Cotton Vs Synthetic Wash Cycle – What’s The Difference?

If you’re confused by the cotton and synthetic wash cycles you’re not on your own. Modern washing machines have so many cycles and programs that have to be navigated between when all we really want to do is get our clothes clean.

In this article we look at the cotton cycle and the synthetic cycle and look at the differences between them and when each should be used.

What Is The Cotton Cycle On A Washing Machine?

The majority of washing machines have a cotton cycle, on some it is called “regular” and it’s very often the only cycle most people ever use. The cotton cycle is useful for durable cotton clothes and fabrics which need a high agitation wash like towels or bed sheets.

It usually has a high speed spin setting (between 1000 to 1400 RPM) which can be too harsh for more delicate materials and fabrics. Cotton cycles need the extra high spin speed because cotton garments are super absorbent and therefore hold onto a lot of water.

The temperature on cotton wash cycles can be set from cool to hot (from 30 to 90 C) depending on the type of clothes you’re washing and how dirty they are.

What Is The Synthetic Cycle On A Washing Machine?

The synthetic cycle is designed for man made synthetic fabrics that require a more gentle program. It has a medium agitation and a low spin speed that is best suited for polyester, acrylic and lycra type clothing.

The average spin speed on a synthetic cycle is between 800 to 1000 RPM which will not cause any adverse effects on the more delicate fabrics.

The average temperature of a synthetic cycle is also lower than that of a cotton cycle. Most synthetic cycles operate at temperatures of between 30 to 40 C.

When Should You Use The Synthetic Cycle?

You should use the synthetic cycle on your washing machine when washing man made, synthetic materials and garments that are not overly dirty. The synthetic cycle should be used for washing clothes made from materials such as;

  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Acrylic
  • Lycra
  • Elastane
  • Rayon
  • Viscose

Before washing any garment it is advisable to check the wash care label for specific instructions. Some could be hand wash only for example. Or need a particularly cool wash cycle.

Synthetic clothes are less absorbent than clothes made from natural fibres which means they don’t need such a high spin speed to remove water after washing.

You can also use the synthetic cycle for items that easily wrinkle or are not particularly dirty and any clothes that cannot be ironed.

When Should You Use The Cotton Cycle?

The cotton cycle should be used for hard wearing cotton clothes, bedsheets, sweatshirts, joggers, towels and jeans. 

Cotton clothes that are only slightly dirty and heavy or thick cotton fabrics should be washed at 40 C. Whereas coloured cotton clothes should ideally be washed at 30 C to prevent fading and colour bleed.

Bedding and white cotton clothes can be washed at 60 C to remove bacteria and provide a deep clean.

Towels can be washed at 90 C to remove bacteria and is especially beneficial after illness or disease.

Is It OK To Wash Everything On A Synthetic Cycle?

Apart from clothes like delicates, lingeries, lace and woollen clothing which need a particularly gentle program, you can wash almost everything using the synthetic cycle.

But that doesn’t mean it should be used for everything. Heavy duty cotton and denim for example need more cleaning power than a synthetic cycle can provide.

This is another reason why it is always best to read the care label before washing your clothes.

What’s a tumble dryer’s favourite chocolate?
Lindt! 😂

SEE ALSO: Are There Any Low Vibration Washing Machines? (yes! read this)

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between cottons and synthetics?

The difference between cottons and synthetics is that cottons are made from natural plant based materials. Whereas synthetics are made from man made, chemical synthetic materials.

Which dries faster: cotton or synthetic?

Synthetic materials do not absorb water which means synthetic clothes will dry faster than cotton clothes.

Are synthetics more delicate than cottons?

Cotton clothes are more robust than synthetic clothes which means synthetic clothes are more delicate than cotton clothes.

Should we wear cotton or synthetic clothes in summer?

You should wear cotton clothes in the Summer because cotton absorbs moisture and loses heat as a result which helps to cool the body.

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