Washing machine features explained

Lynn Wright / 31 May 2016

Here’s our guide to the most important features to consider when shopping for the perfect washing machine for you.



Choosing from the bewildering array of washing machine features and functions is tricky. Our guide will help you establish which washing machine features are essential and which you can live without.

For more information on selecting the perfect washing machine for you read How to choose the best washing machine.

Washing machine features to look for

Digital display A useful option that shows how much time is left on your wash programme.

Time-delay This lets you delay the start of your wash cycle so your washing machine runs during the night on a cheaper energy tariff or while you’re out of the house.

Load detection Your washing machine weighs the washing load in the drum and automatically selects the optimal wash required. This helps to save water and energy but it’s a costly feature typically found only on premium washing machines.

Child lock An essential safety feature for households with young children. Most models have a lock that prevents the machine’s controls from being used, while others include a door safety lock that will stop the door from being closed.

Washing machine programmes to look for

Cottons and synthetics Most washing machines have programmes for both cottons and synthetics, often with different temperature settings. There may be one or two cotton programmes with a hotter temperature, while synthetics are washed at lower temperatures – 40°C or below – and at lower spin speeds.

Wool/delicate/handwash These gentle programmes use low temperature and minimum spin speeds to prevent clothes from being damaged – useful if you’ve lots of delicate items to clean.

Sports Designed for cleaning microfibre clothing, removing sweat stains and odours, this mode works by using a longer wash cycle at a lower temperature. With some machines you can even wash your sports trainers.

Quick wash Perfect for when you need clean clothes in a hurry, some machines offer a fast programme that works in less than 30 minutes. However, most quick wash modes allow only as a small amount – around 2kg – to be washed at once. Some washing machines have a full-load quick-wash option, but these are for lightly soiled clothes only.

Half load A quick and energy efficient way to wash a few items.

Easy iron/anti-crease A useful option if you regularly face lots of ironing, this mode helps to prevent clothes creasing during the wash by either shortening the spin cycle or lowering the spin speed.

Anti-allergy By using steam or a very high temperature, this programme removes allergens and bacteria from your laundry.

Extra rinse Clothes are rinsed again to remove more detergent – useful if a family member has sensitive skin or an allergy to detergent.

Economy mode Automatically lowers the washing temperature to help reduce energy consumption.

Variable spin speed Lets you vary the spin speed to protect delicate items.

Rinse hold facility This holds washed clothes in clean rinse water before spinning, so you can time being there to empty the machine as soon as clothes are spun to help reduce the risk of creasing.

Ready to choose the perfect washing machine for you, read our guide to the Four best washing machines.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.