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The Best Way to Wash Clothes in the Washing Machine: A Step-by-Step Guide

It can be a bit daunting using new technology for the first time, but using a washing machine really isn’t something you should worry about.

If you aren’t sure how to wash clothes in a washing machine, then this easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide is all you need:  

Laundry Preparations

While washing in a washing machine is very simple, it does require a little bit of planning. Clothes should be sorted before washing to reduce the risk of damage and discolouration, which can happen if you wash a white blouse with a pink shirt, for example. Clothes should also be sorted in terms of their care labels, as some materials may require a cold wash, some may need a gentle cycle, and others may not be bleach compatible, for example. You can learn more about care labels, and how to wash clothes in a washing machine, here.

Also, make sure that you use the appropriate timing for each type of material, and do not overrun the cycle if the wash is done.  

Washing Machine Settings

When learning how to wash clothes in the washing machine, you need to understand a little bit about the different settings and features of your machine so that you can get the most from it. Now don’t worry, this isn’t complicated. Even though many washing machines today boast a range of new features, you can play around with these once you’re more experienced in machine washing. For now, you only need to be concerned with a few settings:  


The pre-wash setting is ideal for clothes that are very heavily soiled. It soaks the clothes in a mixture of warm water and detergent, softening any stubborn stains before the main wash cycle.  

Hand Wash Setting

This is the best way to wash laundry that is very delicate. The spin cycle is reduced, which helps to protect fabrics such as silk and lace from damage. It’s as gentle on your clothes as hand washing.  


If you want to know how to wash clothes correctly (and you have a fully automatic washing machine with many different temperature settings), then temperature is key. A standard temperature is 40 degrees, but many fabrics such as wool and synthetics are best washed at 30 to reduce shrinkage and damage. Baby clothes, on the other hand, are best washed at higher temperatures to remove bacteria.  

Detergent & Fabric Softener

To get your clothes looking and smelling clean and fresh, you need to add detergent to your washing machine before starting the cycle. You can also add fabric softener to give your clothes an irresistibly soft feel and help protect the fibres – it’s one of the best ways to wash clothes. Front loading washing machines will have a detergent drawer which you access from the outside of the machine. The drawer will usually have 3 or 4 compartments:

  1. This compartment is if you’re using a pre-wash setting. You add your regular laundry detergent (powdered or liquid) and this is deposited into the machine during the initial soak. It is often labelled ‘I’ on many machines.
  2. This compartment is for detergent to be used during the main wash. Add your detergent, and it will be deposited into the machine during the main wash cycle. It is often labelled ‘II’ on many machines.
  3. This compartment is for fabric softener, which will be added to your wash to soften and protect the fibres of your clothing. If unlabelled, you can usually spot a fabric softener compartment as it is a little smaller than the detergent compartments.
  4. This compartment is for bleach, which is tough at removing stains and keeping your whites white. You can learn more about the safe use of bleach here. This compartment is often very small and easy to spot.

Your detergent box should always advise how much to use for each load of laundry, and it’s important not to use more than this as it could leave a residue on your clothes. If you’re unsure, you can check out this handy dosage guide.  

Washing Machine Cycles

Now that you’ve switched your washing machine on, you may be wondering what on earth is happening to your clothes, and to your machine! Is it supposed to make that noise? Are your clothes supposed to be moving around like that? These are all common questions many mums have when learning how to wash clothes in a washing machine. Here’s a quick rundown of what you can expect from each wash cycle (and for a more in depth look at how your washing machine works, check out this article).  

Wash Cycle

The wash cycle is when the drum is filled with water and the detergent is released to clean your clothes of any dirt and stains. You’ll see water in your machine, and soapy suds inside.  

Rinse Cycle

During the rinse cycle, all of the soapy suds are flushed out with clean water. You might hear a strange noise as the dirty water is pumped from the machine.  

Spin Cycle

The spin cycle is when any excess moisture is removed from your clothes. Once again, you may hear a pumping sound, and you’ll also see your machine spin vigorously – this is normal.  

Do you have any questions about how to wash clothes in a washing machine? Ask your questions below!