There is a wide variety of washing machines offered by different manufacturing companies today. Washing machines can be front-loading or top-loading, and they can have several specialties and functions.
There is a precise cycle a washing machine follows from loading to offloading.
- The wash cycle
- The rinse cycle
- The spin cycle
Washing Machine Wash Cycle
Two things happen during the wash cycle: soaking and washing.
Soaking in the Washing Machine
Right after you start your washing machine, water fills the tub and mixes with the detergent. This water filling can be automatic or manual, controlled by water level sensors or the wash settings, based on the type of washing machine.
No agitation occurs in the washer during the soaking period. It mimics soaking clothes in a bucket when hand washing to loosen dirt on the clothes so that the washing is effortless.
The detergent penetrates the fabric of the clothes to find hidden dirt and stains, binds to them, and removes them.
Washing in the Washing Machine
After the soaking period, the washing machine will use agitation to move the clothes around the tub, where they will properly mix with the water and detergent to wash the clothes. Agitation is a kind of friction applied to wash clothes by moving them to and fro.
The length of time for the agitation and the degree of intensity depends on the wash cycle settings selected by the user.
While front-loading washing machines lack an actual physical agitator, relying on the movement of the tub to wash the clothes, top-loaders have one, which they use to move the clothes in different directions. However, other washing machines have agitator alternatives.
Washing Machine Wash Cycles
Modern washing machines come fitted with technological advancements to cater to specific laundry needs. Fabrics that were previously dry clean only now have machine wash settings.
Delicate fabrics like polyester or items like pillows and comforters need gentle treatment, unlike cotton fabrics. These clothing come with care instructions to guide you on the best laundry practices.
As a result, washing machines have differentiated settings for different laundry. These different settings are known as wash cycles.
Wash cycles determine how long the wash will last and the degree of intensity of agitation applied to the clothes.
Clothes that need aggressive cleaning, like dirtier clothes, require more intense agitation.
Some of the wash cycles found on washing machines are:
The Normal or Regular Cycle
As the name suggests, this wash cycle is suitable for regular sturdy laundry like shirts, sheets, socks, towels, etc., made of cotton, linen, or blended fabrics. This wash cycle is the default setting for many washing machine users because it is tough on sweat, dirt, and stains.
The Normal wash cycle is intense, utilizing high agitation intensity, high wash and spin speeds, and a lengthened wash period, making it harsh on clothes.
This wash cycle leaves the choice of water temperature up to the user.
The Delicate or Gentle Cycle
The intensity of the normal wash cycle is too much for delicate fabrics, providing the need for a gentler wash cycle.
No defined fabric falls under a delicate wash cycle. Any item you feel will get destroyed by the washing machine should use the delicate wash cycle. These items usually need a mesh bag for extra protection. Fabrics like wool, silk, lace, polyester, cashmere, merino, and sherpa are fragile and would require a delicate wash cycle to prevent damage.
Some people make the delicate wash cycle their default, working their way up the different wash cycles to test the strength of their clothing.
This wash cycle uses low ‘wash’ and ‘spin’ speeds and a shortened wash period. The agitation is almost non-existent, making the spin akin to a tumble. The design of this setting is purposefully less abrasive on the laundry, mimicking the intensity of gentle, no-wringing handwashing.
The gentle wash cycle uses a cold water setting for washing and rinsing, further protecting the delicate fabric.
The Permanent Press Cycle
This wash cycle falls between the intensity of the regular wash cycle and the gentility of the delicate wash cycle.
In the past, the only materials used to make clothes were natural fibers like wool and cotton; this affected the available settings on washing machines. As time and clothing technology progressed, so did the use of synthetic fabric like polyester or nylon.
The permanent press wash cycle caters to these synthetic fabrics, especially ones that wrinkle easily. It also caters to colored clothing. Regardless, some people still use the ‘normal’ and ‘delicate’ wash cycle based on how durable or delicate their clothing presents.
This wash cycle uses a medium wash agitation, low spin speed, and a short resting period after wash to preserve the fabric and prevent wrinkles. The permanent press wash cycle has a shorter wash period than the ‘normal’ wash period but longer than the delicate wash cycle.
Warm water is the preferred temperature for this wash cycle, although it opts for a cold rinse.
This wash cycle is for heavily-soiled clothing that requires extra special washing. People with sensitive skin use this setting to rid their clothing of any irritant, especially detergent.
The heavy-duty wash cycle starts with a lengthy soak cycle before proceeding to the wash cycle, which uses high agitation intensity, high spin speed, and more water than the regular wash cycle.
Another feature of the heavy-duty cycle is its lengthened rinse cycle.
The bulky cycle is almost like the heavy-duty cycle but for items that require a more delicate approach. Items like rugs and blankets will need a long wash period, medium agitation, and lower spin speeds.
Like the heavy-duty one, the bulky cycle also begins with a soak.
There are many other wash cycles in washing machines based on how specific the washing machine gets. There are wash cycles for white clothing separate from the wash cycles for dark clothing, and so on.
Washing Machine Rinse Cycle
The rinse cycle begins when the wash cycle ends. The washing machine replaces the dirty water from the washing with clean water to rinse the clothes.
First, the washing machine spins the clothes to drain the dirty soapy water then clean water enters the tub. The agitation begins to thoroughly rinse the clothes and attract the soap molecules to the clean water so the water can remove every last detergent residue.
The rinse cycle is a series of repeated draining and filling of water till the soap leaves the clothing.
Detergent is absent during this step, focusing only on using clean water to refresh the clothing.
The preferred water temperature for rinsing is cold water, even though some fabrics require warm water for rinsing.
How Many Rinse Cycles Does a Washing Machine Have?
The number of rinse cycles depends on the model of the washing machine and especially the wash cycle used for that laundry wash session.
The wash cycle sets the scene for the entire wash process, so the ‘normal’ wash cycle will have a different number of rinse cycles than the ‘delicate’ wash cycle.
The continuous drain and refill cycle during rinsing is automatic; it continues till the time elapses. Most washers have a dial for selecting two rinse cycles.
A manual top-loading washing machine rinses differently, as the user controls the process.
The rinse cycle is effective most times, but some clothing may require an extra rinse to ensure the total elimination of soap suds. This extra step will not be necessary if the user follows proper instructions about using smaller amounts of detergents during the wash.
Some instances require an extra rinse.
- User’s Preference.
An extra rinse can be the user’s preference for a refreshed laundry, especially when the washing machine has a separate rinse (or extra rinse) cycle.
- Care Label Instructions.
Another time when the extra rinse setting is practical is when the care label specifies the need. This instruction comes mostly from bulkier clothing like comforters, shoes, and pillows.
- Heavy-duty Cycles
This cycle uses longer wash periods because it washes clothes with a lot of dirt and stains. An extra rinse might be necessary to ensure the complete removal of soap suds from the load.
- For Sensitive Fabrics
Detergent residues on clothing with delicate fibers can irritate and damage the clothes. The care label will typically suggest an extra rinse cycle to remove every residue.
Washing Machine Spin Cycle
Spinning is the last stage of the washing process when the washing machine squeezes the water from the clothing after rinsing. This process makes the clothing as dry as possible to shorten the drying time.
Although the washing machine spins during the washing and rinsing cycle to drain water from the tub, it is entirely different when the spinning occurs at the end.
The washing machine uses speed and centrifugal force to remove the water from the clothing and subsequently drain the water. This technique mimics the squeezing and wringing of clothes during handwashing.
Semi-automatic washing machines have different tubs for washing and spinning. After the wash cycle ends, the user will transfer the clothes to the other tub for spinning.
Spin speed is the number of times the washing machine tub spins in a minute, measured in revolutions per minute (rpm). Different washing machine models and wash cycles have different spin speeds.
The spin speed is basically how fast the washing machine removes water from the clothing, determining how dry they will be at the end. Higher RPMs remove water faster than lower RPMs. However, the force of higher RPMs might damage delicate fabrics.
What Determines the Spin Speed
Like the number of rinse cycles, the selected wash cycles have default spin speeds. The delicate wash cycle uses slow spin speeds – around 600-800rpm, while the ‘normal’ wash cycle requires much higher spin speeds – 900-1400rpm.
Choosing the correct wash cycle mitigates the danger that comes from high agitation.