Is Hand Wash The Same As A Delicate Cycle? (what’s the difference)

There are so many different programmes on automatic washing machines nowadays which makes it difficult to know exactly which one to use. Take the hand wash cycle and the delicate cycle for instance, are they the same? And if not, when should they be used? The short answer is no, they’re not the same but they often get confused.

If you want to find out the differences between the delicate and hand wash cycle on your washing machine, keep reading.

What Is The Hand Wash Cycle?

The hand wash cycle typically operates at low temperatures (30 C on average), with a spin speed of around 800 RPM. It is used for clothes that are fairly robust from the point that they will not necessarily become damaged in the machine. 

However, washing hand wash only clothes at a temperature higher than 30 C is likely to cause them to shrink. The whole cycle will run for anywhere between 60 to 90 minutes.

What Is The Delicate Cycle?

Delicate Wash Cycle

The delicate cycle is for clothes that are likely to get damaged by a fast moving drum. Which is why the spin speed on a delicate cycle is typically 400 RPM. As delicate fabrics can withstand more in the way of heat, the delicate wash operates at around 40 C. 

The delicate cycle is typically a short wash programme which usually runs for around 45 to 80 minutes.

Can You Wash Delicates Using The Hand Wash Cycle (and vise versa)?

If you have both cycles on your washing machine, then you should use the correct cycle for clothes that fall into that category. However, if your machine only has one of these cycles, you can sometimes use it for both.

Most of the time it will be fine to wash hand wash items on a delicate cycle and delicates on a hand wash cycle. We would advise you to check your user manual for specific information on the temperature and spin speed of whichever of these cycles your machine has before committing your clothes to the wash.

If you don’t have a user manual you can find all of the information online by doing a search using the name and model number of your washing machine.

If your machine is fairly modern, many have a digital display screen which will show you all of the relevant information without the need for any searching.

Is It OK To Use The Delicate Cycle For Hand Wash Only Garments?

Whether you can use the delicate cycle to wash hand wash only clothes depends on whether you can adjust the temperature on the programme. Hand wash only garments should only be washed using a water temperature of no higher than 30 C to prevent shrinkage.

The delicate cycle typically operates at 40 C which is too hot for hand wash only items. If you’re not that bothered about the clothes you intend to wash, then you can just wash them on the delicate cycle and if they get ruined, so be it.

The delicate cycle will work well for delicate clothes but it can be too hot for hand wash only clothes which is why we would recommend not using the delicate cycle for your favourite hand wash only clothes.

However, if those clothes mean something to you, and your machine doesn’t allow you to alter the temperature on the delicate cycle, we’d advise you to actually hand wash them or if possible get them dry cleaned.

What Does It Mean If Your Clothes Are Hand Wash Only?

woman holding knitted wool sweaters

If the label in some of your clothes indicates that they are hand wash only either in words or by using the hand in water symbol, it means that the garment is made from a fabric that can damage easily by too high a temperature, too much agitation or harsh chemicals.

Garments made from the following are almost always hand wash only;

  • Wool
  • Cashmere
  • Lace
  • Lingerie
  • Silk

Machine washing clothes is a great way to remove stains but for hand wash items it can also damage them beyond repair.

Why Should You Always Use The Correct Wash Cycle?

Like everything nowadays, clothes are quite expensive. If you want them to last, you will need to do all you can to keep them at their best. The quality of the fabric and the manufacture will play a huge part in the longevity of your clothes, but the way they get treated in the washing machine also contributes greatly.

The delicate cycle is great because it washes clothes using low agitation which helps to prevent damage to the fabrics. But as it washes at 40 C it’s too hot for hand wash only clothes which need a cooler 30 C wash temperature.

Whilst the delicate and hand wash cycles are similar, it’s the differences that are important. Which is why it’s always best to stick with the correct setting.

SEE ALSO: Permanent Press Vs Delicate Cycle – What’s The Difference?

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use delicate or hand wash?

Whilst the delicate cycle should be used for delicate clothes, it’s not gentle enough for hand wash only garments. The spin speed is faster and the temperature is too hot on a delicate cycle for hand wash only items.

What temperature is the hand wash cycle on a washing machine?

The hand wash cycle on a washing machine runs at 30 C. Which is the perfect temperature to clean the clothes without damaging the fabric.

Can you wash on delicate if it says hand wash only?

It is possible to wash “hand wash only” items using the delicate cycle but be warned, the clothes could get damaged. This is because the delicate cycle operates at 40 C whereas hand wash only clothes should be washed at 30 C. Which means there’s a possibility of shrinking the clothes at 40 C.

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