How to use a washing machine correctly for spotless results

Ready to learn how to use a washing machine properly? We've got all the info you need to nail laundry and extend the life of your washing machine and clothes.

A washing machine against a yellow wall with clothes horse and storage basket - zanussi
(Image credit: Zanussi)

How to use a washing machine entails a little more effort than you would think. 

And it's pretty important to get right for the sake of your washing machine and your clothes. 

Aside from learning all the washing symbols on your washer and learning the best ways to do washing, how to load a washing machine correctly can make a huge difference to how clean your clothes and linens will be when they come out of the wash.

Experts at leading detergent brand Ariel explain, 'Loading your washing machine correctly can give you much better washing results, not to mention also help you cut down on waste.'

So without further ado, we've rounded up what you need to know when loading your washing machine so you get to keep your machine for longer and get clean clothes in the process.

  • Think you might need a new washer? We've got you covered with our buyer's guide on the best washing machines around.

3 washing machines with various contents against a pink background

(Image credit: Getty)

Don't overload the washing machine

Our advice on how to use a washing machine begins with a lesson on overstuffing your machine.

If you cram clothes too tightly in the machine, water won't have room properly circulate, leading to wrinkles and limited stain removal.

Even if you have a large load, the items shouldn't fill the washer more than three quarters full and the items should be evenly and loosely spread out. 

Front loading washing machines should have clothes piled no more than the top of the door. For top-loaders, avoid loading past the agitator. 

If you are washing duvets or other large items like blankets and rugs, put them in separately adding a few towels for proper spinning action.

Beko explains more:

'A good rule of thumb to follow is to fill the drum to about 80% without compacting items down (this only applies to normal cotton cycles – the amount of laundry you can put in for special programmes will vary, so check your appliance’s user manual).'

'When it comes to actually putting your laundry into the machine, put items in one by one, or at least make sure they’re not tangled.'

Experts at Tide also suggest this nifty trick, 'So here’s the palm trick you could try every time to check if you’re machine is overloaded: Just place your hand into the drum—it’s easy as that.'

'If your hand fits between your clothes and the wall of the drum, then you have the perfect load size. If not, it’s best to take something out. If you find you’ve got even more space in there, you can add more clothes to save more water.'

And how to load a washing machine that's top loaded usually differs from front load washing machines. Experts at Tide explain:

'Every machine is different when it comes to the load sizes they can handle. Top loaders are usually not as large as front-loading machines, so a full load would be about 12 pounds of laundry.'

'Make sure to check the washer’s capacity recommendation for the exact amount.'

a person holding stained jeans by a washing machine - GettyImages-1219375328

(Image credit: GettyImages-1219375328)

Follow loading order

How to load a washing machine in the correct order? 

Always make sure you check loading instructions for your washer so you prevent excessive detergent suds, potential fabric damage and any other mishaps. 

The most common load order is detergent, then clothes and once you've got everything in, set the correct temperature and cycle to start the machine, stat.

Most front loading machines have a handy detergent dispenser which will dispense the detergent just at the right time.

LG V7 F4V710WTSE Wifi Connected 10.5Kg Washing Machine with open detergent drawer

(Image credit: AO)

Add correct detergent 

Adding the correct amount of detergent is also key in getting your washing right. 

If you load the clothes in right, but the detergent dosage is wrong, you'll also have semi-unwashed clothes to deal with at the end of the cycle.

The easiest way to add detergent correctly is with washing pods as opposed to liquid detergent. 

Paying attention to the washing detergent instructions is the key to getting your wash right. 

Liquid detergent can be measured out and can go either in the drum or dispenser, whereas powder needs to go in the dispenser. 

Usually, if you're washing a half load, it's best to use less detergent. If you use too much detergent, it could spell a residue build-up in your machine, making your next load dingy. If you think this might be a problem for your washer, learn how to clean a washing machine with our guide. 

However, there are other factors that need to be considered when choosing the correct dosage, such as how soiled the clothes are and the level of water hardness.

Experts at Bosch explain more about how to load a washing machine with detergent, 'Using too much or too little detergent in your washing machine can lead to poor washing results.' 

'When it comes to using the correct dosage of detergent, there are three key facts to consider.'

'The amount of dirt in the washing. The more dirty the clothes are, the more detergent that's needed to remove it.'

'You may not see it, but approximately 70% of dirt on clothes comes from the body, such as skin, sweat, grease and other bodily fluids. Only 30% of dirt on clothes comes from external sources, such as food, mud, grass, lotions and creams.'

'The size of the washing load. Detergent dosage instructions are based upon a washing machine's drum size, and for good reason.' 

'The larger the washing load, the more dirt introduced and therefore the more detergent that's needed to remove it.'

'The water hardness level in your area. Hard water contains a high concentration of minerals which need to be softened and neutralised for more effective cleaning results.'

'It's for this reason that detergent manufacturers recommend using slightly more detergent than normal in hard water areas.'

a care label on a piece of clothing - GettyImages-559443839

(Image credit: Getty)

Prevent common laundry mistakes 

Need to know how to use a washing machine without making any mistakes? We've got some pointers for you.

Reading the care labels on garments will give you a clear indication on what cycle to use for them and make sure mishaps are avoided. 

If you have time, (we know, we know, you don't) before adding clothes into the washer, give the pockets a quick check. 

There could be a tissue stuffed in one, maybe an electronic car key (which will get damaged) or loose coins which could all not only wreak havoc in your machine but could damage your clothes too.

Another one of our laundry hacks is to prep items by doing up zippers, fastening hooks, unrolling cuffs, tying drawstrings, turning pockets inside out. 

You could go one step further by turning dark clothes, like jeans, inside out to preserve their color and protect other items in the process.

Jenny McFarlane
Jenny McFarlane

Jenny is Senior Digital Editor and joined the team in January 2021. She also works on the homes brands' video show, on the Future Homes Network, which is packed full of ideas to help you make the most of your own home and garden. Since getting on the property market with her first apartment and then more recently a house, her passion for interior design and gardening has taken on a new lease of life. Jenny's currently on the lookout for a doer-upper to put her stamp on. She loves collecting and salvaging unique items (much to her other half's despair) but sniffing out stylish home bargains is her one true love. When she has a spare minute, she loves to do a spot of crafting, having studied textiles at Uni – although she hardly gets the chance with a toddler who keeps her permanently on her toes.