Skip to content

All You Need to Know About How Washing Machines Work

There’s something so comforting about hand-washing, and it has something to do with the fact that we’re in control: over the water temperature, how we manipulate the clothes, and the length of time that we saturate the garments. If you’re used to hand-washing, then washing machines, with their automated cleaning processes, can seem downright terrifying.

But guess what? They’re not! Yes, washing machines are classed as technology, but in comparison to the smartphones and computer consoles your kids are playing with, they’re a piece of cake! If you’re thinking of making the switch from hand washing to machine washing (and you really should, it’s such a time-saver!), you don’t need to understand all about the ins and outs – the working of washing machine parts – all you need to know is the different cycles and settings that you can use.

Washing Machine Cycles and Settings

The main working principle of washing machines isn’t to conjure magic; it’s choosing the right cycles and settings for the best possible result. There are loads of different options to choose from, giving you exactly the same level of control you have with hand-washing, only without any of the time-consuming effort. Understanding that a machine can combine different parts of the washing process with a setting – preferences based on each individual load – to create a ‘cycle’ will give you an idea of how a washing machine works. Here is an explanation of some elements of a cycle: 

  • Pre-Wash.  You don’t always need to use the pre-wash cycle. Actually, unless you have very heavily soiled clothes, it’s best not to, as this will help you save money and conserve water. If you do need to wash very dirty clothes – something that’s inevitable if you have kids – the pre-wash cycle can be a wonderful thing. It will give your clothes a very quick wash with Surf excel Matic. This will soften any stains, so that it’s easier to remove them during the washing cycle. 
  • Washing.  This is the main part of the cycle, and where the ‘magic’ actually happens. Your chosen detergent is released into the machine, to mix with the water, creating suds which soak into your clothes, draw out any stains, and remove any bad smells. You can use your choice of Surf excel Matic detergent, but make sure you use the right dose. 
  • Rinse.  During the rinse cycle, clean water is pumped into the washing machine, flushing out the soapy suds and removing detergent residue from your clothes. It continues to do this until there’s no soap left, and your clothes are clean, but very wet. 
  • Spin.  The final part of the washing process, the spin whizzes your clothes round very fast, drawing out excess moisture. While your clothes won’t come out dry, they won’t be dripping wet, so they’ll be fine to hang up on rails or on the line. A word of advice: don’t run the spin cycle if you’ve got a peacefully sleeping baby – it can be quite noisy!

Washing Machine Settings

  • Normal.  Don’t be fooled by the name! Just because it’s a ‘normal’ wash doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the setting you should use most often. ‘Normal’ just really means that there aren’t any specialist settings applied. For the average load, you may find it better to use a speed wash or an eco-wash to save time and money, and conserve water and energy. 
  • Speed Wash. If your clothes aren’t particularly stained and are just in need of a bit of a freshen-up, a speed wash takes less time to complete, and uses less water and lower temperatures than a ‘normal’ wash. You may prefer to use this setting as standard, unless you have heavily soiled clothes. 
  • Eco-Wash. The eco-wash setting is the most environmentally-friendly option, but do use it with care! It consumes even less water at a cooler temperature than a speed wash. One of our Matic Mums remarks: “I’ve found it to be excellent for freshening up t-shirts that smell a little past their best, but I’ve noticed that visible stains don’t always come out on this setting.” 
  • Delicates/Hand-Wash. If you want an easy transition from hand-washing to machine-washing, this is the setting for you. Rather than spinning your clothes to remove excess water, this setting gently tosses them to help to protect delicate materials. Even lace, silk, and embroidered garments can go through the washer on a delicate setting! 
  • Soak.  The soak setting – if your washer has one – is similar to the pre-wash cycle, only it doesn’t then continue into a full-on wash cycle. Soaking usually lasts for around 30 minutes. “In truth,” our Matic Mum continues, “I don’t often find I have much use for my soak setting, but it can be useful if you’ve got a stubborn stain and want to soften it first before washing it with Surf excel Matic.” 
  • Sanitizing.  If you have a baby, or young toddler, the sanitizing setting on your washer can be a lifesaver! It uses very hot water (so don’t put your delicates in this wash or they’ll shrink), which essentially boils clothes and kills bacteria. If your kids have had an ‘accident’ and stained their clothes, this setting really is invaluable. It’s also good for washing things like your bath or shower curtain that have mould growth on them.

Learn to Love Your Washing Machine

When you’re first making the transition from hand-washing to machine-washing, it can be difficult to warm to the appliance, but once you start to get your washing machine working with you – and not against you – you’ll fall in love with it and won’t know how you coped before!