Washing your clothes on the wrong setting is like driving a car in the wrong gear. You might still get to your destination eventually, but your life is going to be a lot harder. For a smooth and efficient ride, it’s crucial that you understand how your washer works. Having your washing machine cycles explained to you will only take a few minutes, but your clothes will be grateful for a lifetime.

Let Your Washing Machine Cycles Do the Work for You

Every washer is different. Depending on the brand and model, there are a number of different washing machine cycles. It’s tempting to just press “regular” without giving it any further thought, but once you understand the different settings, your washing machine can work a lot more efficiently.

1. Normal / Regular

This is your go-to setting. It usually follows the pattern of a hot water wash, a regular rinse, and a rather long spinning cycle. It’s one of the most intense washing machine settings, so it’s a good choice for durable everyday clothes, made from cotton, linen, or synthetic materials, which don’t need to be protected.

Use for: Sheets, cotton or polyester shirts and pants, underwear, socks

2. Heavy Duty

Only use the heavy-duty setting for extra dirty clothes with stains you haven’t been able to remove even after treating them with stain remover and soaking them. This cycle combines a longer wash time with high agitation. That way, it removes even the most stubborn stains.

Use for: Sturdy fabrics like towels or jeans, outdoor work attire, heavily stained clothes

3. Bulky

This one’s for bedding or any other particularly bulky items, just like the name says. The cycle uses a soaking period to make sure the heavier item absorbs enough water before the washing starts.

Use for: Bedding, blankets, comforters, sleeping bags

4. Permanent Press

Sometimes also labeled as “casual” or “wrinkle control”, the permanent press cycle helps to remove wrinkles from your clothes. It uses a comparably short cycle with a gentle spin and slightly colder water.

Use for: Button-ups, dresses, linen materials, clothes that wrinkle easily

5. Sanitize

On this setting, the water is heated to at least 165°. That way, most washers are able to eliminate 99% of germs and the most common household bacteria. This also gives your laundry a fresh scent as the hot temperature kills bacteria that would otherwise cause odors. Some washing machines may not have this setting but fret not, your local ZIPS does! Simply drop off your clothes at the nearest ZIPS location to get a thorough and effective clean.

Use for: Clothes, linens, towels, and sheets that need to be sanitized, i.e. after being used by someone ill

6. Whites

Sometimes called “whitest whites”, this setting is designed for clothes that are being bleached. It uses a high-speed wash and spin cycle, dispensing the bleach at just the right time. This cycle is very thorough and can last up to three hours.

Washing your white clothes is a science in itself. To learn all about it, check out our helpful tips on keeping your white clothes white.

Use for: White sheets and clothes that can be bleached

7. Express Wash

In a rush to wash all the clothes you’re trying to pack for a weekend trip? The “express wash” is perfect if your clothes aren’t stained or dirty and you’re in need of a quick wash to freshen them up. It skips second rinses and cuts right to the chase.

Use for: Unstained clothes

If you’re extra busy and you just can’t fit doing laundry into your schedule, we’ve got you covered. Thanks to our convenient delivery service, you don’t even need to leave the house to get your laundry done! We’ll just pick it up and bring it back to you.

8. Delicates

This is your gentlest cycle. It’s the closest you can get to handwashing your clothes without actually getting your hands wet! The delicates setting is usually a quick cycle that leaves out any intense spinning.

Use for: Delicate fabrics like lace, silk, cashmere, and wool, lingerie, blouses

9. Cold Clean

On cold clean, your washer uses only cold water which is necessary for certain clothes. Other than that, it works just like a regular cycle so that it will spin your clothes. As it uses the least amount of power, this washing cycle is the one that’s best for the environment. That makes it our favorite one because at ZIPS, we love protecting the environment!

Use for: Refreshing clothes that aren’t too dirty or clothes in danger of bleeding or shrinking

10. Steam

Some fancier washers will have a steam option. This doesn’t actually wash your clothes, but it’s a great way to refresh them if they’ve been sitting in your closet for a while. It gives them a fresh scent and helps to remove wrinkles.

Use for: Clean clothes in need of a touch-up

11. Rinse and Spin

This cycle doesn’t wash your clothes either. It just rinses them. That’s especially helpful if your washing cycle was interrupted mid-wash and you want to rinse off the remaining detergent instead of starting all over.

Use for: Clothes that can’t be treated with detergent

The Power of Using the Right Washing Machine Settings

Now that we’ve explained all the different washing machine cycles and settings, you’ll soon figure out for yourself which ones work the best for you and your clothes. Everyone’s laundry looks different, and there’s just the right setting for you – whether your kids produce as many dirty clothes as a professional soccer team or you wear nightgowns made of lace and silk seven days a week.

Switching to the right washing machine cycle can make all the difference between acceptably clean clothing and perfectly clean clothing. Just find your closest ZIPS and make the switch! If you drop your dry cleaned or laundered and pressed items by 9AM, we promise we’ll have it ready by 5PM on the same day – as clean as you’ve ever seen it.