Washing Machine Programs Explained

Today’s washing machines come with a wide assortment of programs. Add in the extra features and the ability to adjust things like temperature and spin speed, and you have a lot of options for cleaning laundry.

Washing machines come with so many programs because there are so many different types of fabric that you may need to wash. In the past, you may have had to wash many of your items by hand, but the technology has developed to allow you to wash just about anything in the machine.

Having the right washing machine programs is important because it helps to determine which items you can wash using the machine. When you select a program to do laundry, it determines several factors regarding the operation of the machine. It could change water temperature, the spin speed, the motion of the drum and more.

With so many to choose from, a buyer may wonder what they are getting when they have a machine that has certain programs. While they might have names that sound obvious enough, the names do not do much to tell you about the difference in operation.

On this page, we are going to take a closer look at some of these washing machine programs, and tell you a little bit about what they do.



Every washer that has specialised programs is going to have a setting for cottons. In fact, some may even have a few cotton programs. With most cotton programs, you have the option to adjust the temperature for better efficiency or to protect colourfast items.



Most machines will also have a synthetics program. Compared to the cotton programs, most programs that are designed for synthetics will run at a lower temperature (about 40° or lower) and it will usually have less drum agitation.



You may find several programs that are designed for delicate items. In this category, you have variations like delicate, hand wash, silk and various wool cycles. With older washers, you could not wash delicate items in the machine because the drum action could damage the fibres or the washer could shrink certain types of material. To prevent this damage, delicate programs operate at low temperatures (usually 30° or lower), they have a very gentle drum action, and they have a low spin cycle speed.



Some machines will have a setting for colours or dark wash. The idea behind this program is to protect coloured items against the fading that may occur in the regular programs. A program for coloured items or darks will be designed to run at a lower water temperature and have a less drum agitation.



This is a program that is designed to wash cottons and synthetics in the same load. With most mixed programs, the machine will have less agitation than a standard cottons program, and the water temperature will usually be around 40°. You will usually get better results by washing the fabrics separately while using the designated programs, but a mixed program can work if you need to wash a load of both.



If a machine has an eco program, it is usually designed for cottons. For the most part, this will be a very low temperature cottons program that runs at between 20-30°. It can be good for saving energy when you wash cottons, but it has to run for a longer time to make up for the lower temperature.



Gym clothes are often made from a cotton/synthetics blend. A sports program is designed to wash this type of fabric, and it usually runs at about 40°.


Bed & Bath

This is a cycle tailored for washing things like sheets and towels. Most programs for bed & bath run at about 60° and they avoid vigorous drum action to prevent these large items from tangling.



Hygiene and anti-allergy programs are specially designed to remove different allergens from clothes and to kill bacteria. You may also find that some washers have baby programs that operate in a similar way. For the most part, these are intensive wash cycles that use high-temperature water to control allergens and bacteria. Some machines may also use high temperature steam to achieve the same effect. The program will also have additional rinses to ensure that all of the detergent is removed from the laundry.


Stain Removal

Various brands offer different stain removal features and programs. They work differently depending on the brand, but there are a few different ways that they work to remove stains from clothes. Usually it is a combination of things like higher temperatures, increased agitation and a longer soak.



A quick wash feature is good for times when you need to get a few items washed in a hurry. With most machines, the quick wash is designed to only work for half the capacity or less, and it is usually only good for clothes that are lightly soiled.


Spin & Drain

With a program for spin & drain, the machine will just run a spin cycle and then drain the excess water. It can be used after a regular wash cycle if you want to try to remove more moisture from the laundry. This can be a good option to have if you do not own a tumble dryer.


Rinse & Spin

This is a program option that will rinse the clothes with cold water and then spin dry the load. If you are sensitive to laundry detergent, you can run this after a regular wash program to try to remove more of the detergent from the laundry.



Pre-wash is a program that soaks the clothes before you run a regular cycle. The additional soak can help to remove tough stains from the fabric. Some machines have a pre-wash program that you would run before you move on to using a full wash program, and others may have a pre-wash option that you can add to various programs.