Unilever logo
Cleanipedia ZA logo

How to decode wash cycles

Doing the laundry is an inevitable dilemma that all students will face at some point. Don’t panic, this guide is here to help make it easier for you to choose the best cycle for the job.


Reading Time: 2 minutes

Blue jeans with wash label
ZA ECom Leaderboard

Quick spin:

  1. For a small load, choose a quick wash.

  2. Synthetics cycles are often better for more delicate clothing.

  3. The eco-friendly cycle is a good choice for saving water and energy.

If in doubt, choose a gentler wash cycle at a lower temperature. Or a cold wash.

Settings explained

The different settings are for dealing with different types of fabrics and clothing. As you know, levels of grime differ, and sweaty sports clothing needs a longer cycle than a T-shirt worn for an hour or two.

  • Quick Wash: Ideal for small loads of lightly soiled clothing that are needed fast, like when you need an outfit in a hurry.

  • Sportswear: These are longer wash cycles designed to remove sweat stains and odours.

  • Wool/Delicate: These are a good choice for items that should be washed more gently at a lower temperature. The spin cycle is slower too. Perfect for washing the jumper your granny gave you, which you only wear when you visit her.

  • Cotton: These cycles often run at higher temperatures, and are good for sheets and hard-wearing items of cotton clothing.

  • Synthetics/Easy Care: These settings are for clothing made of fabrics such as viscose, polyester or satin, which require a more gentle wash. This setting is also suitable for mixed loads.

  • Special Care/Sensitive: This is a setting to remove allergens and for catering to those who need an ultra-hygienic wash and thorough rinsing to remove detergent.

  • Eco-Friendly/Eco-Mode: A programme or function that assists the machine to conserve water and energy.

Some machines, depending on the manufacturer, also have settings for curtains, outdoor clothing or down-filled items. Where possible, match the setting to the laundry. It is a good idea to wash similar items together, and save garments such as shirts or dark items for a separate wash.


These are best washed at a lower temperature (30C) with a couple of towels to reduce noise. Remove any loose dirt; take out the laces, and put laces and shoes in a mesh bag for washing. Always check the care label on the takkies to make sure they are machine washable.

The Poll

How do you choose your cleaning products?

0 Votes


Many washing machines allow you to choose the temperature of your wash, and 40C is a considered a good choice for effective cleaning of most everyday items. Use hotter temperatures (above 40C) for more soiled laundry. Sheets used by someone who has been ill could benefit from being washed at 60C or above. 

Lightly worn clothing can be washed at lower temperatures – 20C or 30C – and these settings reduce energy use, but may be less effective at removing stains.

Originally published