric can take the top temperature.

  2. Choose the proper spin programme.

    Clothes going in the tumble drier can take a long or extra spin. But if you’re washing nylons and synthetics that you plan to hang out, choose a lighter spin, so that the clothes don’t pick up creases in a long spin.

  3. Put detergent in the machine.

    Add tablets, powder, or liquid to the dispenser. If you use liquid capsules, put them in before the clothes. However, powder tablets contained in the manufacturer’s net bag need to sit on top of the washing, so add the bag after you add the clothes.

  4. Put the dirty items in the machine.

    Don’t overload the machine. If you pack it too tightly, there’s less room for the machine to agitate the dirt out of your washing. The best way to get a correct load is to weigh it to fit in with your machine’s capacity As a very rough guide, if you have more than 15 items, you’ve put in too much.

Make these important checks before every wash:

  • Empty out pockets. One tissue can leave fluff on an entire wash load.

  • Do up zips. Left undone, they may snag other clothes.

  • Take out items that need sewing attention. A small rip is likely to become larger through washing and a small, loose button could disappear.

  • Turn T-shirts with a pattern inside out.

  • Put small delicate items, such as sheer tights (nylons), into a mesh wash bag to protect them from snagging.

  • Load the drum (basket) loosely, alternating big and small items.

  • Follow instructions for the most delicate part of an item with two or more materials. It may make sense to separate the two materials. For example, you may want to detach a delicate lining from strong but dirty curtains or remove a non-washable ribbon from a child’s outfit.

  • Be on the lookout for stains. Some may need pre-treating. This is especially important for blood, emulsion (latex) paint, ink, rust, and grass, which becomes harder to shift if it sits in hot water.

  • Think about colour. Ideally, divide your washing into separate loads for whites, coloureds, and darks/blacks. This means you can use a detergent with brightening agents for whites, and a separate detergent for colours. Wash red fabrics you suspect may bleed colour separately.