Breaking Down Wash Cycles

Updated: Jan 24

The movement inside the machine, or the agitation, is determined by the wash cycle setting. The more agitation there is, the more aggressive the cleaning. Selecting the correct washing cycle is just as important as choosing the right water temperature.






Understanding washing machine cycles is an important part of taking care of your clothing and linens. I wanted to share this guide to clearly explain washing machine cycles and help you understand which washer cycles are best for your laundry. Not all washing machines are created equal. Each has its own efficiency, capacity, and features. Some are top-load, some are front-load, but no matter what your washing machine, I can help you get a better handle on which wash cycle is right get the best clean, and keep your fabrics looking like new. Get deeper insights into when to use the delicate wash cycle, wool cycle, permanent press, or custom wash cycles: this guide will explain the different wash cycle settings and how to choose the right intensity and temperature for your fabrics.

The “Delicates” Cycle: The machine equivalent to handwashing, this cycle uses warm or cold water with low or no spin. It's the shortest and most gentle cleaning cycle. If the machine defaults to warm water, we recommend you override this by selecting cold water. (That's what I do here at my mom headquarters with my machine.) Select the Delicate cycle when washing “delicate” items. Err on the side of caution—for items in question, we always default to delicate treatment and then scale up if necessary. Wash With: Topanga Detergent for silk, lace, lingerie, hosiery, and delicate synthetics. Insert items into a mesh bag prior to washing.

The “Normal” Cycle: With high agitation and a lengthy cycle, the Normal cycle is the most intense option. Select the Normal cycle for everyday laundry items made of cotton, linen, and durable synthetics, such as sheets, towels, T-shirts, socks, and underwear. It’s the ideal casual wash cycle. This cycle may ask you which water temperature you'd like to use. Select the temperature based on the contents of the load: for whites, select hot water; for colors, select cool or cold. Wash With: Topanga Detergent selecting the scent of your choice for everyday laundry. Add a Whitner Brightner for an extra punch of whitening and brightening.

The “Permanent Press” Cycle: The Permanent Press cycle was created in the 1940s in response to the advent of synthetics, wash and wear, and wrinkle-free clothing. Shorter than the Normal cycle, this cycle uses warm water with lower spin. At my mom headquarters, when it comes to synthetic wash we rarely use this cycle since we tend to wash our durable synthetics on the Normal cycle and our delicates on the Delicates cycle.

How I choose to wash select synthetics:

  • A nylon tracksuit (wash with Topanga & use Topanga Fabric Spray w/ Wool Dryer Balls) or polyester parka using the Normal cycle (nylon and polyester are durable synthetics).

  • An acetate blouse washes on the Delicate cycle (acetate is a silk-like fabric, which is a delicate synthetic) and use Topanga Detergent.

  • Workout clothes: We prefer to wash these synthetics on Delicate. However, if they require heavy-duty cleaning, we select the Normal cycle and choose cool or cold water. (Wash with Topanga & use Topanga Fabric Spray w/ Wool Dryer Balls).

Other Cycles: Some machines include additional cycle options such as “Heavy Duty” or “Whitest Whites.” Selecting one of these settings in addition to the regular washing machine setting (Normal, Delicates, Permanent Press) generally intensifies whichever cycle you're using, including a presoak and adding more water. You can opt for the “Heavy Duty” or “Whitest Whites” setting on your washing machine settings when washing heavily soiled laundry. Note that machines vary in their washing intensity. Get to know your machine. Pretreat stains with your choice of stain remover. Soak in cool or warm water - depending on fabric type - for up to 30 minutes. For heavily soiled white fabrics like cotton or linen, add whitner brightner. Note: It's okay to add an extra rinse cycle when washing any material. However, adding additional agitation should only happen for cotton, linens, and durable synthetics. Excessive agitation, even when using cold water, can cause shrinkage.

The Machine Dials: What do the temperatures on my washing machine dial refer to? The first temperature refers to the cleaning water. The second refers to the rinse water. Hot-Cold = Hot clean, Cold rinse Warm-Cold = Warm clean, Cold rinse Cold-Cold = Cold clean, Cold rinse

Stay SCENT-sational,

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Also read: Busy Mom Builds A Business With And Gets Paid To Do Her Families Laundry

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