Washing clothes by hand can be time consuming, so it’s unsurprising that the modern washing machine has become so popular. Washing machines make doing the laundry more convenient, and a much more enjoyable experience. But we risk damage to both the clothes and the washing machine itself if we don’t know how to use a washer and the washing machine settings correctly. Here are some handy tips for getting the most from your washing machine:
Understanding Washing Machine Symbols
Checking all the washing machine symbols on garments before loading them into the machine is the simplest way to protect your clothes from damage. Washing machine symbols indicate at what temperature you should be washing different fabrics, and they can also recommend a particular cycle, and even a type of detergent. Here’s what you need to know:
- The Number. When wash symbols on a label feature a number, you should pay attention to this – the number relates to the temperature of the wash. Some natural fabrics, like silks and woollens, can shrink in hot washes, whereas hardwearing cottons are best washed in higher temperatures to ensure they’re completely clean. Heavy-duty cottons, such as bedding and towels, may feature a wash symbol of 95 degrees – a near-boil wash. Truthfully, many people choose to use a standard 40 degree wash instead for environmental purposes. Delicates often need a much lower number, usually 30 degrees.
- The Line. Underneath the number, your wash symbols may feature a horizontal line, or a broken horizontal line. These lines relate to the garment’s fabric, and the sort of cycle that is needed for that particular material. A complete line indicates synthetic fabrics that need a moderate cycle. A broken line indicates a woollen fabric requiring a gentle cycle to protect the fibres.
- If you regularly use bleach (or a washing detergent that contains a bleaching agent), always check the washing machine symbols before washing your clothes. The chemicals in bleach can damage some materials. A triangle symbol with a cross through it means ‘do not bleach’; choose a gentle and mild detergent instead.
Using Different Washing Machine Settings
To make the most of your washing machine, you really need to get to grips with its settings and cycles, and discover how they can benefit you and your family. For example, a regular spin cycle can be too severe for some delicate garments. Washing delicates with a moderate or gentle cycle is the best option. Less movement during the spin cycle will reduce the risk of fabric snagging. Gentle cycles are also particularly good for embroidered garments that can unravel in a ‘normal’ wash.
When drying your clothes, be aware that certain fabrics should not be dried in a dryer – woollens and other natural fibres can shrink with heat. Also avoid drying clothes that aren’t completely clean, as heat can set ground-in stains, making them more difficult to wash out.
Washing Machine Do’s and Don’ts
To ensure you’re getting the best from your washing machine, follow these simple rules:
- Do group items made from similar materials together if possible. Similar garments will often require similar detergent, temperature, and settings – there’s less of a need to compromise.
- Do wash garments based on colour. After many washes, coloured fabrics are unlikely to run; however, new garments, especially dark colours with high levels of dye, can easily ruin whites and other light-coloured clothing.
- Don’t be tempted to overload your washing machine, even if you have a lot of clothes to wash. Overloading can offset the balance of the drum, which can cause the cycle to fail at the spin cycle, leaving you with sopping wet clothes.
- Don’t think that adding more detergent than necessary will get your clothes extra clean. It won’t. If you’re noticing that your clothes are stiff, smell strongly of soap, and have flecks of powder on them, then you’re using too much. Stick to the amount recommended on your detergent’s label.
How to Use a Washing Machine: A Handy Hint
Washing machines are useful and effective, but they can’t always work miracles – sometimes we need to give them a little helping hand. If you have heavily soiled clothing, a pre-treatment and a wash – as soon as possible, while the stain is still fresh – is likely to be the most successful strategy. The longer you leave dirty clothes languishing, the more difficult a stain will be to remove. Even state-of-the-art machines will have trouble dealing with stains that are set.