Home / Laundry / How to use a Washing Machine

  As with any technology, there’s a right and a wrong way to use a washing machine.  What constitutes the ‘right way’ will depend on several factors.  You’ll need to wash similar garments together, using the right settings.  You’ll also need to select the right detergent.

 By doing things correctly we can ensure that we use the minimum amount of energy and water needed to clean our washing properly – and in doing so ensure the maximum lifespan for the device.

What type of washing machine detergent should you use?

Washing machine detergents come in several different forms.

Liquid detergent

Liquid detergent is popular, as it’s really effective and easy to measure.  Being a liquid, you won’t need to worry about it dissolving – even if you’re doing a cold wash or a quick wash.  If you’re willing to spend a little more, you might consider buying liquid detergent in ready-to-use capsule form, removing the need to measure out a specific dose.

Powdered detergent

Powdered detergents have been around for a little longer than liquids.  They tend to be cheaper to buy, but in order to be effective, they need to dissolve – which might require a slightly hotter wash.

Top-loading and front-loading detergent

You’ll also find some detergents marketed to work with certain sorts of washing machines.  Top-loading detergent is designed to work with top-loading washing machines.  It’s often marketed as ‘high-efficiency’, as it’s able to penetrate the fabric of your clothing more easily, making it better for removing deeply-ingrained stains.

Front-loading detergents are designed to minimise the formation of suds, which can sometimes pose a problem when they get trapped by the door mechanism, which prevents them from being removed during the machine’s rinse cycle.

Stain Removal detergent

If you’ve got a particularly stubborn stain to deal with, you might wish to give it special pre-treatment before putting it in the washing machine.  Alternatively, you might consider using a special stain-removal detergent, designed specifically to remove stubborn stains.  If you’re washing the dirty sportswear of an entire rugby team every week, a heavy-duty detergent like this is mandatory.  Be aware that some brands will contain a bleaching agent.

Where does the detergent go?

Where you put the detergent will depend on the sort of washing machine you’re using.  If you’re using a special sort of liquid detergent with a dosing bottle, or a powdered detergent with a mesh bag, you’ll need to put the detergent in the middle of the drum.  It will release the detergent over the course of the wash.

Other liquids and powders should be placed in one of the machine’s drawers, which may be labelled I, II and ‘*’.  The first compartment is for pre-washing, the second for your detergent, and the third for fabric softener.  If in doubt, be sure to consult the instructions that came with your detergent.

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How much detergent should you use?

When it comes to detergent, most of us use slightly too much.  Not only is this wasteful, but it will make your clothes feel a little bit stiff and inflexible, as the tiny globules of soap will not have had the chance to be entirely rinsed away.  If you notice this happening, then the chances are that you need to dial the dose back a little bit.

Most detergents come with a scoop, along with instructions about how many scoops to use in a given wash.  Be sure to follow these instructions, but be prepared to tweak things slightly.  Homes with hard water supplies will need more detergent, as the minerals present in the water make it more difficult for foaming to occur.

Choosing the right setting on a washing machine

When you’re dialling in settings on your washing machine, you should be aware that hotter washes will be more effective, but require more energy, and are more likely to shrink your clothes.  Durable materials and white items should be washed hot, while delicate items should be washed cold.  Unless you’re dealing with especially extensive dirt, 30°C should be sufficient.

For lightly-soiled items, a quick-wash should be enough to do the trick.  If your clothes are especially dirty, you might want to add a pre-wash soak before the actual cleaning cycle.  If you’re washing beach towels and swimwear, you might use a rinse-and-spin cycle to remove moisture without detergent.  If you’re unsure of which setting to use, be sure to consult the label.

What can (and can’t) you put in a washing machine?

There are some items which you might not want to put in the washing machine, and others that you might get away with.  Let’s consider them.

Can you wash trainers in the washing machine?

Most trainers can withstand a washing machine, but be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions first, just in case.

It’s always a good idea to place the trainers in a mesh bag, and wash some other laundry alongside them. This will lessen the impact the trainers will have when moving around the machine.

Can football boots go in the washing machine?

Football boots come with knobbly metal studs which, while excellent for gripping turf, won’t do the inside of the drum much good.  While some have reported success cleaning boots with a washing machine, the better option is to use a scrubbing brush.

Can feather pillows be washed in washing machine?

It’s possible to wash feather pillows in a washing machine, but be sure that there are no holes in the outside of the case.  Wash two pillows at a time with a little bit of detergent to ensure the right balance.

Can duvets be washed in a washing machine?

Most duvets can go in the washing machine, but some feather and down-stuffed duvets might be better dry-cleaned.  Consult the label to be sure.

Can backpacks go in the washing machine?

It might be possible to wash a backpack in the washing machine.  Smaller, lighter bags should be okay; big, heavy-duty waterproof bags might not be.  Stick your backpack in a pillowcase to prevent stray zips and straps from catching.

Can bras be washed in washing machine?

Traditionally, putting a bra in a washing machine was thought of as a bad idea, but provided we’re sensible it’s actually perfectly possible to wash a bra this way.  Choose a gentle cycle, use a gentle (or specialist) detergent, and put your bras in a bag to prevent them from banging against the sides of the washer.

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