Does delicate wash clean clothes?

There are so many cycles on the washing machine which can be confusing and overwhelming for the average joe to comprehend. Consider our casual attitude towards product manuals and you’d see why that is so!

From our experience with words however, we can naturally assume that a delicate cycle is a one which offers less washing action compared to any other cycle on the washer? How true is that? Does the delicate cycle wash clothes nearly the same as other cycles in the washing machine or not?

The delicate cycle also known as silk cycle offers a low agitation, low cycle and cold water washing action. This makes it suitable for clothes like silk, wool, lingeries and also those having embellishments like sequin and bead that can get detached or damaged in a heavy duty cycle that offers hot water and rough agitation.

The fact that the delicate cycle offers the most pampered treatment to your clothes, does not mean that it doesn’t clean clothes well.

In fact, it does so, provided that the clothes are only fairly soiled to begin with. For excessively soiled delicates, the heavy duty cycle is your best bet. 

But if your delicates happen to be heavily soiled, then make sure to soak them first in a solution of the detergent or stain remover, before putting them in the delicate cycle to run. This would provide an efficient and satisfactory wash.

What exactly is delicate wash?

The delicate cycle of our washing machine is basically the gentlest cycle possible. This cycle is designed to accommodate clothes that are very delicate in nature and are required to be washed with extreme care. Examples of these include silk, wool cashmere lingering etc.

In the delicate cycle, clothes are tumbled with cold to warm water, washed with lesser agitation and for a lesser duration, and also using a low spin. 

And the fact that everything happens in a super careful mode doesn’t translate to a less effective cleaning, with delicate mode, cleaning is effective, maybe slightly less than what you’ll see in the standard or heavy duty mode, especially when you’re dealing with a cloth that is heavily soiled.

That’s mostly because they use more agitation which means the fibers are forced to loosen the dirt between the gaps that separate them and therefore resulting in proper cleaning. 

In delicate mode however, no rough tumbling is applied, and thus there is great reliance on the degree of soiling you’re starting with, which should be light or no soiling at all (in cases when smell is the main issue).

‏If you’re dealing with stubborn stains, then you’ll have to look elsewhere for a remedy.

Other cycles and how they operate

Permanent press

The permanent press cycle is meant to eliminate wrinkles and creases that form on synthetic fibers or fabrics.


The cotton cycle is sometimes used interchangeably with the normal cycle. This is because cotton is a durable material and as a result can tolerate the agitations of the washer and even a faster spin without getting damaged. 

The cotton cycle can be used for most clothes made out of cotton, like jeans, shirts, pants and underwear. However, because clothes are made differently, you want to make sure you’re checking the fabric care label of each cloth to know how best to wash that specific type of cloth.


The wool cycle is meant to accommodate wool materials. Wool is a delicate material that can undergo relaxation shrinkage in the washer when it’s stretched during manufacture. And that happens because of the application of too much mechanical action. So the wool cycle is designed to reduce the degree of mechanical action applied on wool so that it doesn’t end up shrinking or getting destroyed. 

Dark wash

The dark wash cycle is specifically designed to accommodate dark clothes. It’s no surprise that dark clothes lose their intensity with progressive washes. So the dark cycle seeks to reduce the amount of agitation and harshness in terms of water temperature that is applied to dark clothes which causes them to lose their dyes and therefore the overall intensity.

Quick wash

There are times when you might want to retrieve the laundry faster than the normal time. This is when quick wash comes to play. The quick wash cycle provides clean clothes in half the amount of time required for normal laundry. 

During quick wash, clothes are agitated faster and for a lesser duration of time, and also spinned super fast so the time in the dryer is greatly reduced. 

Because the quick wash cycle differs from a normal cycle with the amount of time spent per cycle, you shouldn’t wash heavily soiled garments using the program as the clothes won’t come out clean the way you’d expect.  

Hand wash

Many fabrics are slapped with the “hand wash” only tag, and for these types of fabrics, the manufacturer is simply trying to communicate to you that you should be careful the way you handle the clothes when it comes to laundry. 

The hand wash settings provided by the washing machine offers nearly the same gentleness as an actual handwashing. So for days when you don’t feel like washing your “hand wash only” clothes by hand, you can actually fall back on the “Hand Wash” setting of your machine to do the work for you. 

The cycle runs with a slow agitation that is gentle on clothes. And because of that, you should be able to put clothes that would normally go in the delicate cycle, in the hand wash cycle.

Heavy duty cycle

The heavy duty cycle is primarily meant for clothes that are heavily soiled. For these clothes, you need a faster agitation to loosen up soil as well as faster spin to release soiling during rinsing. The heavy duty cycle therefore offers a long wash cycle with fast spinning and agitation alongside hot water to be able to clean clothes effectively.

Final Thoughts

The delicate cycle in the washing machine cleans clothes as effectively as any other cycle. You have to make sure however, that what you’re putting in there are delicate items, and these items are not heavily soiled.

If you have a heavy soiled delicate, then it would be best to pre-soak it in a solution of laundry detergent for about 10 to 15 minutes, before proceeding to wash it in a delicate cycle. 

This will help loosen up the soils faster so the cleaning is effective. If the stain or soiling is one that cannot be removed even by pre-soaking, maybe you picked up a heavy stain that has aged, then you want to carry it to the dry cleaners as they have better equipment, tools and techniques that can help banish the stains completely.