Understanding Washing Machine Cycles: Customizing Your Laundry Routine

So, you’ve brought home a brand-new washing machine. It gleams in the corner of your utility room like a beacon of cleanliness. But what’s this? A plethora of cycles, programs, and settings that are more complicated than the plot of an avant-garde art film?

woman choosing a washing machine cycle

5 Washing Machine Cycles That You Should Know By Memory

No need to worry though, it’s actually pretty simple once you understand the basics. Some of the washing machines actually tell you which cycle to use on what, but in case your doesn’t and you want to know what NOT to wash in each respective cycle, by all means, read on.

1) Regular/Normal Cycle

Aha, the safety net. The universal option you choose when everything else on the control panel looks as if it’s written in hieroglyphics.

  • Best for: Clothes you don’t have an emotional attachment to.
  • Not for: That fancy dress shirt you wore once in 2019 and plan to wear again… someday.

The regular cycle is like the vanilla ice cream of laundry. It’s reliable, it does the job, and it won’t let you down. Just be aware that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Now, let’s dive into the cycles designed for those special garments you treasure.

2) Delicate Cycle

Also known as the “Please don’t ruin my favorite blouse, I’m begging you” cycle.

  • Best for: Lace, silk, cashmere, and any clothing item you’d save in a fire.
  • Not for: Your gym socks. Please, do not torture the rest of your clothes.

Now this is the go-to setting for all things soft and fragile. Think of it as a gentle massage for your clothes compared to the rough-and-tumble of the regular cycle. Why? Because it does wash the clothes properly, while not damaging their lifespan (okay maybe just a little).

3) Permanent Press Cycle

Contrary to what you might think, this cycle does not involve any permanent pressing. Sorry to burst your bubble. I know, I was devasted too when I learned the truth.

  • Best for: Synthetic fibers, anything that wrinkles if you so much as look at it the wrong way.
  • Not for: Sturdy cottons and linens. They laugh in the face of the permanent press.

The permanent press cycle is designed to reduce wrinkles and creases, so it’s perfect for your business attire and other formalwear.

4) Heavy-Duty Cycle

Despite its name, it does not wash bricks. The heavy-duty AKA the “I’ve been working on the car all day and now I’m covered in grime” cycle is for some serious, though-to-clean materials.

  • Best for: Jeans, towels, and anything with a stain that you’d rather not explain.
  • Not for: Anything that you wouldn’t use as a rag in your garage.

This cycle is for those heavy, durable fabrics that need a thorough clean. It’s a tough wash for a tough world. Now if you are going to use this cycle, prepare yourself for some serious noise, because your washing machine’s drum is going to rotate quite fast.

5) Custom Cycles

Oh, you little rebel, I like you. Because sometimes, you just want to feel like a laundry renegade.

  • Best for: When you’ve mastered the art of the washing machine and are ready to break free from the constraints of pre-set cycles.
  • Not for: Laundry beginners. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is laundry mastery.

Most modern machines come with the ability to customize your cycle to your heart’s content. You can alter water temperature, spin speed, rinse options, and more. Just remember to read your machine’s manual before playing mad scientist.


Well, I guess that’s all she wrote. These are the main 5 different cycles that you can find and “play with” on all modern washing machines. Now your washing machine might come with a far larger plethora of possible cycles, but usually, they just differ in water temperature and rotation speed of the drum.

I hope that this was somewhat helpful to you and now you can wash everything with confidence.