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What Does Soil Level Mean for Your Washing Machine?

by Joan Took

A user selecting the Delicate soil level on an LG front load washing machine

At a Glance:

What Does Soil Level Mean?

Benefits of Soil Level Settings

Which Soil Level You Should Use

What Are Washing Machine Cycles?


Why Trust Us?

Hidden away behind a closet door or front-and-center in your home, the washing machine is a common and necessary appliance. It makes life easier, and our wardrobes rotate quicker. But have you ever wanted to know about washing machine cycles explained? We’ve all seen the settings. We’ve (probably) all started our washer one time or another without knowing quite what and why we’re pressing the buttons. And maybe our clothes have come out smelling fresher and looking cleaner. But what if we told you, you might not be using your soil levels quite right? What if we told you that you could be doing your laundry more efficiently? That would be even better, right? It all comes down to answering "what does soil level mean?"

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about those subtle settings on your washing machine and let you know why soil levels are valuable with our comprehensive guide below.

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What Does Soil Level Mean?

How dirty are your clothes? How long has your kid been rolling in the mud outside? Are you constantly noticing dust around your home? Keeping these factors in mind make all the difference when selecting a soil level washer function for each load. Generally, a washer will include anywhere between three and five soil levels that indicate just how much work your washing machine will need to put in to get clean clothes. Your washing machine reads the buttons you choose and adjusts the load cycle accordingly. (This Frigidaire washing machine demonstrates what a basic washer typically includes.)

White top load washer and dryer set

Benefits of Soil Level Settings

What are the perks of choosing a soil level? And what does soil level mean on a washer? The benefits of choosing the proper soil level for your laundry can be extensive, so, let's break it down to a few basic and essential benefits.


✅ Washes your clothing thoroughly

✅ Selecting the right soil level ensures a more exact time for washing

Saves water and energy based on the soil level of clothing

For instance, this LG front load washer meets all your needs for a quick cycle and suitable soil level options with five total levels from light to heavy duty. Additionally, this model also uses Load Sensing technology that determines how much water each load requires to ensure even better results.

white washer in a boho room

Which Soil Level You Should Use?

Washers come with at least a few soil level options you can choose from, but the more you spend on a model, the more range of performance you can expect. But don't get confused: washer cycles and soil levels are different topics, so special features like TurboWash 360 on the LG front load washer above are considered a soil level option. Instead, look for the following:

  • Light (or Extra Light): Extra light and light typically call for your delicate fabrics and clothing. Since the materials are lighter and don’t carry a lot of dust or dirt between the stitches, you’ll only need gentle settings to clean. In addition, the extra light and light setting take less time to wash a load and typically help with detangling and reducing wrinkles.
  • Normal (or Medium): The normal or medium settings are for your everyday clothes that don’t see much action, like your T-Shirts, socks, or sweatshirt. If you aren’t worried about tears or straining your clothes, but still desire to get those musky smells out, then we recommend the normal or medium soil level option for your washing.
  • Heavy (or Extra Heavy): Heavy and extra heavy soil level settings are meant for the more rugged materials and fabrics you have. This could be your towels, blankets, or your children’s football uniforms. Models like this GE front loading washer has everything you need to handle varied wardrobes. Try out this dynamic appliance for those pesky stains or for delicate fluffs for your lighter garments. Check out our guide on why you should use your heavy-duty washing cycle here.

man adding towels to washer

What Are Washing Machine Cycles?

There are a lot of options to choose from on even basic washing machines, so if there's one piece of advice we recommend taking away from this guide, it's understanding that washer cycles and soil levels are not the same thing. Selecting a soil level will determine how much agitation a washer will use during a load. On the other hand, washer cycles can be used to tailor the time, as is the case for the Quick Wash cycle on many models today, or the perm press cycle, which helps reduce wrinkling throughout tumbling.

Generally, there will be more wash cycles available to users than soil levels, so begin by determining how dirty your clothes are and then selecting a specialty cycle. For example, you might have everyday fabrics such as cotton or polyester, which usually require a normal wash, but if they're dirtier than usual, selecting the normal cycle while boosting the soil level to heavy will do a better job of removing dirt.


Is soil level the same as water level?"

Soil levels can affect how much water a cycle uses, but the two are not the same. Water level reflects how much water fills the tub, while soil level determines how much agitation, time, and the water temperature for a load.

What temperature should soiled water be washed at?"

Typically, laundry should be washed according to the washer label. White soiled clothes usually have the best results with hot water, jeans and man-made materials are best with medium-temperature water, and soiled dark clothes can be washed with cold water.

How long does a heavy soil wash take?

The exact time will depend on the brand and model, but typically, washes set to the heavy soil level last between one and two hours.

Why Trust East Coast Appliance?

Locally owned and operated since 1988, East Coast Appliance is the largest independent appliance dealer in Virginia. We sell it ALL — from new name-brand appliances to scratch-and-dent appliances to our very own refurbished appliances. Aside from our huge selection of every major brand and everyday low prices, what sets us apart from our competitors is that we service what we sell and that we are locally owned and operated with factory-trained associates. And if you’re a local, great news: East Coast Appliance is committed to providing the absolute lowest prices on the same available brand and model — simply bring in the ad of the local retail competitor while the lower price is in effect and you'll receive your price match.

Shop Washers at East Coast

There is a reason we are dubbed “The Discount King” — for unbeatable deals, shop washers online at East Coast Appliance. Our friendly associates are always happy to help you learn what does soil level mean on your washer, whether you call us or use our online chat feature. Better yet, stop by one of our showrooms to see why we are the best appliance store in Virginia. Visit us today!

Learn More: LG vs. Samsung Washer Comparison + Recommended Washers

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