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A laundry room reflected in the glass of a washing machine door.

How To Use A Washing Machine

So, you’ve taken the plunge and bought your very first washing machine. Congratulations! A whole new world of convenience is yours to enjoy. But how do you use a washing machine? Like all new technology, a washing machine presents you with an array of buttons and dials that might want to make you run for the hills. But slow down! It’s easier than you think. Read on to learn how to use a washing machine for the first time and breathe easier knowing your laundry will be well taken care of.  

  1. Read the washing machine instructions 

    You might not feel up to reading the entire manual cover to cover, but – as with most electrical appliances – there should be some kind of quick-start guide at the front of the manual that explains the controls you’ll need to use your machine. Since you’re finding out how to use a washing machine for the first time, you should read the quick-start guide very carefully and familiarise yourself with the controls as best you can. Most washing machines do broadly the same thing, but every machine has its unique features.

    The detergent drawers might not always be laid out the same way, for example, and this can make learning how to use a washing machine with liquid detergent tricky. Familiarise yourself with the specifics of your machine – and you read the instructions on your detergent – to avoid getting caught out.  

  2. Check your clothing care labels 

    When learning how to use a washing machine, it’s very important to pay attention to labels. As you know, labels tell you what temperature to wash your laundry at. You’ll notice that your machine has pre-set programmes that correspond to the most common washing instructions. This may include a setting for cotton, synthetic fabrics, and delicates as well as high-temperature washes for cleaning sheets, towels, and the machine itself. It’s important to remember that the care labels on your clothes will recommend the maximum temperature that these items can be washed at.

    You can still switch down your temperature to save energy, and you may want to check your detergent’s label too as some are just as effective on a cooler 30°C. For more guidance, and to avoid any unnecessary mistakes, check out our guide to laundry symbols.  

  3. Sort your load by colour 

    If you’re learning how to use a washing machine for the first time, you might not know for sure if your clothes are colourfast. To find out, follow the instruction in our colourfast test. Even if your clothes pass the test, it is a good idea to sort your clothes before putting them in the washing machine. The last thing you want is for your whites to be discoloured by the running dye of an odd pair of black socks or a coloured top. Wash similar colours together, sorting your clothes into separate laundry baskets to help you.

    Always wash darks, colours, and whites separately and consider handwashing any new or particularly bright clothes before introducing them to the machine. This will help you tell if the colour will run and you may find that some dyes – such as red – take a while to set on fabrics which cause them to run during their first few washes.  

  4. Optimise for your water 

    Is the water in your area hard, medium or soft? This will determine how much detergent you need to use in your wash loads, as well as how much (if any) fabric softener. Whether you’re working out how to use a washing machine with liquid detergent or powder, finding out about how hard the water is in your area will help you take the best possible care of your clothes and your machine. Check the back of your detergent’s packaging for guidance on dosage. If it doesn’t recommend how much to use for different water types then a good rule of thumb is to use the stated dose in soft water areas and no more than double than dose in hard water areas.

    Using too much detergent can cause residue and stains on your clothes, so it’s important to follow the packaging. There you have it: a few tips to help you get the best out of your new washing machine and be able to stop asking “how do I use a washing machine”!