Tips for getting the best use from your automatic washer

July 28, 2015

The invention of the automatic washing machine was to household cleaning what the gasoline-powered motor was to lawn care — revolutionary. The automatic washing machine accomplishes what once took hours of skin-scalding, backbreaking work. And the machine does it better. It gets clothes cleaner and treats them more gently. Today's machines, especially front-loaders, are more efficient than ever.

Tips for getting the best use from your automatic washer

1. Evenly distribute clothes in a top-loading washing machine

  • The spin cycle relies on a balanced load.
  • Never wrap sheets or long garments around the agitator post. That can tear fabric and jam the machine.
  • The best loads are ones that mix small and large items — for example, sheets mixed with hand towels and socks.

2. Don't overload the washing machine

  • The wash cycle depends on clothes rubbing together to remove the soil. If the machine is too full, the clothes will not have enough space to rub together.
  • Powdered detergent may not have room to adequately dissolve, and you may end up with clumps of powdered detergent stuck on your clothes.
  • Moreover, there must be enough free-flowing water to carry away the soil removed from the clothes.
  • Make sure you check your washing machine's manual for the recommended maximum load.

3. Pick the right setting

  • Most clothes, of course, are okay with the normal or regular setting.
  • Use the gentle or delicate setting (typically shorter agitation and spinning cycles) for lingerie, loose knits, washable woolens and rayon fabrics.
  • The permanent press setting usually has normal agitation but includes a cool-down rinse to reduce wrinkling.

4. Choose the right water temperature

  • The hot cycle draws directly from your household hot-water supply. Warm is either a 50:50 or 40:60 hot and cold water mix. Cold draws directly from the cold water line.
  • Each of these can vary greatly depending on the distance of your water heater from your washing machine and on the season. Incoming cold water, for example, can range from near freezing in winter to 27°C (80°F) in summer.
  • When using the hot or warm cycle, run a hot-water faucet in a nearby sink until the hot water fills the pipes. This way you will cut down on the amount of cold water that inadvertently mixes in with the hot in the washing machine.

5. Hot: 48°C to 50°C (118°F to 122°F)

  • Use for whites and colourfast fabrics and heavily soiled clothes (such as underwear and diapers).
  • Hot water is needed to kill bacteria.
  • When starting a hot-water load, make sure your water heater has had a chance to replenish its hot-water supply after being exhausted by family showers and dishwashing.

6. Warm: 40°C (104°F)

Use for non-colourfast fabrics, moderately soiled loads, synthetics, wrinkle-free fabrics, knits, silks and woolens.

7. Cold

  • Use for dark or bright colours that you know will bleed and for lightly soiled loads.
  • Use a powdered detergent that is specially formulated for cold water, or use liquid detergent.
  • If you live in an area where the natural temperature of the cold-water tap is especially cold, you might need to add a small amount of hot water, even to a 'cold' wash, for best results.

8. Use the right detergent for the job

  • Most wash loads will use general-purpose detergents.
  • But, use light-duty detergents for washing lightly soiled and delicate fabrics.
  • Liquid detergents work better in cold water and on oily stains, whereas powders are especially good for removing ground-in dirt and clay.
  • Always check your owner's manual for the recommendations about detergent usage specific to your machine.
  • If you have a larger load, heavy soil or harder water, you will need to use more detergent.
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