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Washing Cycles and Which to Choose

January 21, 2022

Other than keeping up with folding and putting away laundry, washing your clothes is a pretty simple chore.

Even though it is not rocket science, there are a few intricacies to washing machine cycles that can be useful to know. Understanding the different cycles that your washing machine has to offer and knowing when to use them can decrease your energy and water consumption, keep your clothes or linens lasting longer, and result in cleaner laundry at the end of the day.

woman putting clothes in a front load washer

Standard Cycles

Knowing which cycles on your washer are best for which situations can make a substantial difference in how your clothes look and how your drier performs. Washing your delicates in the wrong setting, for example, can ruin them.

Although each washing machine model is unique, there are a few standard cycle options that most models offer. We have detailed those below.


The normal cycle is the most commonly used cycle for most people. It is a long cycle with high agitation and is used for everyday items such as socks, underwear, and t-shirts. In most cases, this can be your "go-to" cycle for everyday laundry.

Speed or Quick Wash

Most washers have a quick washer or speed wash setting. This cycle has a much shorter run-time than the normal setting and is ideal for small loads of laundry or if you have a load that needs to be rewashed after being forgotten in the washer overnight. Since this cycle is shorter, it is best for lightly soiled clothes.

Most quick washer cycles also have a high-speed spin cycle at the end to remove more moisture from your clothes leading to a shorter dry time.


Heavy-duty is a cycle with a long wash time and high agitation. It is used for sturdy fabrics such as towels, jeans, or if you have heavily soiled clothes. Heavy-duty cycles also have a fast spin cycle to remove as much moisture as possible from your clothes before the cycle ends. Because of this, you will want to ensure you are only using this heavy-duty cycle when you have durable fabrics.


The bulky cycle is usually the cycle with the heaviest level of dirt removal. It is ideal for heavily soiled items, such as grass-stained or muddy kids’ pants. A bulky cycle can also work well for large items like blankets, comforters, or sleeping bags.

A bulky wash cycle will often fill the washer tub with more water to ensure the items are fully soaked and rinsed well. Because of this, you will want to make sure you are only using this cycle when necessary to preserve water consumption.

Bedding and Sheets

If your washer has a bedding or sheets cycle you are in luck. This cycle is self-explanatory as it is ideal for linens or any other large piece of fabric. This cycle is meant to keep your linens from tangling or wadding up and getting a more complete clean.

This cycle can also work well for washing curtains or drapes, though we recommend reading the label on those items first.

Delicate or Gentle

Silk and wool items, or any other delicate items, should run in the delicate cycle. The delicate cycle is the gentlest cycle and can run with cold water or warm water and low spin speed or no spin. Check the specific settings on your washer and your clothing items to determine what is ideal for the material you are working with.

Rinse and Spin

The rinse and spin cycle is just what it sounds like. It runs with no detergent and just rinses the clothes and spins the moisture out. This is ideal for cloth diapers or heavily soiled items that you may want to rinse before running a full wash on.

Specialty Cycles

There are several specialty cycles offered by leading brands that can get you a better clean or improved sanitization. Here are a few of our favorite specialty cycles currently offered.

Steam, Sanitize, and Allergen Cycles

Steam, Sanitize, and Allergen cycles are designed to kill household germs and bacteria. GE's Smart Front Load Steam Washer with SmartDispense washer includes the industry-first cycle that will kill 99% of bacteria and allergens.

Active Water Jet

Samsung has developed a washer with an Active WaterJet that sits near the detergent dispenser on some of their washers. It is basically a built-in faucet. This cycle is great for any items that need to be hand washed or pre-treated. All the water or mess is contained right in the tub of the washer.

Deep Water or Deep Fill Wash

If you have heavily soiled clothes, like muddy pants, Maytag’s deep water wash cycle is just what you need. This cycle uses more water and works with their PowerWash® agitator to break up even the most dried-on messes. Look at the Maytag's Top Load Washer with Deep Water Wash online today.


Samsung has come out with a washer featuring their new OptiWash™ cycle that will get your clothes perfectly clean. This technology senses how soiled your clothes are and will automatically add more time to the cycle or detergent to the wash to get your clothes washed properly.

Shop for Your Washing Machine at Howard's

Howard’s has been in business for over 75 years and is Southern California’s largest and most trusted appliance retailer. We offer free next-day delivery on purchases over $399 within qualified zip codes scheduled before 5 p.m. in the Southern California area.

To make things easier for our customers, we also offer online chat, phone consultations, and online ordering. Shop one of our 13 locations or browse our selection online at

Looking to Finance?

Extend your budget and apply today for special promotional financing. Howard’s can work with you to find flexible financing and you can receive 18 months of no interest. Learn more about our financing options online today or contact us for more details.

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