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    Perhaps you’ve just moved into a new place and are puzzled by the multitude of icons and options on your washing machine, or you’ve just purchased a new washer-dryer and found the how-to manual daunting…  

    Follow along to discover key steps for how to use a washing machine. You’ll find out how to select the right wash temperature, wash cycle and where to put your detergent and softener for optimal cleaning. You’ll also learn how to wash clothes by hand and how to remove most stains.  

    Table of contents: 

    • How to do laundry: a step-by-step guide
      • Separate your laundry
      • Load your washing machine
      • Add detergent and fabric softener
      • Select the correct washing cycle
      • Select the correct water temperature
      • Turn on the washing machine
      • Dry your clothes
      • Clean your washing machine
      • Common mistakes to avoid when doing laundry
    • What do different wash symbols mean?
    • How to treat stains
    • How to hand-wash clothes

    How to do laundry: a step-by-step guide

    Read on for detailed instructions, from separating your laundry by fabric and colour to adding the right amount of detergent and fabric softener, as well as selecting the optimal cycle and water temperature. Additional steps such as drying laundry, treating stains and hand-washing are also covered. 


    Separate your laundry 

    Have you ever wondered what colours you can wash together? The first step is to separate laundry: avoid mixing together light and dark fabrics or heavily soiled clothes. The type of fabric matters too: lighter fabrics need to be washed separately from heavier ones such as denim. 


    Load your washing machine

    A good practice for both effective cleaning and the longevity of your washing machine is to avoid overloading it. Find out how to calibrate the right amount for a single load of laundry. 

    • A small load represents ⅓ of the machine drum. 
    • A medium load is roughly ½ of the capacity of the machine drum. 
    • A large load is about ⅔ capacity of the machine drum. 

    Even if you decide to wash a large load, you still need to be able to fit your hand in the machine. If you can’t, then you know the machine is too full! 


    Add detergent and fabric softener

    Do you know where to put the detergent in your machine? Do you also know how much to use for every load? 

    It’s important for cleanliness and for the longevity of your clothes to know where to put detergent in the washing machine. You need to check the product label on the detergent packaging to know how to dose the correct amount of powder or liquid detergent.  

    Learn what the detergent drawer symbols mean. 

    [I, II & Flower icons] 

    • The small compartment marked as “I” is for detergent and only needs to be used if you’ve selected a pre-wash (for higher temperatures and longer wash cycles). 
    • The bigger compartment marked as “II” is where you put detergent in your washing machine for main washes.  
    • The part of the detergent drawer marked with a flower symbol is where you put the fabric softener. 


    Select the correct washing cycle

    Do you know how to use your washing machine? Each washing machine has a different range of wash cycles to choose from, with a specific temperature, speed and​​ wash time for each programme. It’s important to select the right one depending on the fabric and garment type. You can follow the table below for guidance. Don’t forget that even though there’s a hand-wash option on your machine, some clothes will require actual hand-washing. Continue reading to find our step-by-step guide. 


    Cycle type 

    Cleaning method 

    Clothing type 


    • High agitation wash 
    • High-speed spin cycle 
    • Adjustable temperature 

    Sheets, towels, whites, heavily soiled items, cotton underwear and socks. 


    • Medium agitation wash 
    • Low-speed spin cycle 
    • Warm-to-cool temperature 

    Synthetic garments with medium soiling: blended and synthetic fabrics, polyester, jeans and jumpers. 


    • Low agitation wash 
    • Low-speed spin cycle 

    Delicate garments such as lingerie, silk, wool, knits and other delicate fabrics. 


    • Low agitation wash 
    • Low-speed spin cycle 

    Very delicate garments with the hand-wash icon on the care label. 


    Select the correct water temperature

    If you’re not sure ​​how to select the right temperature for a wash cycle, the first steps are to identify the fabric type and evaluate how soiled the clothes are. While hot water is better at eliminating bacteria from clothes, it can shrink certain fabrics, fade colours and even cause stains. It requires more energy as well, which could cost you more in the long run.  

    What temperature is a cold wash? 30°C and lower is a cold wash and it’s a high enough temperature for delicate fabrics, bright colours that could run or fade and lightly soiled clothes. 

    What temperature is a warm wash? 40°C is a warm wash and is the most common temperature for moderately soiled garments and dark fabrics. 

    What temperature is a hot wash? 60°C is considered hot and commonly used for bedding and towels as it is the temperature most effective at eliminating bacteria. 

    Nowadays, there are a range of products that are efficient in cleaning or removing stains, even in cold water, like Vanish, which is beneficial for your clothes and pocket in the long run. 


    Turn on the washing machine

    Once you’ve loaded the right amount of laundry as well as detergent and fabric softener, you need to turn on the machine. Ensure you’ve closed the machine door properly, especially if it’s a front-loading machine, as older machines have no warning system to indicate when it’s not locked. You need to hear a clicking sound. 

    After the wash cycle is complete, make sure you leave the door slightly open to avoid mould or mildew buildup which could make your machine – and clothing – smell. 


    Dry your clothe


    Once your laundry has been machine-washed, you have two options, either air drying or tumble drying. Both have pros and cons, it’s up to you to decide what suits your garments better. 

      • Air drying: The pros of that drying method include cost savings, both on the initial equipment and your energy bill later, as well as a reduced risk of damaging or shrinking your clothes. However, it takes more time and space, especially in colder and more humid weather. 
      • Tumble drying: That method can be more convenient and efficient, as you can dry your laundry immediately, regardless of the weather. A washer-dryer will also require less maintenance as the drying cycle starts as soon as the wash ends. However, repeatedly tumble-drying your clothes can shorten their lifespan. 


    Clean your washing machine

    Why does my washer smell? 

    Not only do you need to leave the door open, but you also need to clean your washing machine regularly in order to keep it smell-free and​​ in working condition for longer! This will also ensure clean laundry, wash cycle after wash cycle. Hard water is common, especially in cities, and regular upkeep will prevent buildup. A top-load machine will require cleaning a couple of times a year, and a front-load every month or so. Some machines have cycles specifically for cleaning your washing machine, or you can manually clean it. Always check your washing machine’s use and care guide first for cleaning instructions. 

    Not sure how to clean the washing machine rubber? After you’ve run a machine-cleaning cycle, simply make sure you wipe clean the seals! 

    Common mistakes to avoid when doing laundry

    To preserve the longevity of your washing machine and effectively clean your laundry, avoid the common mistakes below:

    • Don’t put softener directly on laundry: Softener goes into the specific compartment of the washing machine. Applying it directly to the garments may stain them.
    • Don’t leave anything in the pockets of your clothes: Before you load the washing machine, be sure to check all pockets! A pen could stain your clothes with ink, and even a piece of paper could result in fluff sticking to your laundry. 
    • Don’t mix dark and white garments: Be sure to separate your laundry before you wash it, as mixing colours could result in dark fabrics fading and white ones greying.
    • Don’t leave wet clothes in the washing machine for too long: If your washing machine doesn’t make a sound when the cycle is over, consider setting a timer. Wet laundry will start smelling if left in the washing machine too long.
    • Don’t overload the washing machine: Your laundry won’t be properly cleaned if you try and load too many garments in the washing machine at once. In the long run, it may also damage your machine if you overload it constantly.
    • Don’t mix up the fabric softener and detergent compartments: The washing machine drawer has separate compartments with icons to indicate where detergent and where fabric softener goes – this ensures that the right product is dispensed at the right time during a wash cycle.


    What do different wash symbols mean?

    Garment care labels can seem difficult to decipher, but laundry will become much easier once you break it down step by step.

    Laundry symbol: The first icon is generally a bucket filled with water, with either dots or a number representing the water temperature of the wash cycle.

    Laundry symbol

    • A single dot represents a cold wash (30 °C or below).
    • Two dots for warm water (40 °C).
    • Four dots for a hot wash (60 °C).
    • A hand in the water represents advised hand-washing (you can select the hand-wash cycle or actually hand-wash your items in the sink).


    Bleaching symbol: The triangle helps you understand whether or not you can use bleach.

      Bleaching symbol

    • A crossed-out triangle means no bleaching is allowed.
    • Diagonal lines fill the triangle for non-chlorine bleach.
    • A plain triangle is for regular bleaching.


    Drying symbol: The square represents drying advice to care for your garment.

    Drying symbol

    • A square with a circle inside means tumble drying is allowed.
    • An additional dot inside means tumble drying at a low temperature.
    • Multiple dots mean high-temperature tumble drying is advised.
    • A crossed-out circle in a square indicates no tumble drying.
    • A square with three vertical lines inside is for drip drying.
    • A single horizontal line in the middle indicates flat drying.
    • A drooping line on top means hang to dry.

    Ironing symbol: Ironing advice is represented by a simplified iron icon. 

    Ironing symbol 

    • A single dot inside for a cool iron (max 110 °C).
    • Two dots for medium iron (max 150 °C).
    • Three dots for a hot iron (max 200 °C).
    • If there’s no dot, you can iron your garment at any temperature.
    • If it’s crossed out, avoid ironing.


    Dry cleaning symbols: The presence of a circle on the care label indicates how to approach professional dry cleaning. 

    Dry cleaning symbols 

    • A regular circle means dry cleaning only.
    • Letters in the circle will help your dry cleaner select the right solvent: A for any solvent, P is any solvent except for trichloroethylene, and F is for petroleum solvent only.
    • A crossed-out circle means do not dry clean.

     Read our full guide to wash symbols. 


    How to treat stains

    You can treat a stain before you put the garment in the washing machine: the two-step process of loosening up stain particles with a product first and machine washing with a regular detergent second will get rid of the toughest stains. 

    • You need to identify the origin of the stain: coffee, fruit or oil stains will usually require different instructions.
    • If you’re using Vanish powder stain remover, you can mix it with water and let the garment soak for 10 to 15 minutes or mix with water and pre-treat the stain directly. After pre-treatment, wash as usual. Successful results are not guaranteed. Always check labels and follow product instructions.
    • If you’re treating a localised stain, you might want to rub the stain remover into the stain for more effective removal. You will need to leave it on for 15 minutes as well before washing the garment in the machine.


    How to hand-wash clothes

    It’s better to be safe than sorry and if you have any doubt about how a garment will handle a machine wash, hand-washing may be your best option.  

    • If you have multiple garments to wash, separate them by fabric type and colour first. For example, you shouldn’t mix denim and whites.
    • Identify stains and treat them with Vanish stain remover first.
    • Select the water temperature: room temperature works for most hand-washing, but make sure you check the care label first.
    • Mix your hand-wash laundry detergent with water and let the garments soak into the mix for at least 30 minutes.
    • Empty the soiled water and refill the sink with cool water to rinse your clothes. Stir the garments and take them out.
    • Avoid wringing wet clothes as it can damage the fabric, instead press them onto the side of the sink to get rid of excess water and lay your clothes to dry.