No Permanent Press Cycle On Your Washing Machine? (do this)

If you carefully check the wash care label on your clothes before putting them in the wash, you may see the words “permanent press”. This tells you that the item should be washed in the washing machine after selecting the permanent press cycle.

However, if your washing machine doesn’t have a permanent press option, which cycle should you use? In most cases, you should use the delicate cycle or synthetics cycle if there is no permanent press on your washer. You may need to alter the water temperature, see below for more details.

What Is The Permanent Press Cycle On A Washing Machine?

person changing the program on washing machine

Before you can select a decent alternative wash cycle, you need to understand how the permanent press cycle works and what it was designed to do. 

The permanent press cycle was added to washing machines in the 1950s to provide a cycle for the ever increasing number of synthetic fabrics being used to make clothes. The permanent press cycle is shorter than the normal cycle, uses warm water for washing and cold water for rinsing, and has a lower spin speed.

The wash care label might say “perm press”, “wrinkle control”, or “casual” depending on the clothes manufacturer. 

How Does The Permanent Press Cycle Work On A Washing Machine?

The permanent press cycle is designed to use cooler wash and rinse temperatures and slower spin speeds to keep the fibres of the fabric relaxed which helps prevent creases and wrinkles. If the permanent press cycle is selected on a washing machine, the agitation time is reduced automatically to reduce the risk of damage to the fabric.

The wash will typically use warm water (although this can be altered to a cold wash if preferred). The rinse cycle also uses cold water and there’s a lower than normal spin speed.

Which Fabrics Should Be Washed Using The Permanent Press Cycle?

Linen

The permanent press cycle should be used for fabrics including;

  • Linen
  • Cotton
  • Bamboo
  • Synthetics (like polyester, nylon, rayon, acrylic)
  • Blended fabrics

The permanent press cycle will help prevent wrinkles and creases in the above fabrics.

What Cycle Should Be Used If There’s No Permanent Press?

Now that we understand the basic principles of the permanent press cycle, we can select a cycle that offers similar conditions if the machine doesn’t feature a permanent press option.

This means selecting a cycle that has a warm water wash, low spin speeds and less agitation

Selecting The Delicate Cycle

Delicate Wash Cycle

The best option in the absence of a permanent press cycle is the delicate cycle. You should set your washer up on the delicate cycle and choose a 40o C wash with a low spin speed of between 400 to 800 rpm.

Make sure that you don’t overload the drum because cramming too many items into the drum is likely to leave them creased and wrinkled after the cycle has finished. You should also remove the items from the drum as soon as the wash cycle ends to prevent wrinkles forming.

Then give the items a good shake to untangle them and allow them to air dry to remove any remaining creases.

Selecting The Synthetic Cycle

Synthetic Wash Cycle

You could also use the synthetic cycle to wash permanent press items if your machine doesn’t have a permanent press option. The permanent press cycle was designed with synthetic items in mind which makes it a great substitute cycle to use.

This cycle typically uses a medium agitation and low spin speeds making it ideal for permanent press items. You will need to ensure that the wash temperature is set at 40o C with a spin speed of between 400 to 800 rpm.

What’s The Difference Between The Permanent Press Cycle & Other Wash Cycles?

open washing machine door

Now that we understand that the permanent press cycle is a gentle cycle which uses warm water to wash, cold water to rinse and a slow spin speed with less agitation. Here’s a brief guide explaining the remaining wash cycles on a washing machine so you can compare what’s happening. 

  • Delicate Or Gentle Cycle
    The delicate or gentle cycle as it is sometimes called, has the shortest wash time, less agitation and slower spin speeds. This is a great alternative to use if your washer doesn’t have a permanent press cycle.
  • Synthetic Cycle
    The synthetic cycle typically has a low spin speed and medium agitation which are suitable for washing synthetic fabrics. The synthetic cycle is used to wash acrylic blends and polyester sportswear. You can also use this cycle in place of the permanent press cycle as long as you can select a low spin speed and wash temperature.
  • Hand Wash
    The hand wash cycle is suitable for items that have “hand Wash” in the care label. It can also be used for very delicate items like wool, silk, soft cotton, delicate linens as well as items with embellishments like beads or sequins. It has a low agitation and low spin speed and is also suitable for permanent press items.
  • Speed Wash, Quick Wash Or Rapid Wash
    These have a short wash time as well as a fast spin speed to reduce the overall wash cycle. You shouldn’t use the quick wash (or whatever it’s called on your appliance) for heavily soiled items or delicate items or for those that need the permanent press option.
  • Normal Cycle
    The normal cycle typically uses a high speed wash and fast spin. You can select the water temperature to suit the fabrics but the normal cycle is not good for permanent press items.
  • Heavy Cycle
    Sometimes labelled as “Heavy Duty”, this cycle uses a long wash cycle, high speed agitation and a fast spin speed. It is designed for heavily soiled robust fabrics (like denim). The fast spin speed is needed to remove as much water as possible.
  • Bulky Cycle
    Some washers have a bulky cycle which starts with a soak period which allows the detergent and water to penetrate into the heavier fabrics. It then uses a medium or slow spin speed for both the wash and spin cycles to prevent the washer becoming unbalanced. This cycle is designed for washing large items like rugs, pillows, duvets and comforters.
  • Whites
    The whites cycle tends to be a long cycle and it relies on hot water to remove stains. It also has a fast spin speed and an aggressive rate of agitation. This is not a cycle to wash permanent press items in.
  • Steam
    Many of the top of the range washers now offer a steam cycle. It doesn’t wash clothes, it injects the fabric with steam to remove wrinkles and creases and freshen the item.
  • Cottons
    This cycle is designed for washing cotton items and those that require a high agitation wash. It is typically used for washing bed sheets and towels. As it uses a high speed spin setting and medium to high agitation, it is not suitable for permanent press items.

What About Tumble Dryers?

Tumble Dryer

Now that we’ve covered the permanent press cycle and its possible replacements on the washing machine, let’s look into the permanent press cycle on a tumble dryer and which cycle to choose if the dryer doesn’t have a permanent press cycle.

What Is The Permanent Press Cycle On Tumble Dryers?

When it comes to drying cycles, permanent press is the only cycle with a cool down feature to help prevent wrinkles. It also uses a low to medium heat setting and can be used for almost all items except those that are dry clean only or delicate items. 

I recommend using the permanent press cycle to dry colours because this protects them against colour fade.

What’s The Difference Between The Permanent Press & The Other Cycles On A Tumble Dryer?

Now we have an idea about what the permanent press cycle is, let’s look at the other cycles available if the dryer doesn’t have a permanent press cycle.

  • Air Fluff
    The air fluff cycle uses no heat and is used mainly for items that have been in storage or dry clean only items between cleaning times. It is used to freshen items and remove wrinkles, dust and lint.
  • Delicates Or Gentle
    The delicate or gentle cycle should be used to dry loose-weave sweaters as well as exercise clothes, silk, rayon or some embellished items. In the absence of a permanent press option, you can use the delicate or gentle cycle as long as you remove items as soon as the dryer finishes or better still, remove them before the cycle finishes and air dry to completion. Or use the steam cycle after drying has finished.
  • Regular Or Heavy
    These cycles are designed for drying whites and durable items like towels and bed sheets. It uses high heat and is not suitable for delicate or permanent press items.
  • Automatic or Timed
    If you select the automatic or timed setting, it will use high temperatures as a regular or heavy cycle. This makes it unsuitable for permanent press items.
  • Steam Cycle
    The steam cycle is used for freshening up items that don’t need to be washed yet. It’s also great for adding to the end of a drying cycle to prevent clothes from creasing or wrinkling.

What Are The Benefits Of Using The Permanent Press Cycle?

laundry room with pile of clothes

If your appliances have the permanent press cycle, you should use it for items which require permanent press care (as per the care label).

The permanent press cycle on a washing machine features:

  • Cold or warm water to prevent colour fade
  • Shorter wash cycles to reduce damage
  • Cold water rinse for protection and energy efficiency
  • Reduced spin speed for the reduction of creases & wrinkles

The permanent press cycle on a tumble dryer features:

  • Lower temperatures to protect the fabric from damage
  • Reduced risk of shrinking or colour fade, damage to screen prints or embellishments
  • Cool down function to reduce wrinkles & creases and save energy
  • Clothes last longer due to less wear & tear (less pilling, fraying or other damage)
  • No need to iron items

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use if I don’t have a permanent press cycle?

If your washer doesn’t have a permanent press cycle, you should select a cycle with a low spin speed, reduced agitation and cooler water temperatures. You could use the delicate cycle or synthetic cycle as long as you can set the temperature and spin speed accordingly.

What is the equivalent of permanent press?

If your washing machine doesn’t have a permanent press cycle, you should try to use an equivalent cycle. The delicate cycle will most likely be suitable as long as you can set the spin speed and temperature accordingly. Alternatively, you could use the synthetics cycle because permanent press was designed with synthetic fabrics in mind.

Is permanent press the highest heat setting on a tumble dryer?

No, the permanent press setting isn’t the highest heat setting on a tumble dryer. The permanent press setting on a tumble dryer uses a medium heat setting which allows it to dry clothes without causing damage more likely if using high heat.

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