A General Guide to Washer and Dryer Settings

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Laundry can be a real chore sometimes… Especially when you don’t fully understand how to optimize your laundry settings to protect your favorite clothing and linens. With so many various settings to choose from, it’s easy to get confused or overwhelmed. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide to your washer and dryer – explaining the most common settings and their best uses. 

Wash Cycles

Most washing machines have at least 3-4 cycles to choose from. Many wash cycles will have timers to indicate how long it will take (in minutes). For heavily soiled items, a longer wash is recommended.

  • Pre-wash
    To fight stains, the pre-wash setting allows you to add a soak to the start of your cycle. Be sure to add laundry soap to both the detergent and pre-wash trays!

  • Regular / Normal / Cotton
    The regular setting is probably your go-to. With fast agitation and spin cycles, this setting works great to remove stains and dirt from durable fabrics. Use this setting for sheets, towels, whites, underwear, socks, and heavily soiled items.

  • Permanent Press / Colors
    The permanent press setting is designed for everyday clothes that easily wrinkle. With fast agitation and slow spin cycles, we recommend this setting for jeans and non-cotton items, such as polyester.

  • Delicate
    The delicate setting is perfect for gently cleaning items like silk, athletic apparel, or anything denoting gentle wash on the tag. This is because it uses slow agitation and a slow rinse cycle to clean thoroughly without damaging delicate fabrics.

  • Rapid / Speed / Quick Wash
    The rapid wash setting to is a shortened cycle with a high-speed spin optimize drying time. Since less time is spent washing, we do not recommend this setting for heavily soiled items. You’ll also want to avoid rapid wash for delicate items, as they could be damaged in the spin cycle.

  • Bulky
    The bulky setting is specifically made to handle heavy items, such as blankets, comforters, rugs, or pillows. It starts with a soak period to allow the soap and water to permeate. Then, a medium wash and spin action helps to keep your machine balanced.

  • Extra Rinse
    For people with allergies or sensitive skin, adding an extra rinse to your wash is a great way to ensure that all of the product has been washed out of your clothing.

  • Rinse and Spin
    The rinse and spin setting is meant for loads that don’t require laundry soap. It works by quickly rinsing and removing moisture from items like bathing suits.

  • Delay Start
    If you have a delay start option (lucky!), you can time when your laundry will be finished washing. This is ideal for people with busy schedules, so you can ensure you’ll be home to move the load into the dryer.

  • Steam
    If your machine has a steam option, keep in mind that this does not wash your clothes. It’s meant to quickly remove wrinkles in already-clean items.



  • Cold
    Cold water is the most gentle on your clothing and saves the most energy. It’s best to use cold water for lightly soiled items, or anything that might bleed dye or shrink.

  • Warm
    Warm water works best for colored fabrics and items that may be heavily stained or soiled, such as sheets and towels.

  • Hot
    Hot water should be used to sanitize items like baby clothes, cloth diapers, athletic apparel, and linens. This setting also works well for white cotton fabrics, which tend to be pre-shrunk. 
    *Keep in mind, most machines heat water on demand rather than pull from your hot water source, using much more energy.

Load Size

  • Small
    1/4 full

  • Medium
    1/2 full

  • Large
    More than 1/2 full

  • X-Large
    Full capacity (if available)


Dryer Cycles

  • Regular / Heavy
    The Regular dry cycle uses high heat to dry loads quickly, but can shrink or otherwise be harsh on items. For that reason, it’s best to use this setting for whites (which are typically pre-shrunk and better at withstanding heat than colored fabrics).

  • Permanent Press
    Permanent Press uses medium heat to protect from color-fading. While you shouldn’t use this setting for delicates, it can be a quick alternative to ironing for items like non-wrinkle pants and iron-free shirts.

  • Delicates
    The Delicate cycle uses low heat for a longer time to be gentle on your most fragile fabrics.

  • Air Fluff
    The Air Fluff cycle uses no additional heat. Instead, it recirculates room temperature air. This is best used for already dry clothes to soften or fluff fabrics.

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