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What is the Delicate Wash Cycle & How To Use It

by Michael Webster

Shot of a happy young couple doing laundry together at home.

Chances are, you’ve probably been washing your clothes on the normal wash cycle, believing the cycle to be a universal fit for all garments. The truth, however, may very well surprise you. Anyone who has used a few washing machines knows there are plenty of settings to choose from but knowing which cycle to choose can definitely be tricky. Knowing how to wash and dry your clothes on the right cycle helps to keep your favorite articles looking new while delivering an effective wash or dry.

You may be familiar with the normal cycle, heavy duty cycle, or maybe the permanent press cycle, but in this quick guide, we’ll be looking into one of the less-known laundry cycles by exploring the advantages of using the delicate wash cycle. What is the delicate setting on washing machines, and how can it increase the lifespan of my favorite fabrics? Read on as we break down the delicate wash cycle and the many advantages and benefits that come with it.

At a Glance: 

What is the Delicate Wash Cycle?

Benefits of Using Delicate Wash

Delicate Cycle vs Normal Wash Cycle

Our Top Delicates Washing Machine Picks

What is the Delicate Wash Cycle?

A delicate wash cycle (or “delicates”) is the washing machine equivalent to handwashing. The difference between hand wash vs delicate cycle is that this setting uses cold water with low agitation or slow spin and is the shortest and most gentle cleaning cycle. A delicate cycle usually lasts between four and seven minutes during its actual wash cycle where the agitation and abrasion on the clothes are greatly reduced, and it offers a certain level of protection for some fabrics due to the softer handling. Again, there are a few fabrics that won’t need as gentle of a wash, but there are specific garments that need the extra protection offered by the delicate cycle.

We recommend using this cycle to wash:

  • Silk garments
  • Wool garments
  • Synthetic garments (like workout or activewear)
  • Garments with appliques or sequins
  • Anything likely to break down or wear under harsh conditions

Benefits of Using Delicate Wash

If you're going to spend money on clothes (no matter how much), you’ll want them to last as long as possible. While the quality of the fabric usually indicates its longevity, it's also crucial that you care for your clothes the right way. Overall, using the delicate wash cycle on your washer helps to keep your delicates laundry in their best shape and protect them from harm that may occur during other wash cycles.

There are several benefits of the delicate wash cycle, including:

  • Most gentle on clothes
  • Saves time and energy
  • Keeps your most fragile fabrics safe

Man crouching down to put clothes into his washing machine in his kitchen.

Delicate Cycle vs Normal Wash Cycle

Quite literally, normal wash cycles (also known as regular or heavy, depending on brand and models) are intended for everyday fabrics and clothing that don’t require the same special attention as your delicate garments. A normal wash cycle uses fast agitation and a hot wash temperature between 120 and 140 degrees to help get messes out of items that are subject to everyday normal wear and use. Where for a delicate wash, the washer settings are almost the polar opposite ― with a much lower wash temperature and minimal agitation. In short, if the clothing item is something you intend to wear for a long period of time or care deeply about, we highly recommend choosing the delicate wash cycle over a normal wash cycle.

Our Top Delicate Cycle Washer Picks

Now that you know the ins and outs as well as some of the advantages of using the delicate cycle, take a look at some of our favorite delicates washing machines that effectively utilize this unique wash cycle.

Samsung 4.5 Cu. Ft. White Front Load Washer-WF45R6100AW

Stock photo of a white Samsung brand front load washer.

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Plow through your piles of laundry with this Samsung front load washer that features Steam Wash to ensure your delicates are thoroughly cleaned. Featuring 4.5 cubic feet of wash capacity, this washer also showcases a shallow depth, so it fits within your existing laundry space without sacrificing any capacity, thanks to a wider drum. Performance features include a Super Speed cycle that gets a full load done in 30 minutes, while VRT Plus Technology ensures quiet operation, and the Self Clean+ feature notifies you when the washer is due for sanitization.

Electrolux Laundry 4.3 Cu. Ft. Island White Front Load Washer-EFLS527UIW

Stock photo of a white Electrolux brand front load washer.

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With the LuxCare Wash System, a Perfect Steam option, and an ample capacity of 4.3 cubic feet, this Electrolux front load washer takes the care of your delicates to another level. Unlock even more flexibility with the Adaptive Dispenser that takes powder, liquid, or pods, plus 8 additional cycles to tend to every kind of material in your wardrobe. And with an 18-Minute Fast Wash, laundry day will become an absolute dream with how much extra time you’ll save.

Shop Washers at East Coast Appliance 

When it comes to the best washers on the market, we’re Virginia’s leading Discount King and home of reliable washer brands that provide the performance you need to conquer laundry any day of the week. Whether you’re searching for an individual washer, a laundry pair, a stacked laundry unit, or even a washer/dryer combo, you can count on us for affordable laundry appliances! Browse, shop, and compare online or in-store today at one of our 10 appliance showrooms in Virginia, including locations in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Richmond!