How to Select Washer Settings for Clothes and Towels

Selecting the right washer settings for your clothes and towels is key to getting them clean while avoiding damage. With modern washers offering so many options, it can be confusing to know which cycles and settings to choose. Follow these tips to select the optimal washer settings for washing your fabrics.

Assess the Fabric Type

The first step is to check the care label on each item and identify the fabric content. This will tell you important details like whether it can be machine washed and what temperature it can handle.

  • Delicates: Silk, satin, lace and other delicate fabrics should be washed on the gentle or delicate cycle in cold water. Agitation can damage the fibers.
  • Cottons: Most cotton clothing and towels can be washed on the normal cycle in warm or hot water. Choose hot for heavily soiled whites.
  • Synthetics: Fabrics like polyester, nylon and spandex often call for a gentle cycle and cool water to prevent pilling.
  • Wool: Use the delicate cycle and cold water for wool sweaters and fabrics. Check the tag as some may require hand washing.
  • Colors: To prevent fading, wash bright and dark colors in cold water on a normal or permanent press cycle.

Select the Right Cycle

Match the cycle setting to the fabric type for optimal cleaning and care.

  • The normal cycle is ideal for most cottons and linens. It provides vigorous agitation.
  • Switch to the delicate cycle for silks, woolens and synthetics. This uses gentle agitation.
  • The permanent press cycle has a cool down rinse to reduce wrinkling of synthetics and cotton-polyester blends.
  • Use the handwash cycle for machine washing delicate items that require it.
  • The sanitary cycle uses super hot water to sanitize heavily soiled whites and towels.

Adjust the Water Temperature

Water temperature impacts how effectively laundry gets cleaned and also prevents damage.

  • Use hot water (120°F-140°F) for sanitizing heavily soiled whites and linens. It provides the best cleaning.
  • Choose warm water (80°F-100°F) for most cottons and towels. It dissolves detergents well.
  • Wash cold water (60°F-80°F) for lightly soiled items, colors and delicates to prevent fading and shrinkage.
  • Some washers have a tap cold setting that uses water straight from your faucet. This is ideal for silks and woolens.

Set the Right Water Level

The water level affects the movement of the fabrics in the drum during cleaning.

  • Use the high water level for large, bulky items like comforters to allow thorough soaking and agitation.
  • The medium setting works well for most mixed cotton, linen and towel loads.
  • Switch to the low level for washing just a couple of items to conserve water.

Add the Proper Detergent

Check the detergent package directions and match the amount to the load size. Generally:

  • Use liquid or powder heavy duty detergents for whites, linens and heavily soiled clothes. They contain strong stain fighting enzymes.
  • Choose liquid gentle or sensitive skin detergents for silks, woolens and delicates. These are designed for gentle cleaning.
  • Limit powder or pod detergents with brighteners and bleach to sturdy cottons and towels to prevent damage to delicates.
  • Use a fabric softener in the dispenser drawer for towels and synthetics to reduce static. But skip it for delicates where residues can build up.

Select Extra Rinse and Spin Cycles

  • Add an extra rinse cycle if clothes will be dried in the machine or if you want to avoid detergent residue.
  • Choose a high spin speed such as 1200 RPM if drying laundry in the machine. This extracts more water.
  • Opt for a low spin speed around 500-800 RPM for delicates and wrinkle-prone fabrics. Less centrifugal force prevents damage.

Read the Manual

Always consult your machine’s manual for the full range of cycles, settings and any special features. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for loading, detergent use and maintenance.

Test Heavy Items Separately

Wash any bulky, heavyweight items like jackets separately from lighter items. The agitation and centrifugal force needed to clean heavy fabrics can damage delicate ones washed at the same time.

With these guidelines, you can confidently match the washer settings to the fabric type and level of soil. Proper selection ensures clothes and towels get clean while protecting them from damage. Consistently choosing the right cycles preserves the fibers, retains colors and extends the life of all your laundered fabrics.

Frequently Asked Questions About Washer Settings for Clothes and Towels

How do I know which washer cycle to use?

Check the clothing care label for recommended washing cycles. Use normal for most cottons, permanent press for synthetics and wrinkle-free fabrics, delicate for silks and woolens, and handwash for machine-washable delicates.

What temperature should I wash clothes in?

Use hot for linens, whites and heavily soiled items, warm for most cottons and towels, and cold for colors, lightly soiled clothes, and delicates like silk. Adjust the temperature according to soil level and fabric type.

When should I use cold water for laundry?

Wash in cold water when laundering delicates, fabrics prone to shrinking like spandex, printed designs, darks and colors to prevent fading, and anything lightly soiled. Cold water conserves energy too.

What’s the difference between the water levels on a washer?

The high level gives plenty of water for large or bulky items. Medium works for most mixed loads. Low conserves water for small loads with just a few pieces.

How much detergent should I use in my washing machine?

Check the detergent label for recommended amounts based on load size and level of soil. Avoid oversudsing by using too much detergent. Stick to the guidelines.

Should I use fabric softener on my towels?

Yes, liquid fabric softener used sparingly in the dispenser drawer helps soften towels and reduce static cling. But don’t use dryer sheets as they can leave residue on towels.

Can I wash delicates with regular clothes?

It’s best to wash delicates including silks, satins and lace fabrics separately from sturdier cottons and linens. Delicates require a more gentle cycle, cooler water and mild detergent.

How do I wash jackets and heavy fabrics?

Bulky heavy fabrics like denim, jackets and comforters should be washed separately from lighter items. The agitation can damage delicate fabrics washed at the same time.

What spin speed should I use for clothes?

A high spin like 1200 RPM extracts more water if drying clothes in the machine. Use a low 500-800 RPM spin for delicates and wrinkle-prone items. Consult fabric care labels too.


With a wide range of settings available on modern washers, it can seem overwhelming to select the right ones for optimal cleaning. By taking into account the fabric type, soil level, load contents and machine options, you can confidently choose the cycles, temperature, water level and spin speed tailored specifically to the laundry you’re washing. Consistently matching the washer settings to the needs of each fabric load will extend the life of your clothes and linens while keeping them looking like new. With some knowledge and experimentation, washing your garments properly will become second nature.