How Does a Washing Machine Work: Simple Explanation


A washing machine works automatically to wash your clothes for you, so you don’t have to. In simple terms, a washing machine works by soaking your clothes in water with soap suds for a certain period of time and then spins them over and over to remove the soapy water.

The temperature of the water can be changed depending on the material of the clothes and the nature of any dirt and stains.

Lower temperatures are better at maintaining bright colors and the shape/size of materials prone to shrinking. Plus, lower temperature washes save you money on your electricity bill because the machine won’t have to heat up the water as much.

However, for stubborn stains, the hotter the water the better. Plus, a cold wash won’t be able to kill off any germs either and those who predominately use a cold wash are urged to put it on a hot wash every so often to clean out any mold and bacteria.

In simple terms, a washing machine is just a big drum that fills with soapy water, but it’s actually a lot more sophisticated than that. Firstly, there are actually two drums – one inside the other.

There’s also a thermostat which tests the temperature of the water as it goes into the drum, a heating element that warms the water to the chosen temperature, an electric pump that drains the water from the drum after washing, two pipes that transport the clean hot or cold water into the drum and a pipe that drains the dirty water at the end. 

All the different components and settings are controlled by a ‘programmer’ which basically makes sure the machine goes through all the correct steps.

What are the steps of a washing machine?

The steps of using a washing machine can be tricky to get your head around at first, but once you know what you’re doing, washing machines are a quick and easy way to wash your clothes on mass.

The steps of a washing machine go as follows:

Step 1: sort your clothes into groups depending on color or material to determine the temperature and amount of time you will program

Step 2: once you have your pile of washing ready, pop it into the drum (don’t overfill the machine as it will struggle to spin your clothes properly, so they will likely still be very wet and soapy when you take them out)

Step 3: pour the detergent into the dedicated tray or pop a capsule into the drum

Step 4: set the program you want (this will include the time and temperature of the wash) and switch the power on

Step 5: the programmer starts instructing all the different components, so the water will enter the machine and fill the drums mixing in with the detergent to create soapy water

Step 6: the water stops filling, and the heating element is activated to get the temperature up to the required level

Step 7: the drums rotate to swish the clothes about in the soapy water, removing any dirt in the process

Step 8: the water drains out of the drums and clean water enters back in to repeat the process. This repeats several times to fully rinse all the clothes 

Step 9: the drum spins at a high speed hitting the clothes on the outside of the drum where tiny drainage holes are located, the drips from the clothes exit here. This is to remove as much excess water as possible, so they don’t come out of the machine soaking wet

Step 10: any remaining water is drained and the program ends. Remove your clothes and either hang them outside or fold them over radiators to dry

How does a washing machine make life easier?

A washing machine makes life easier in a number of ways. The most obvious being, they wash our clothes for us. For years, we had to wash our clothes by hand using a bucket of water and soap. This was time-consuming and energy-draining.

Now, we have the power of a machine to thoroughly wash away all the dirt and stains using a range of different settings, speeds, and temperatures over different periods of time.

Other reasons why washing machines make life easier include:

  • Time saver – using a washing machine enables us to press go and walk away to carry on with other jobs or even leave the house and come home to fresh clean clothes
  • Drying – modern washing machines often feature drying options so not only will our clothes be washed for us, they can be dried to. This saves us even more time and enables us to wear the things we’ve washed straight away
  • Automatic – the machines wash automatically to the exact chosen settings, delivering perfect results every time
  • Compact and tidy – all the washing is contained within a locked, sealed machine, so you won’t have to deal with the mess that comes with washing clothes by hand

What does a drum paddle do in a washing machine?

A drum paddle in a washing machine is designed to help direct the flow of water and separate the clothes while they wash to ensure even coverage.

There will typically be about three or four of them inside the drum.

What is a manual washing machine?

If you don’t have room for a full-sized washing machine in your home, or you’re traveling, a manual washing machine is a practical alternative to expensive and bulky, powered washing machines.

A manual washing machine put simply, is a less powerful, smaller version of a normal washing machine.

They either utilize a sink hook-up or a bucket of water to wash and rinse clothes. 

While they are simple to use and typically do a good job of washing your clothes efficiently, they are generally smaller and so have a lower capacity, meaning you’ll have to carry out multiple washes compared to one wash using a standard washing machine.

Take a look at our reviews for the best portable washing machine.


How does a washing machine work: simple explanation

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