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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.

At a Glance: 

What is the Delicate Wash Cycle?

Benefits of Using Delicate Wash

Delicate Cycle vs Normal Wash Cycle

Permanent Press Cycle vs Delicate

Our Top Delicates Washing Machine Picks

Why Trust Us?

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 from using it.

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What is the Delicate Wash Cycle?

A delicate wash cycle (or “delicates”) is the washing machine equivalent to handwashing. The difference between the hand wash vs delicate cycle is that this setting uses cold water with low agitation with a slow spin and is the shortest, gentlest cleaning cycle. The 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. 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 keep your finer laundry items in the best shape and protects them from harm that may occur during more aggressive 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. The washer settings are almost the polar opposite of a delicate wash ― 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.

Permanent Press Cycle vs Delicate

On the other hand, the permanent press cycle is intended to reduce the wrinkles that might form during tumbling around in the washer. Rather than using cold water exclusively like the delicate cycle, the perm press cycle starts with cold water and ends with warm water to relax the fibers and prevent wrinkling. While the permanent press cycle also uses gentle tumbling, you wouldn't necessarily want to put your delicates in with this wash. Instead, use this washer mode for synthetic fabrics, wardrobe items that can't be ironed, brightly colored garments, and whenever an article of clothing will use the tumble dry feature on the dryer.

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.

Shop This Samsung Front Load Washer

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.

Featured Samsung WF45R6100AW review: "Not only does the get my clothes very clean it also is super quiet! We love the super speed option when we are needing our laundry done quick. You will not be disappointed in this washer!"

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

Stock photo of a white Electrolux brand front load washer.

Shop This Electrolux Front Load Washer

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 eight 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.

Featured Electrolux EFLS527UIW review: "The clothes come out cleaner and fresher smelling without perfumed detergent odor. I can't imagine a better washer. You can washer the dirtiest clothes on one of the many cycle choices right down to your most delicate fabrics without worry."

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 is the delicate cycle and more, 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: What Does Soil Level Mean for Your Washing Machine?

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